Regional Gardening Reports :: National Gardening Association

In the Garden:
Southern California Coastal & Inland Valleys
November, 2010
Regional Report

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Dormant Fruit Tree Spraying

If your fruit trees were victim to batches of insects last summer, including scale, aphids, and/or mites, or peach leaf curl fungus or viruses, it would be a good idea to preclude the same problems in the coming year by spraying with organic oil sulfur sprays during this dormant season. It's an easy process, and the sprays are of organic ingredients including oil, lime, sulfur, and copper.

The oil smothers the eggs of scale, aphids, and mites. Lime sulfur and powdered or liquid copper sprays discourage the growth of fungus (peach leaf curl) and viruses. Choose a copper spray that contains at least 50 percent copper. On apricot trees, use only copper sprays (sulfur will damage the trees).

Plan your dormant fruit tree spraying schedule to coincide approximately with cool-weather holidays- Thanksgiving, New Year's Day, and Valentine's Day. Specific cues are the fall of the last leaf (Thanksgiving), the height or depth (depending on your perspective) of dormancy (New Year's Day), and bud swell (Valentine's Day).
Spraying at the precise period of bud swell is especially important; before the buds swell is too early, and after the blossoms open is too late. If you do your spraying only one time, this is the critical one.

If the rains haven't thoroughly moistened the root zone of trees to be sprayed, deep water them a few days before spraying. This enables better absorption of the spray by the bare branches. The oil spray may damage the trees if their roots are too dry. Any foliage left on the trees can't tolerate the concentrated mixture, since the foliage and roots "burn" because there's not enough moisture to help them absorb the nutrients.

Spray on a cool, dry, sunny day during a windless period to minimize evaporation and drift. Make sure that all leaf, branch, and trunk surfaces, including the tops and bottoms of leaves, and all around branches and trunks, are thoroughly covered with the spray solution. Drenching the soil from the trunk to just beyond the drip line is also helpful. Reapply if rain falls within 48 hours of the application. Make sure to read and follow all the label instructions and precautions when using any pesticide.

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