May 31, 2019
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At this time of year (late May), you often see ants climbing up a fruit tree. They are there because they are looking after their herds of aphis. The aphids produce a sweet liquid that the ants collect and use as a foodstuff. So if you see ants going up your fruit tree, from the ground into the branches and then onto the leaves, you know that you have aphids. How can you get rid of the aphids on your apple tree? This depends. You may have enough ladybirds, hoverflies and lacewings to control the aphids naturally, and if the infection is not too bad, they will remove most of the aphids and the tree won’t suffer. However, if you find leaves completely folded up, there are too many aphids and it will be very difficult to do something about it. One way of controlling aphis attack is to spray the tree with a soapy liquid, with ordinary washing up liquid at the same concentration that you use to wash the dishes. However, this will not solve the situation when it has reached the stage at which the leaves are curled up. Another possibility is to use an organic spray called pyrethrum. This will be partially effective. The overall message is to make sure that the amount of aphis in your tree does not get too excessive, and take into consideration whether there is sufficient presence of predators to keep the aphis population under control.
Narration: Dan Neuteboom
Camera: John Paddy
Earwig, lacewing, ladybird, the goodies on your fruit trees. Photos courtesy of (from left) Tom Sinon, Andy McDowall, Ravichri, all from flickr.com
While we are all enjoying the wonderful spell of warm dry weather, do make time to visit your trees and see if all is well with them. There are baddies around which will be harming your trees especially now! Look after the real friends of your fruit trees which are trying to do their best to produce crops you will enjoy.
At this time of the year there are many visitors in and around your fruit trees. Some are good, others are harmful. The fruit trees defenders, to keep the baddies in check, are the ladybirds, the earwigs and the lacewings. These friends will do their best to stop greenfly of all sorts from gaining the upper hand and ruining the leaf surface. Damage to leaves makes it more difficult for trees to make their various foods. Encourage the lacewings, ladybirds and earwigs by providing them with homes to live in and do not kill them off with harsh chemical sprays. There are plenty of sprays which can be used in the gardens and small orchards, based on organic principles, which will do this job very well.
Talking about providing homes for beneficial insects and various other living creatures, do spare a thought to the small birds in and around your garden. These have insect-based diets and get rid of many aphids and caterpillars. The large family of blue tits and long tail tits are just a few birds of them. Make sure you have nest boxes at the right places for them to make their homes in your garden. One final point: when your fruit trees are in blossom, do not spray them with anything. Wait until the blossom is over. That’s the time to visit your trees weekly and monitor what is going on. If the leaves are curling or showing signs of drought, be ready to water your trees and take action. If too many aphids are curling up the leaves and therefore harming your trees drastically, reduce their numbers.
July 1, 2014
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This time of the year, many fruit crops are ripening and will soon be ready to harvest. This is also the reason why many birds are showing increased interest in our gardens. If you have a fruit cage without holes in the netting, you are doing well. If you are not in such a privileged position, it is important to cover the ripening top fruit such as cherry and all the soft fruits with netting to stop the birds doing major damage to the fruit, just before picking is imminent. Scaring devices are far less satisfactory at this time of the year.
Also at this time of the year, start removing the eating apples which are hidden underneath dense foliage. These apples usually lack flavour and tend to keep less well compared with the ones growing in full sunlight. If there are too many apples on the tree this year, the tree will be off next year.
The other point of importance is to check the trees for developing stem and main branch cankers. These cankers need to be cut out now and painted with an anti fungal paint such as Heal and Seal.
Regarding pests active on the fruit crops at this time of year, there are various pests depending on the crop. Some can be very destructive such as gooseberry sawfly, apple sawfly and codling moth; a range of aphids such as black aphids on cherry, rosy apple aphids, woolly aphids, leaf curling midge and various other weevils. The overall strategy should be to stop these pests building up in excessive numbers. We mustn’t forget that what we call pests are food to other creatures living in the garden. So therefore total elimination should not be our goal. A balanced approach is the best long term objective.
Read our month-by-month fruit tree care calendar.