Pests and diseases of apples
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It is a melancholy fact that the apple is attacked by a wide range of pests and diseases which at worst can
reduce the crop to zero, and damage or even kill the tree. We learned this the hard way. It's true that you can get
some sort of crop by leaving nature to itself, but for consistent quality, and some years to get even one clean
apple, you need to understand and outwit the little beasties and bugs. These notes are based on what we have
learned over the last 15 years in the orchard, and of course from what we have read. We do not claim to be experts
and refer you to the literature (see books, 'The Fruit Expert' is the best one on pests and diseases). If you don't
want all the detail, cut to the summary of pest and disease management.
Here are offender profiles and control advice regarding our main culprits. Things may be different where you live
and grow fruit trees, check things out locally.
WINTER MOTH CATERPILLAR
TWIG CUTTER WEEVIL
and an apology and explanation about our pest control programme-please read with an open mind. We are very
sympathetic to 'organic' philosophies and practices, but we do use pesticide, responsibly and minimally.
Prevention better than cure
Start with a good tree To reduce pest and disease problems, start by planting a healthy tree in humus rich,
weed-free soil, in full sunlight. Choose a variety that is not badly disease prone. Cox is a sickly apple (Queen Cox is
better) and other varieties like Spartan, James Grieve, Red Pippin, Ribston Pippin and Sunset tend in our soil to be
prone to scab and will not grow well unless sprayed. Some varieties are naturally resistant to scab and other
disease-we find Miller's Seedling, Adam's Pearmain, Court Pendu Plat and Winter King (Winston) have natural scab
resistance. MUCH more work needs to be done into apple varieties with natural pest and disease resistance,
preferably before the oil runs much lower (this was written in October 2007, the price of oil has doubled since then.
we need to thnk harder and make preparations for feeding ourselves when it is all gone) and we can't ship
refrigerated Braeburn and Granny Smith apples from half way round the world any more. The government should
fund such public-benefit research-the industry won't as there's no money in it for them. Also, we cannot afford to
lose the old genetic material and regional apple varieties, they may hold secrets we will need to breed resistant fruit.
Plant in good soil It is best to plant bare root trees in winter, between leaf fall in November and bud burst in late
March/early April. Many growers think it best to 'plant into a warming soil' i.e. at the end of the winter when the days
are lengthening. This may be the best advice, buit don't leave it too late. I strongly advise against planting
container grown trees in summer-if you must do this, stake the tree, mulch and water heavily.
Whenever you plant your trees, dig a big enough, deep enough hole, break the soil up, stir in a couple of double
handfuls of composted forest bark, peat or similar (not dung or raw compost-put that on top as a mulch) and a cup
full of bone meal stirred in. One of you holds the tree straight and level while the other gradually fills the hole,
taking care to make sure the roots are spread as evenly as possible and the earth is pressed down firmly. Wiggle a
fork or spade under the roots as you shake the earth down to get good root to soil contact with no air pockets.
Plant about 1-2 cm deeper than the soil mark, no deeper. Mulch with any organic material if you can, careful not to
spread mulch up against the bark, it will keep it moist and this may allow rot organisms into the bark. Leave a gap of
3 inches at least. Staking is not usually necessary for a small tree unless your site is very windy, but big trees
probably do need it-be careful not to have too tight a tree tie and check it regularly so it doesn't cut in and choke
the tree as it grows.
Give the trees space If you are planting more than one tree, do not plant them too close together. On a typical M26
or MM106 rootstock on decent soil, 3 metres (10 feet) apart would be a minimum, 12 feet would be better, 14 or 15
feet best, unless you plan to dwarf the trees radically from the start by strict summer pruning e.g. to dwarf
pyramids/spspindlebush trees, when you can get away with 2 metres apart. But it's a lot of extra work. Raymond
Bush (see books section) who was an orchard consultant/troubleshooter said that he never saw an apple tree
suffer from being too far from it's neighbour, but he often had to advise growers to grub out every other tree to
restore productivity in orchards where they were planted too close together and crowding each other. If trees are
too close together so that when they are full grown the branches touch, circulation of air and penetration of light is
reduced and you get poorer cropping and more fungal problems, plus difficulty moving about the orchard let alone
with wheelbarrows or vehicles. We had a discussion on the ukcider group last year about the heartbreak and waste
of having to cut down half of your apple trees because you planted them too close together and now 6 years later
they are growing into each other. Lots of us have been there. Try to avoid making this common mistake.
