Growing fruit in the home garden can be an interesting, fun and rewarding hobby. This does not happen without a great deal of work. House plant care can be very easy with a few tips to keep them healthy.
Control of pests (diseases and insects) is an integral part of the care necessary to obtain good results. Insect infestations reduce yields and lower the quality of harvested garden vegetables and home fruit plantings. All plant parts may be injured by insects. Some insects bore into roots, seeds or stems. Others destroy crops by chewing on the succulent foliage, stems or fruits. Plant diseases are carried by certain insects. Control can be maintained all season by a combination of cultural practices, mechanical control, biological control and chemical applications.
Cultural practices such as pruning, sanitation, variety selection and selecting open, sites for planting are necessary for good pest control.
How to Use the Spray Schedules
Most fungicide (disease control product) and some insecticide (insect control product) applications are effective only if applied preventatively. The timing of these preventive sprays is based on the growth stage of the plant and forms the foundation of the spray charts that follow. In very rainy seasons, sprays may need to be applied more frequently than the schedule given in the following charts. Wet weather favors development of the disease causing organisms and more chemical protection is needed. Also, rains can wash off the fungicides and insecticides. When rain occurs before a spray has dried or if rainfall totals more than 1 inch within 24 hours, the spray should be re-applied. Fungicides provide more benefit when applied before a rain than after, because protection from infection by disease-causing organisms is needed when plant surfaces are wet.
Additional Spray Tips
One of the biggest mistakes home fruit growers make is to allow their trees to grow too tall. If trees are maintained at a manageable height, it is easier to spray them properly, as well as to harvest the fruit. Proper pruning practices reduce the amount of spray needed and permit better coverage. The type of sprayer used depends on the size of the fruit planting. For most plantings of small fruits or for a few small fruit trees, pump-up sprayers are adequate. Trombone-type sprayers are helpful for taller trees. For the increased spray volumes required by larger home orchards, power sprayers are recommended. Honey bees and other pollinating insects must be protected from insecticides, which will kill them. Do not spray fruit plants with insecticides while the plants are in bloom.
Most of the pesticides suggested for use are low-toxicity materials. However, some precautions are needed:
• Keep pesticides in the original, labeled container.
• Keep pesticides in a locked storage cabinet, away from children or pets.
• Read the label each time before you use the product.
• Wear rubber gloves, goggles, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and a hat when mixing and applying pesticides. Refer to the label for required protective gear.
• Handle the pesticide carefully when mixing. Avoid breathing dust or vapors. Wash any chemicals off the skin immediately with plenty of water.
• Never apply insecticides and fungicides with a sprayer that has been used for weed killers.
• Do not spray if it is windy.
• Mix only as much as you need. Do not store diluted spray mixtures from one application to the next. They will lose effectiveness and are unsafe.
Multipurpose Fruit Spray
Growers with small fruit plantings may want to consider multipurpose fruit spray products. These materials are widely available, convenient and will serve most pest control purposes. They are mixtures containing a fungicide (captan), and usually two insecticides (malathion and methoxychlor). Multipurpose sprays are produced by several companies and sold under names such as Home Orchard Spray 7, Tree Fruit Spray, All Purpose Fruit Spray7, General Purpose Fruit Spray7 and others. Certain brands contain an additional insecticide, carbaryl (Sevin). Mixtures containing carbaryl should not be applied to apple or pear until 21 days after petal fall, as it causes the fruit to drop.
Sanitation and Cultural Practices
APPLE AND PEAR
Apple and pear trees are subject to serious damage from pests. The following practices will improve the effectiveness of the pesticides and may lessen the need for sprays.
• Plant disease-resistant varieties. Varieties resistant to cedar-apple rust, scab and powdery mildew are also available.
• Rake and destroy leaves in the fall, if apple scab, pear scab or pear leaf spot are problems. The organisms that cause these diseases overwinter in infected leaves.
• For cedar-apple rust control, elimination of the source of spores - cedar trees - is effective but not always possible. Removal of the galls caused by the fungus on cedar trees is helpful. Pruning trees according to recommendations improves control of all ground diseases. In well-pruned trees, air circulation and sunlight penetration are improved. This helps control diseases by promoting rapid drying after rains and dew. Penetration of sprays into the canopy is also better if the trees are well-pruned.
