Kill off diseases on fruit trees over winter with these treatments

Fruit tree winter treatments

Fall and Winter are the time to apply various treatments that will help eliminate parasites and fungus from fruit trees. This will reduce risk of disease in Spring.

Fruit trees to treat and heal

Peach tree, cherry tree, apple tree… we love each of these in the garden for their nice bearing and their delicious harvests, but they’re actually pretty fragile! Insects, parasites and mushrooms often come ruin the expected crops.

To minimize risks, here are several things to do.

  • In Autumn, rake up the dead leaves under the trees. They’ll be very useful in the compost pile or as mulch in the vegetable patch.
  • Make sure you make any dried, mummified fruits fall from the tree: that’s where diseases and bacteria overwinter most.
  • Cut off dead branches, and brush the trunks of the trees with a metal brush to remove moss, dead bark and lichen, which tends to attract parasites. Large wounds to the trunk and branches can be protected with a pruning paste or sealant.

Fall and Winter treatments

Several treatments exist that will destroy parasite larva and fungus that hide in cracks in the bark, hibernating until they wake up in Spring. The most well-known treatment is Bordeaux mixture, a blend of copper and lime which helps deal with fungal diseases: scab, leaf curl, mildew, bacterial canker…

  • Spray it on the whole tree from top to bottom, in Fall, after the leaves have fallen.
  • In February, spray again just before buds burst open.

Lime paint on a treeLime paint, or whitewash, colors the trunks in white. It’s another option that has proven to be very effective. Every other year, in the middle of Winter, use a paint brush to lather it on the trunks: it destroys parasites and fungus. You can find it ready-to-mix in garden stores under the name of limewater.

Watch out when you’re using these treatments. They’re corrosive, so make sure you’re wearing the proper attire. Your body and face should be completely covered.

Which day you apply the treatment is also relevant. Don’t work on days when it freezes, when it’s very windy, or very hot. Also check for the weather in the following few days: if it rains, all your spray will wash out and you’ll have treated for nothing.

by Laure Hamann

Ferment weeds to treat orchards

Assessing winter fruit trees for diseasesAnother excellent option is to go all-natural with one or the other weedy tea. This is the ultimate self-sufficient solution: from weeds and weed residue, you can make very effective fungus-killing sprays.

  • Dry a few baskets of weeds during the summer to a crisp, then pack the dried material in a cloth sack for use over the winter.
  • Remember that you’ll need 10 times less dried weeds than fresh ones to prepare your fermented fungus-repellent.
  • It’ll take longer for the mix to finish fermenting due to lower temperatures.

Smart tip about Winter fruit tree care

Treat your trees after you’ve performed the usual winter pruning in the orchard. Cutting and moving all those branches around might have spread spores from one place to the other. Additionally, it’s much easier to spray trees when they’ve been pruned: less branches, and more space to move the nozzle around in the tree!

Image credits (edits Gaspard Lorthiois):
CC BY 2.0: Tony Hisgett, crabchick, Apple and Pear Australia Ltd