Now for the pests themselves.
I deal with the pests common in our orchard in the order in which they arrive. First, at bud burst we find several
species of winter moth attacking the leaves and blossom. these are moths which lay eggs in the winter, which
hatch out into tiny yellow, green or brown caterpillars which chew the new leaves and blossom. They are the first of
the season's major pests, and can cause 100% destruction of the crop plus severe restriction of the tree's growth.
You see leaves curled up at the edge and stuck to other leaves; if you pick them open you will often find the
This light green winter moth caterpillar looks very fat and contented, having destroyed all the blossom on
this fruiting system and damaged many leaves. It's droppings can be seen on the leaf in the bottom right.
It, and the other one, were squashed with extreme prejudice seconds after this picture was taken.
They sometimes hang from the tree on spider web type thread, they often do this when you are trying to
catch them. As well as eating the young leaves, they crawl into the blossom and eat the protein-rich
stamens, obviously this means no fruit that year.
CONTROL Some small birds eat a lot of these, so suitable nesting boxes in your orchard are a good
idea. They can be reduced by grease bands, a useful technique but only suitable if you have few trees.
Boltac are a good make, or you can tie some material round the tree and paint some Vaseline or other
sticky grease on to it, don't paint grease direct on to the tree, it is bad for the bark-I've done it, I know. The
grease catches the winter moth females as they crawl up the trunk to lay their eggs. Apply in September,
remove or at least check and refresh in late spring/early summer. CAUTION forgotten grease bands, like
tree ties, can cut into the tree as it grows-check them, or tie on with thin elastic. The grease itself may
require touching up. Alternatively, you may choose to spray with insecticide, 'organic' (such as derris or
nicotine) or a proprietary 'non-organic' control. Read the instructions and obey all relevant legislation
where you live, and definitely keep good records of what you spray, when and why including details such
as wind speed and direction, date and time. More about spray programmes at the bottom of the page.
Scab this is a miserable disease which can destroy the whole crop and eventually kill a tree. It is a
fungus which overwinters on the soil and leaf litter, it 's spores are splashed up by rain and causes
damaging fungal growth on all parts of the tree-bark, leaf and fruit.
This does not merely reduce the attractiveness of the fruit (although cosmetic appearance of the fruit is
NOT trivial. Customers will reject a scabbed apple, whatever Joni Mitchell sang in her protest song Big
Yellow Taxi 'Come on farmers, put away the DDT, give me spots on my apples, give me the birds and the
bees.' Now I like Joni Mitchell and have several of her albums, but she was misleading on this issue. DDT
was banned years ago as it was persistent and harmed some birds, we use far less toxic and
non-persistent compounds and due to the hedges (we have planted hundreds of metres of new mixed
hedgerows plus 2 acres of mixed woodland adn hazel coppice) and our environmentally friendly approach
we have vast numbers of birds and other insects plus grass snakes etc. Dreaming about 'a world in
perfect harmony' is attractive, but customers will NOT accept spotty scabby apples.
By the way, the DDT ban has killed a lot of Africans who used to use it to control the malaria mosquito by
painting the walls of their huts with it. The mozzies died after settling on the walls, so didn't bite them as
they slept to pas on the deadly parasite. The DDT didn't do them any harm, but the mosquitos do. Not
that I'm saying pesticides are totally harmless, like any drug they must be used only when necessary, but
the problem is that their use is sometimes denied even when CLEARLY necessary because of the way
the Rachel Caron brigade have overplayed their part, as if pests and diseases of food plants really
weren't a problem or could be beat by companion planting or singing.
