Peach leaf curl disease (Taphrina deformans) is the main issue you have to be aware of with peach, nectarine and apricot growing. I f you follow my guidelines you will have no trouble with this fungal disease.
Apricot has the same trouble, but in a milder form. However, if you cover your peach tree or your apricot tree with a double layer of garden fleece from late January until the middle of May, every year, or bring the potted tree indoors during the winter months, the disease cannot develop.
Peach leaf curl, photo courtesy of Scot Nelson/flickr.com
The fungus Taphrina deformans attacks the tree species of peach, nectarine and apricot.
The symptoms are the development of large reddish blisters on the leaves. The tree is seriously weakened as photosynthesis by the leaves is seriously affected.
Eventually the tree is starved to death as it is no longer able to make essential carbohydrates through photosynthesis. Leaves tend to fall prematurely and growth comes to a full standstill.
The fungus attacks the tree from early February until the middle of May. After May the fungus is no longer producing spores and therefore cannot cause new infections.
How to avoid peach leaf curl disease
There are various options for controllilng this fungus. Some varieties are more resistant than others. However this is no help if you already have to cope with this problem.
Actions to be taken immediately are the complete removal of leaves affected. This applies to the fallen leaves as well as the affected leaves that still attached to the tree. Make sure the leaves are all collected up, put in a plastic bag and then put in the non-recycling bin. Make sure the tree is well watered and does not stand in a carpet of weeds and grass. Apply a full watering can of water once or twice a week, particularly during the summer months. Mulch the tree with well rotted farmyard manure. The area to be mulched must be of a minimum size of one square yard.
Never let the tree go short of water! By late January cover the tree with a double layer of garden fleece. Fasten the fleece securely. Make sure the wind cannot affect it or lift it off. Keep your eye on the tree and if a tear develops in the fleece after particularly bad weather, repair the damage properly. This fleece needs to stay in position until the second week of May. After that time, carefully remove the fleece.
Never prune the tree during the autumn and winter months when the leaves have fallen. It is at that time that new infections occur very quickly. Prune during the middle of May or during late August, making sure the old wood is removed to make room for new shoots to form. This is essential as the fruits of peach and nectarine are formed on one year wood only. Seal the pruning cuts with “Prune and Seal”, a compound available from your garden centre. The foliage of a well pruned tree dries up quickly, with less chance of new infections.
If it is not possible to cover the peach tree, to avoid the disease you can spray with copper during the first week of February and repeat the spray 14 days later. Follow the instructions on the packet in detail. Garden centres stock it. At leaf fall in late November put on another spray of copper.
Peach leaf curl disease is spread by rain droplets. The fungus over-winters and is hidden in crevices of the bark and between the bud scales. Therefore consider planting a peach tree in a 15 to 18 inch diameter pot. By the end of January, wheel the potted peach tree into a cold shed or a cold green house or a cold poly tunnel. In that way no fleece is needed as the tree is sheltered from the winter rains. By the middle of May it is safe to take the pot outdoors again. Then position the tree in a warm sunny place and water it weekly or twice a week when very warm weather is occurring. Never let the tree go short of water as it will surely die.
Feed the tree monthly with a suitable foliar feed , obtainable from garden centres.
Read more about peach leaf curl disease.
Watch a video on how to prevent peach leaf curl.