Sure, nowadays you can easily go the grocery store and buy any kind of fruit you want, but growing it yourself isn’t about convenience. There is pleasure that comes from doing it yourself, and rewards in eating homegrown fruit. But getting to that point does require work, like spraying for diseases and insects.
Growing fruits in a home orchard demands a strict spray schedule. What to buy and spray is the most common question.
The most convenient product is a home fruit or orchard spray. It is sold as a 2-in-1 product and usually contains one fungicide for disease control and one or two insecticides for insect control.
When to spray is just as important. For control of most insect and disease pests, begin a spray program as soon as the flowers fade and fall off. Spraying regularly according to the pesticide label will improve the odds of having a productive year.
Not all insect and disease problems can be prevented by using just one product. Fire-
blight, a bacterial disease on apples and pears, requires a separate pesticide and must be applied during bloom to prevent the spread of the disease. Japanese beetles and peach tree borers also require different techniques.
Some fruit types require demanding spray programs for keeping plants healthy and producing quality fruit. Many applications will be necessary to control pests on peaches and plums.
Just as many or more sprays may be needed for apples. Homeowners can get by with fewer sprays on apples if they are willing to accept less-attractive fruit with greater rot problems.
Most muscadine vines and blackberries need very little attention unless fruit rot or other problems suddenly present themselves.
Hard pears and pomegranates are commonly grown with little to no spray programs.
Rabbiteye blueberries and figs have very few pest problems and may not need spraying either.
Homeowners are always interested in growing fruits that require few or no sprays for pest control. The truth is, all fruit types usually benefit from at least one or more annual sprays to control problem pests.
Ideally, the home fruit producer should learn to recognize the most common pest problems for the fruit being grown and only spray as needed. Whenever possible, purchase disease resistant varieties or choose fruits that are considered easy to grow and low-maintenance. For a home fruit spray guide and a publication that lists the fruit varieties that perform well in our area or have few disease problems, contact your local Extension office or visit www.aces.edu.
Shane Harris is a regional extension agent for the Alabama Cooperative Extension System serving east central Alabama.