The scabbed spots seen on this apple will not stretch as the fruit grows, so the skin splits, allowing other
spoilage micro-organisms to enter the apple, which will then rot. Bad scab on the leaves will stop them
photosynthesising, so the tree will make no growth and any fruit will be stunted. Chronic or severe scab
may cause the tree to develop canker (see below) and die. This is NOT a minor cosmetic problem, it is
potentially an orchard killer. CONTROL Firstly, avoid varieties which are very susceptible to scab. Spartan
(although an apple with many plus points, see varieties) is a scab magnet-if you don't intend to spray
fungicide, don't plant Spartan. Cox is also out for the same reason. Secondly, orchard hygiene- remove
and burn, bury or compost all fallen leaves in the winter, rake over the soil under the tree. Remove any
scabbed or fallen fruit (this helps control other problems too). However, to achieve smoething like full
control, we spray fungicides-it's safe if done safely and it works, see below. Fungicides by the way are not
deadly poisons, in my main work as a doctor I quite often prescribe fungicide tablets to patients with
fungal skin infections. Swallowing 250 mg of the fungicide terbinafine (Lamisil) daily for a month doesn't
seem to do any harm except for the very few people who are are allergic to it, to ingest that much
fungicide from orchard pesticide application you would have to eat hundreds of apples when they were
still wet with spray. If the correct haarvest interval is used there will be zero to negligible pesticide present.
Sawfly this is a fly which lays eggs on fruitlets very early in the season, they hatch out into a pink
caterpillar which burrows into the baby apples and eats their heart out. You can see a brown mess (frass)
coming out of a hole in the side of a fruit, or a 'scar' curling round the apple. A single sawfly caterpillar
may eat into and destroy all the apples in a cluster, so it is important to remove and destroy any affected
fruitlets. In an ideal world they would be fed to livestock, but cutting them open to find the maggot and
chopping it in half with your penknife will do. I don't have a picture of sawfly frass just now, we have
achieved quite good control of this very destructive pest over the years, if I drag one up from the archives
I will post it. You will easily recognise this when you see it.
Aphids there are several types of aphid which suck the sap out of the leaves on apple trees, the
worst by far is the so called 'rosy apple aphid'. This filthy pest hits from April onwards and is a
raspberry pink colour, hence the name. It attaches itself to the underside of leaves and sucks the
sap. The leaves curl, all the goodness is sucked out, the twigs curl and the apples get sick. You can
tell when you have it as leaves and twigs curl and twist, and apples develop a nasty dimpled
appearance to the skin and they STOP GROWING. Typically you see a bunch of small apples on a
deformed branch with curled leaves. There is nothing to do but cut the affected area off, it will never
now do any good. The picture below from June 2007 shows two typical bunches of deformed and
shrivelled apples and a curled leaf (the vermin hide underneath it) I am holding a normal apple from
the same tree to show what they should look like.
CONTROL rosy apple aphid appears to be introduced and milked by ants, so grease banding should help
although we haven't tried it as it's impractical with 800 trees. Ladybird larvae eat aphids, so ladybirds should
help, but the ants fight them off as they are milking the aphids for their sugary sap. We kill them with
aphid-specific insecticide. Other aphids and sap suckers are annoying, but this one is devastating and should
receive zero tolerance. There are some approved (and non-approved e.g. soapy water) 'organic' sprays
available. Companion planting, biodynamics or singing to the trees does no good-if you have
rosy apple aphids, death is the answer-kill them all.
Canker is a bacterial infection that kills bark, it often seems to affect trees previously weakened by scab. If it
gets all the way round a branch, or indeed the tree trunk, death is inevitable.
CONTROL the only thing you can do is keep a good look out for it and cut infected wood out, back into clean
wood ASAP. Ideally remove it immediately from the orchard to prevent spread of infection and burn it on a hot
fire. Good, regular pruning and orchard hygiene should reduce the problem, but you will probably always get
some. Walk the orchard regularly, and remember 'a seen canker is a gone canker'. ZERO tolerance--we hates
it for ever! The 2 pictures below show the point at which the canker has girdled and killed the branch, and the
effect (death of bark, leaves and fruit) further up the branch. Although it is called canker, it's effect is more like
gangrene than cancer. If not controlled it can kill a tree-it has killed many in our orchard, especially in the early
days before we started our spray programme. Sometimes if a canker is half way round the trunk, you can save
the tree by cutting the bark out back into clean wood and painting with Arbrex wound paint or similar, it's worth
a try. Sterilise your tools afterwards.