• Prune out and destroy all dead or diseased shoots and limbs during the dormant season. This helps reduce fire blight, fruit rots and certain leaf spots, as the organisms that cause these diseases overwinter in the wood.
PEACH, PLUM AND CHERRY
Peach, plum, cherry and other stone fruits are commonly affected by serious pest problems and, as a result, a conscientious spray program is needed. The following sanitation and cultural practices will improve the chances of success and may lessen the need for sprays.
• Prune trees according to recommendations, to allow better air circulation and sunlight penetration. This helps control diseases by promoting rapid drying after rains and dew. Penetration of sprays into the canopy is also better if the trees are well-pruned.
• Remove the overwintering structure for the brown rot fungus, old mummified fruit left hanging in the tree or on the ground.
• Control of black knot of plum and cherry is dependent on removal of the knots before they begin to produce spores. In late winter, prune out and destroy these rough, black swellings or tumors that develop on limbs and twigs.
• Avoid planting peach varieties that are highly susceptible to bacterial leaf spot. Examples are Elberta, Halehaven, Rio- Oso-Gem and Sunhigh. Chemical control of this disease is very limited.
Most home grape plantings will require a preventive schedule of pesticides, since certain pests such as black rot can completely destroy a crop of fruit. However, the following sanitation and cultural practices will reduce the need for pesticides.
• Keep vines well-pruned according to recommendations, to prevent overgrowth of vines and dense canopy. Pruning promotes air circulation and sunlight penetration, thus more rapid drying after rains and dew. Penetration of sprays into the foliar canopy is also better if the vines are well-pruned.
• Remove mummified berries (shriveled, dry, raisin-like). Clusters on the vines as well as those that have fallen to the ground should be removed. Also, destroy infected canes that have been pruned off. For control of grape root borer, mounding soil makes it difficult for larvae to reach the roots or adults to emerge. Mound some soil 1 foot high for 12 feet around each vine between early and mid-June.
An intensive, preventive spray program is generally not needed on strawberry. Treatments can usually be made on an as-needed basis. The following sanitation and cultural practices will reduce the need for pesticides.
• Bed renovation immediately after harvest is crucial to managing pest problems. Renovation involves narrowing rows, mowing leaves, removing weeds and fertilization. Rake and destroy cut-off leaves and stems after renovation.
• Maintain narrow rows throughout the growing season (maximum 18 inches wide), to maintain good sunlight and air penetration of the canopy. This provides good berry formation and rapid drying after rains and dew.
• Plant varieties with resistance to red stele and leaf spot. Where anthracnose is a problem, consider the resistant varieties Delmarvel and Sweet Charlie.
• Control weeds throughout the growing season. Weeds increase disease by shading the plants and by interfering with air circulation. Weeds also harbor many insect and mite pests.
• Mulch with straw before berries begin to lie on the ground, to reduce gray mold and leather rot (fruit rots).
Safe Handling of Insecticides
Home gardeners can control insect pests with reasonable safety by observing these safety rules:
• Keep insecticides in the original, labeled container.
• Keep insecticides in a locked storage container.
• Read the label each time you use the insecticide.
• Measure the amount to be mixed carefully.
• Do not exceed the recommended rate of application.
• Handle the insecticide carefully when mixing to avoid splashing of liquid concentrates and billowing of dusts and powders.
• Wear protective clothing and other personal protective equipment as dictated by the label.
• To protect yourself when mixing insecticides, it is suggested that protective clothing and equipment, such as chemical-resistant gloves, a long-sleeved shirt, long pants and protective eyewear, be worn.
• Wash all insecticides off the skin immediately, using plenty of soap and water.
• Avoid breathing the spray mist or vapor.
• Always mix insecticides outdoors near a source of water.
• Clean up any spilled materials to prevent children from entering a heavily contaminated area.
• Apply insecticides to only those plants listed on the label.
• Observe the time intervals between the last application and harvest.
The severity and type of pest problems on garden vegetables usually vary considerably from year to year. During most growing seasons, consistent production of high quality vegetables is assured only with the use of pesticides for insect control. This is not to suggest that vegetables cannot be grown without pesticides by using nonchemical methods, but it will usually take more effort on the part of the gardener.