Planting organic fruit trees in your backyard probably seemed like a good idea at the time. After all, what could be better than looking out your window and seeing shiny red apples growing bigger and bigger each day, drinking your afternoon cup of Earl Grey with a slice of freshly ripened lemon, or filling baskets with plump cherries to share with friends and neighbors? But without any sort of chemical-based insect repellent application, you've discovered – much to your horror – that those shiny red apples are full of worms, your lemons have shriveled and died on the branch, and your cherries are afflicted with some kind of wretched fungus!
What are you, a now despondent organic gardener, to do?
NATURAL PESTICIDE OPTIONS FOR FRUIT TREES
- Surround WP is made from 95 percent kaolin clay, which is a naturally occurring mineral that is not harmful to non-target organisms or the environment, and has been given a GRAS status – Generally Recognized as Safe – by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- While effective at suppressing a wide range of pests, especially those which damage fruits such as pears, apples, grapes, berries, and some vegetables, kaolin has no adverse effects on beneficial insects, such as honeybees, or spiders.
- Likewise, since kaolin does not dissolve in water, no aquatic organisms are harmed.
- As the name suggests, this organic insect repellent surrounds the fruit and the insects – creating a white film that can easily be rubbed from the produce come harvest time, but that sticks to the bodies of pests and encourages them to be on their way.
- Surround WP can be purchased online from Johnny's Selected Seeds.
- Entrust (OG) is relatively new insecticide product that contains spinosad, a naturally derived chemical registered by the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), approved by the Organic Materials Review Institute (OMRI), and approved for use on USDA certified organic produce.
- Spinosad-containing insecticides such as Entrust (OG) are used to control a variety of insect pests such as fruit flies, caterpillars, leafminers, thrips, sawflies, spider mites, fire ants, leaf beetle larvae, and codling moths – which breed apple maggots and worms!
- Entrust (OG) can be purchased online at Johnny's Selected Seeds.
- A similar spinosad-containing, fermentation-derived insecticide on the market is Conserve SC, which can be purchased by the quart for much less at TreeCareDirect.com.
- This strong, non-toxic, chemical-free liquid garlic concentrate is EPA registered and is listed for organic farms by OMRI. It won't harm your pets or children, and it's free of harmful fumes.
- It's known as an all-purpose organic pesticide and is used to keep pests including codling moths, apple maggots, ants, aphids, grasshoppers, and slugs at bay; particularly from apple trees.
- Garlic Barrier is diluted with water and sprayed onto the tree, where the active ingredients are absorbed through the roots, limbs, and greenery. Don't worry: it doesn't change the taste of the fruit, as the concentrate becomes odorless to humans as soon as it dries.
- An added benefit is that the spray deters other backyard pests such as deer, rabbits, and rodents!
- Look for Garlic Barrier at your local Walmart, or online at Amazon.com or Gemplers.com.
- Though not as effective as insecticide sprays, you can manage insect infestation by capturing pests with sticky red sphere traps.
- Backyard gardeners hang one trap for approximately every 100 apples in a tree by the first of July. When the insects land on the spheres, they become trapped and die. Gardeners check on the traps periodically because they become ineffective when completely covered with insects and debris. After cleaning the spheres with vegetable oil, glue is reapplied, and the trap is rehung.
- This method is best suited for controlling male codling moth and cherry fruit fly. An added benefit is that the traps tell you when pests have emerged so you can time your control spray applications.
- Since these traps only attract male codling moths, females are still able to lay eggs and infest fruit.
- These devices are readily available at your local garden supply store or by order from your gardening catalogs.
Organic Fruit Gardening Tips:
- Use organic compost as a fertilizer every spring.
- Tie strips of burlap around the trunk of your fruit trees in the early summer, then remove (and destroy) caterpillars as they get trapped each week.
- Be sure to clear any fallen fruit on or around your trees – rotting fruit attracts maggots and coddling moths live under bark, near the tree base.