Canker is sometimes invited by making a big pruning cut too close to the trunk, leaving a wound too big to
heal. Try to avoid this, always leave 2 mm of wood when pruning back to the trunk. try to avoid making big
pruning cuts by anticipating branches that are going to have to come out and taking them when they are
smaller, during the formative training of the tree. If you have more than 2 or 3 trees, or if like us you feel that
nothing is too good for your trees, get a Silky Fox Gomtaro 300mm graduated tooth apple pruning saw, they
cost about £40 but make supremely clean and smooth pruning cuts due to the very superior quality of steel,
design and manufacture. Cleaner, more precise cuts=less risk of wound infection. I recommend a short prayer
for your hands before unsheathing your Gomtaro, the sharpness of these Japanese saws is terrifying, they will
go through a 2cm thick branch with one firm stroke. I have put a few videos on youtube, search on fruitwise or
apple pruning, these show my best efforts at teaching pruning and the power of the Silky Fox saws.
Twig cutter weevil This exasperating little monster does what it says on the label. Only
one of my books mentions it, no control is suggested. we just cuss and put up with it. It is
particularly bad on new trees in nurseries, like the one in the picture here. Half of the newly
grafted trees in my 2007 nursery row had their main leaders cut like the one pictured here,
which set them back very badly. I was really upset about this-the little trees had been coming on
beautifully, now the growing central leaders are destroyed from over half of them and their
shapes will be ruined and they will be set back a year. It is only a real problem in nurseries, full
grown trees don't have much of a problem. Ugly, pointless, destructive and there's nothing we
know to do about it. I think that next time I graft over a row of trees I will hit hard and frequently
with heavy insecticide-an ugly prospect, but what would you do? I grafted around 100 trees, 60
or so are now set back very badly. That is a potential economic loss of £600 at £10 a tree.
This is due to a fungus. There is no specific preventive, only good orchard hygiene as discussed above. Nothing to
do but pull the apples off and get rid of them, ideally by feeding to livestock, but not too many or your cattle or pigs
may get drunk. Some trees are more prone to this than others, for example we found the cider apple variety Crimson
King was very badly affected, up to 80% of the crop rotted before it was even ripe, while trees of other varieties
nearby were hardly affected. I couldn't put up with this any longer so I top-grafted all of our 8 specimens of this tree
over to Dabinett and Harry Master's Jersey which are nowhere near so badly affected. I have put up a page on
grafting including top grafting which shows how I grafted over the Crimson King to more diseaase resistant varieties.
For further information, check out R.J. Garner's classic book 'The Grafter's Handbook' (see books.)
PS brown rot isn't at all poisonous and I often crush an affected apple in my hand (they are semi-liquefied inside) and
drink the juice, which is turning into cider.
Codling moth (apple maggot)
The classic 'apple maggot' or worm is a horrible pest which can ruin 100% of your crop. The adult is a dusty grey
moth about 10 mm long which flies and lays its eggs on your apples by night, usually around the last week of June. It
depends on the weather-it likes warm, dry nights without strong winds. They can come in waves, especially in a funny
year like 2007. The moths hatch out from overwintered larvae which hide in cracks in the bark of big old trees and
such like places. CONTROL first and foremost, look out for and immediately destroy any maggoty apples each year,
July and August are the main months. Ideally fed them to animals such as chickens, pigs or horses. If not, cut the
afflicted apples open and squash the maggot and compost the apple, a really hot compost heap should do the trick
also. Don't let them survive to pupate-every maggot destroyed is one less moth to hatch out and lay eggs on your
apples next year. Next, pheromone traps are very handy. They cost about £6 from garden centres and entice the
males into the trap with a capsule of female codling moth pheromone (sexually attractive scent) where they are
caught in a sticky trap. These are 'organic' but are not a complete solution, they will reduce the damage but not
eliminate it altogether. We, like the mainstream apple industry, use pheremone traps to find out when the codlings
are flying, mating and egg laying to time our insecticide sprays more precisely. This is part of 'Integrated Fruit
Production (IFP), which is about minimising the use of pesticides by intelligent targetting. We put the traps up in late
May and check them every few days. When large numbers of moths start to be caught, we hit with insecticide a week
to 10 days later, this timing is to hit the newly emerged larvae before they can burrow into the fruit.
