My mother was quite the orchardist - apple, apricot, pear and cherry trees. (Drooling is the appropriate response!) Needless to say, a sense of responsibility comes with them.
Even tho' I have a bit of tree hugger in my backbone, I wasn't willing to sacrifice the fruit of the orchard to worms. I wanted applesauce and apple pie! I read an article on organic methods and discovered that organic growing was not in the cards as I did not have time to thin the apples on the tree nor did I have time to put a bag around each apple - on 8 different trees. (Are you kidding me?!?)
So with my head hanging low, I headed to the local farm store to pick up fruit tree spray. Imagine my surprise when I read the directions:
Begin spraying insecticide, along with fungicide, after flower petals have dropped. Continue this spraying every two weeks until harvest time, or as needed. Generally, try to wait at least two weeks between applications.
I gasped...but if I start spraying the beginning of May through August or later, that means I will end up spraying them 8 times! Soberly, I head up to the checkout not willing to sacrifice my apple crop, but now horribly committed to washing all fruit 4 times. (And what does this mean about the fruit we buy in the grocery store?!) I didn't feel any better after spraying the trees and feeling that I needed to immediately take a shower and get rid of the lingering pesticide on my skin.
So during a very tiny bit of time frame, where life slowed down, I started making plans to introduce more organic practices into my orcharding (is that a word?) Follows is my plan for 2015 - remember, organic doesn't mean not spraying, just spraying with a more natural earth friendly.
All right here goes...
Bud Break: We're in this stage right now so now's the time to treat a Boron deficiency which can cause small misshapen fruit. We will be adding 1 tablespoon of Borax to one gallon of water and spraying it directly on the tree. You don't want to do this unless you have a boron deficiency! We do ;(
Quarter Inch Green: 1st holistic spring spray of liquid fish, pure neem oil, effective microbes at double rate aimed at ground, trunk, and branch structure.
Pink: 2nd holistic spray aimed at unfurling buds, trunk, and branch structure.
Petal Fall: 3rd holistic spring spray aimed at leaf canopy and developing fruitlets. Hang pheremone traps (milk jug with banana, etc.)in the tree. You'll need 3 in each average sized tree. And then we will be spraying the trees with Kaolin Clay (1/4 lb./gallon) which will provide a bug barrier.
First Cover: 4th holistic spring spray aimed at leaf canopy and developing fruitlets.
June: Set out sticky traps and recoat with tanglewood every 4-6 weeks.
July: Second coating of Kaolin clay.
Ok...so I'm not necessarily spraying less, but am using better much more earth-friendly products.
What's in the holistic spray? Assuming a 4-gallon sprayer is used to cover trees to the point of runoff. Mix 2.5 ounces of pure neem oil with a generous teaspoonful of soap emulsifier (liquid soap) to achieve a 0.5 percent neem concentration. Add 10 ounces of liquid fish fertilizer and 6 ounces of effective microbes to the water filling the spray tank. Dissolve as much as a half cup of blackstrap molasses in warm water and add a half an ounce (dry weight) of the seaweed extract.
We ordered our supplies from http://www.7springsfarm.comand we will be spraying for the first time this weekend to start our way to healthy apples. http://www.groworganicapples.com has been HUGE in helping me figure out the schedule that I will be following this summer. I hope that if you have apples you will consider a more wholesome method of managing your trees and that my schedule is of some benefit for you. And don't forget to support your local farmer's market apple grower! (It might be us this year!)
There you have it...the dirty little secret about the frequency of fruit tree spraying exposed! If you have questions about my process don't hesitate to ask!