Ladybird, an efficient predator
A good look at your fruit trees once a week is all its take for your fruit trees to do well.
Trees can look after themselves reasonably well once they have been in the ground for a year or two. It is the first 2 to 3 years when the trees need a helping hand from time to time. This has all to do with the fact that trees, like everything else that grows in your garden, will need to adjust to the prevailing conditions. By that I mean it will take time for the various predators to settle either in or close by your trees to keep the various pests under control. For that reason young trees often suffer from aphid attack at this time of the year. As soon as you notice that some leaves are beginning to curl, open the leaves up. If aphids are present then you have to deal with this. You can either try to remove them with water or organic soap. Or your garden centre will have a wide variety of liquids, organic or otherwise to deal with this problem. You can also try to cut the affected leaves off and put them in the non recycling bin.
In my experience, orchard hygiene and companion planting are the two most important factors in keeping pest and disease pretty well under control, without having to resort to sprays and various chemicals. Patio trees are often found to be in very good condition. The simple reason is that as a matter of routine any diseased or distorted leaves have been regularly removed during the growing season, from the patio.
Therefore it is a very good habit not to let things drop on the ground or anywhere near the trees, but to put diseased twigs or leaves in the non recycling bin. In that way one avoids a build up of various afflictions.
Fruit that has dropped, or rotting fruit, must not be left under the trees.
If your trees are in the chicken run then things become easier still, as the chickens are fond not only of the dropped fruit but also remove lots of grubs and caterpillars which otherwise would have had a go at the ripening fruit.
Many of the scab and mildew spores overwinter on fallen autumn leaves and twigs. To avoid re-infection in the following spring, it pays to remove and dispose of the old leaves by the end of November/ December. From that point of view it is a good move to tie around the trunks of the trees proper grease bands. Most garden centres stock them. It will stop various insects such as the winter moth from crawling up the trunk of the trees and causing damage to foliage and young fruitlets.
As mentioned earlier, over the medium term it is an excellent idea to build up the numbers of predators of the various pests which may harm the fruit and the leaves. Each predator has its own specific host plant, tree or bush. If you have the room to grow these various plants, then the various pests will be kept under control by natural means.
Hover flies, lacewings and ladybirds are all very active in keeping various pests such as aphids and red spider mite at a low level. Nasturtiums, marigolds and fennel attract hover flies into the garden. Earwigs consume many young aphids in various stages of developments. They like to overwinter in upturned flower pots filled with straw or short cut bundles of open bamboo canes.
Provided one is in the routine of feeding small birds such as blue tits and long tail tits during the winter months, these little birds consume lots of grubs and caterpillars which otherwise would have found their way into the fruits. Finally, garlic sprays are abhorrent to many insects. These can be obtained from most garden centres, in case the predator numbers in a particular season are at a low level.
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