Since bats eat moths and fly by night, bat boxes might help. I don't know of any evdence about which night flyers eat
most codling moths or how this useful predation could be optimised-again, nobody's making any money out of bats so
we need independent government or charity, not industry, funded research. We must give it a try, we like bats ayway.
This pheromone trap shows the capsule of female codling moth scent and numerous unlamented victims, lured to
their doom like so many sexually overexcited beings before them (as per Sirens in Odyssey, also the foolish young
man lured by an adulteress in chapter 7 of the Book of Proverbs 'seduced by her charms...into the house he
goes...he does not know that it will cost him his life').
Bird damage. Of course we all want birds in our orchards, we have lots partly because of all the
hedgerows we have planted, but while some eat apple pests, others eat apples. There isn't much we
can do about it. Of course it's less of a problem in a garden where you can put alternative nibbles up
for them, but with 800 trees on 5 acres surrounded by fields, hedges, woodland and coppice, we
have a full range of all sorts of bird. We think that Jays, Magpies and various crows and rooks are
probably the worst. It wouldn't be so bad if they didn't start so early. They are particularly bad on the
Lord Lambournes, and some years destroy up to a third of the crop-it's as bad as income tax.
Occasional trees suffer complete loss of fruit. Yes, we have tried wind chimes, CDs etc. We have not
tried bangers or other loud noises as this would understandably annoy our neighbours. The only
thing that worked quite well for 2 or 3 weeks was hanging up a dead crow on a 10 foot pole. That
kept them away. It's like the old farmers seed-sowing proverb 'one for the slug, one for the crow, one
to rot, one to grow'. Here is an apple destroyed by birds, note also the scab on the leaf in the bottom
left of the picture.
'Time would fail me' if I were to tell of greengage gobbling badgers, bark-nibbling and apple store invading mice
and voles (oh how I wish we had some big, hungry adders!), leaf curling midge, blossom wilt, powdery mildew,
apple (and nut) stealing grey squirrels, deer which will scoff up a newly planted apple sapling like a kid goes
through an ice cream on a hot August day, red spider mite-we even had a plague of drunken teenagers one
night when we were out of the country, and although it only took me 4 hours to clear up their mess (there were
enough empty cans and bottles I calculated for 80 people to have got falling down drunk, to say nothing of the
dope we also found evidence of) left Julia very distressed for 2 years. Nevertheless, our orchard is beautiful and
getting more so, and we often have friends round for barbecues and sleep overs and to help with picking, tidying
prunings etc. I will put up some pretty pictures of the orchard.
So, yes, pests and diseases can extort a heavy toll I hope this dose of unpleasant reality doesn't put
you off growing apples. It's really worthwhile and you CAN do it, this is just to offer a bit of help
and reassurance with the difficulties. If you have just a few trees in your garden or community orchard and take
minimal action e.g. healthy tree first and foremost, mulch with compost, wise and sensitive pruning, remove
rotten fruit, grease banding (watch those ties!) and a pheromone trap, you should get away with a half decent
crop most years. If you want to sell your fruit though, it is a different matter and you will have to spray whether
you like it or not. Outside my back door is a large cooking apple tree, it is a large and attractive tree and too tall
to spray. Every year the apples are covered with scab and full of maggots, we never pick the fruit-it all rots and
drops off. I pick the apples up and put them in the compost bin. That is what generally happens if you do not
After trying our best from the start to be fully 'organic', we decided to start spraying pesticide in the third year of
the project after weeds, pests and diseases all but overwhelmed our early planting. The trees looked like they
had been riddled with shotgun fire (winter moth holes in EVERY leaf) and showered with slurry (every leaf
stained with scab). We picked 200lb of apples from 250 young trees, a sixth of what the harvest should have
been, and 90% of those had maggots. The vermin had smelled the scent of our apples and flown in from all
around. If we had not started spraying then we would have had to give the project up, there would be rich
people's horses there now instead of our orchard and some of the rare fruits we grow would be several clicks
nearer extinction. We did the right thing.
