Spray schedule for fruit trees

Please help me figure out a spray schedule for my apple and peach trees. I remember you saying you never have to spray, lucky you. I try hard not to use chemicals but I am inundated with bugs and apple problems each year. My trees are showing buds but not yet open. Last year I placed those red spheres that you coat with a sticky substance in the trees and they sure had a lot of bugs stuck to them but I still had apples and peaches that you could not bite into. Instead I had to heavily peel and then cut out the bad spots just to make pies and applesauce. Can you suggest what there is still time to do so my harvest will be better this year. Last year I used kaolin clay and I have heard Neem oil is good. I have read several books on the subject but I am still a bit confused and could use your common sense approach.

Deb Motylinski
Cadiz, Ohio

I sympathize with your problem. Bugs should NOT be eating our food! We’re really lucky in that we don’t (yet?) have insect problems, probably because we live so very far from any fruit producers. Here are a few suggestions instead of resorting to chemicals: Try Surround sprayed on your trees just after most of the petals have fallen from your trees. Surround is a kaolin clay that you mix with water and spray on your trees. It doesn’t kill insects but does severely disrupt their breeding and egg laying. But you must hit each tree just as the petals fall; even a day or two late will make it less effective. Then spray the trees after any heavy rains and weekly until at least July. (If residue is still on fruit on harvest, simply wash it off; it is not toxic, just a gray film.) If you are having apple maggot trouble (worms and dark tracks through the fruit), begin spraying Surround in mid-July. Using red spheres coated with Tanglefoot traps a lot of adult flies but they only help with an infestation of apple maggots. You can hang several on each tree (one doesn’t help) and closely monitor the flies stuck on them. When there are suddenly more, begin your spraying immediately or by mid-July, whichever is first. Then continue until August. Picking up all dropped fruit will help keep future fruit clean of insects and larvae. (That’s one reason we have our poultry in our orchard; they take care of that chore for us happily!) If you must resort to chemicals, I’d contact your County Extension Office and follow their recommendations for your particular area. The best of luck! Here’s to clean, tasty fruit this summer! — Jackie

Ground cherries

I noticed the question you recently answered about planting ground cherries. They are not common here in Idaho — I grew up eating them in Minnesota. I’ve found only one individual who sold starts in the spring one year, and silly me didn’t keep seeds. Do you know where I can order seeds? Blueberry & Ground Cherry Crisp is SO good and looks pretty, too!

Susan Bittick
Meridian, Idaho

Luckily, many companies carry ground cherry seeds (also called husk cherries). Some of them are: Baker Creek Heirloom Seeds, Seed Savers Exchange, Jung Seed, Territorial Seed, and Southern Exposure. Good luck growing some this year! — Jackie


  1. Deb, the one thing I know of that will give you 100% good fruit is fruit socks. They are both an insect and a bird barrier. I’m a long time user on all kinds of fruit – apples, peaches, cherries, apricots, grapes, nectarines, plums, pears. If you can find Japanese fruit socks, they have a little drawstring, are easier to put on and can be reused. The ones that come 1000 in a bag you have to either tie on the branch or staple shut (I’ve done both). They stretch at least to fit over fruit the size of a softball. I cut them off when I pick the fruit and have stored apples with the socks still on. However, putting them on is time consuming and tedious but it is a once and done solution, no need to spray (unless you get leaf diseases) and I work at it a few hours at a time. Once they are on you can give your full attention to other homestead tasks, knowing that your fruit is safe from birds, squirrels, earwigs and bugs. If you have a large family of different height children they can each take a portion of each tree and it will go faster. Apple maggot traps help, and I also use Spinosad early in the season when the buds start to open and for leaf curl. Fruit socks are the equivalent of the old time stapling paper bags over your fruit, but I think they work better. I haven’t had good results with Neem oil or Surround, probably because the weather is so unpredictable where I live, and don’t use either any more.

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