Our research and experience convinces us that in 21st century UK, while it is next to impossible to make money
growing apples WITH effective pest control, (and then only with unique selling point, direct sales and strong
repeat custom) there is absolutely NO CHANCE without effective pest control. I am familiar with, and sypathetic
to, the philosophies of the organic movement, 'look after the soil and it will look after the plant-prevent problems
rather than try to cure them-work with nature not against her-etc, etc'. Unfortunately, the various pests and
diseases listed above are unaware of these philosophies. They just want to take over your apple for their
purposes. Companion planting, garlic sprays, biodynamics etc just don't work. Crop rotation helps prevent pest
and disease build up in annual crops like leeks and potatoes, but is of course impossible with a permaculture
plant like apples. There are 'organic' sprays, and if they were better I would use them, but I can't see the point of
preferring on principle a chemical that came directly from a plant over one that came from a plant (or the ancient
biomass breakdown product we call oil) via a factory, especially if the latter has been subjected to much stricter
testing. It seems to me that a lot of 'organic' philosophy is more like New Age or Wicca than plant science. I don't
mind adherents of the organic philosophy daydreaming, but I do mind them sowing unpleasant rumours based
on bad or no science against decent non-organic growers who are trying to make an honest living growing good
food, and who have to control pests to allow them to do so. This is a waste of energy. Surely both sides should
agree that more research into lower impact plant pest and disease management must be done, but in the
meantime let's make a distinction between what we might wish to be true in an ideal world and what happens
(see my pictures above) in the world we actually live in.
Pesticide use is highly regulated and growers can be fined heavily for overdosing their fruit or improper disposal.
Every bottle of pesticide we buy must be stored securely, written in a book, details of each use recorded, and
there is a 'harvest interval' for example 30 days between last permissible spray and harvesting. This specified
period of time when wind, sun, rain and dew pass over the fruit ensures that there are usually no pesticide
residues, as is confirmed by the regular testing which is done. We have no doubt that the government 'mystery
buyer' visits our stalls and tests our fruit, and will prosecute and fine the living daylights out of us if our fruit
contains significant pesticide residues. I had to do a fairly exacting 2 day course at Sparsholt agricultural college
and pass an exam (cost me over £200 in all, plus loss of earnings for the time off) before I was allowed to use
even a backpack sprayer with the commercial chemicals. We take the Fruit Grower magazine which keeps us up
to date for example which products have been withdrawn in the ever tougher search for things which are more
environmentally friendly. I believe the science shows these chemicals are safe when used safely.
The organic movement allows copper sulphate to be used to control fungus-however, but copper is INORGANIC
and is a persistent metal poison. It's safe if used safely, we use it, but there is a little bit of bending the rules
here-for the simple reason that there is no 'organic' control of fungal disease, which as I have said can wipe out
an entire year's crop and ultimately kill the tree. And if we are going to talk about the 'precautionary principle' or
'cocktail effect' (both are scaremongering evidence-free catch phrases which ignore the fact that as chemical
pest control has made fruit more widely available, we have become healthier and are living longer). Also, if you
want to invoke the 'precautionary principle', then what about the possibility that maggot poo or scab spores (both
perfectly natural-as natural as bubonic plague and bowel cancer) don't cause some harm? Can you prove they
don't? We are living longer-that's a measurable fact. If someone identifies a scientifically proven incidence of a
disease which is caused by eating sprayed fruit, believe me they will have my attention.
But what about the 'good old days' before there were sprays? Well, I have books proving that pesticides have
been sprayed on apple trees for over 100 years. During that time, fruit consumption has risen and life
expectancy has roughly doubled. Good old days? Growing apples, in England's wet climate anyway, without
pesticide is like having a family and raising children without the benefits of contraception, vaccination or
antibiotics-it CAN be done, people used to do it, still do it in some countries, but if you 'go with nature' you must
be prepared to accept what nature deals out. Yes, 200 years in the past there were no sprays, and people
accepted scabby, maggoty apples and fewer of them, for a shorter season, since there was no choice. Similarly,
in the past there were no vaccines against diptheria, tetanus etc and no antibiotics, people accepted the routine
death of children from infectious diseases as that was what happened. Couples would have 6 or more children
and hope that at least 3 would survive childhood and live to provide for them in their old age.
Think it through-what do we mean by 'natural' and is it always wrong to 'interfere with nature'? We are living
longer than ever before, there are many reasons for this, but a major one is better and more fruit and
vegetables-achieved in large measure by modern pest and disease control. I go on about this since as a medical
doctor and a grower and seller of fruit because i think a lot of silly nonsense propaganda is out there. There is a
large and well connected movement which wants to severely restrict pesticides as it would be more 'natural'. Ask
them to produce facts, not fundamentalist philosophies. Pesticides are already very highly regulated, further
regulation will push up costs and put growers out of business.
SUMMARY A simple spray programme would be as follows (I do not advise on specific
products). This is a bit less than we do, but should give you 80% control or better of all
the major problems.
bud burst (usually early April) combined insecticide and fungicide (if you want to be 'organic', copper and
derris are suggested)
post blossom-same again. Omit the fungicide if it is a dry year and no sign of scab. Never spray insecticide
when the blossom is out for fear of harming bees, but if there is bad scab, spray fungicide alone during the
blossom if necessary, this won't hurt the bees.
Midsummer set a pheromone trap in mid-May, spray insecticide 7-10 days after the first big batch of codling
moths, use your judgement to decide whether to add a fungicide to this one. As I wrote above, you must take
great care to avoid spray drift and keep good records of time, date, substance used and wind speed and
direction. We use Bastion 15 litre backpack sprayers, something smaller than this will do for just a couple of
Autumn apply a copper based or other suitable fungicide to the trees after harvest IF you have had a bad
You should do very well with this regime, a grease band and orchard hygiene as discussed above will help too.
Don't worry, the apple is a generous fruit and you can afford some losses if you are just growing for your family,
but do remember to cut out and destroy diseased wood and fruit to stop problems building up from year to year,
and give the tree a good feed and mulch. Just as malnutrition in humans increases the risk of opportunistic
infections, so a healthy growing tree will be less susceptible to attack.
No offense intended if you object to all sprays on principle, however facts are facts. We wish we didn't need to
spray, but this isn't the Garden of Eden. We threw away a ton of Bramley apples in 2007 as it rained so long and
we couldn't spray against scab in the rain-we brought about a tenth of our Bramley crop to market, sold them
half price as they were so badly marked by fungus, and left the rest in the orchard to compost. We suffered a
near total loss of our valuable Lord Lambourne crop in 2009 for the same reason.
Finally, ye Gaians and Deep Greens, remember.....
'Mother Nature' doesn't care whether you live or die.
PS it's wise to wash outdoor grown fruit before eating it, since a bird may have done a poo on it, which might
conceivably contain salmonella or other pathogen. We do not wash our fruit between orchard and market, this
would diminish it's keeping qualities and increase costs for no real gain. Obviously, we would never pick an apple
for market with visible bird droppings on it, but the rain might have washed visible signs off and left an invisible
trace. This doesn't bother us, as Jack Hargreaves and other countrymen say 'a bit of honest dirt never hurt
anybody' and we eat more of our apples than any of our customers do, but the risk of 'natural' stomach infection
from unwashed raw apple is slightly above zero, so do wash it. There is no need however to peel the apple skin,
even for babies, as there is no evidence that any possible pesticide residues in apples (there ought not to be
any anyway) weighs anything against the UNDOUBTED PROVEN health benefits of eating this excellent fruit.
There are various natural flavour compounds in apple skin which I have heard, and tend to believe, have health
October 2007 (revised October 2009)
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