GoodSeed Farm > Spring Pest Prevention

Spring Pest Prevention

We all know that an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure, and this is especially true with garden pest control. There are a few steps you can take right now that will save your home orchard (and the rest of your landscape) from being eaten alive later this season.

You still have time to treat your fruit trees and ornamentals with dormant oil spray before their buds open. Dormant oil controls scale insects, mealybugs, apple aphids, red spider mites, leaf miners, leaf rollers and lots of other pests. Easily applied with a ready-to-use hose-end sprayer, dormant oil smothers insect eggs and emerging larvae.

Dormant oil is approved for organic gardening. You should be spraying fruit trees, blueberry and strawberry plants, grape vines, and asparagus plants right now.  Ornamentals like magnolia, euonymus, weeping cherry and shade trees should also be treated. It’s much easier to control insects before they hatch.

Once orchards bloom, you should spray them with an all-purpose fruit tree spray regularly before problems appear. A good fruit tree spray includes protection from many types of insects, fungus diseases and blights. It comes in a concentrate, which you mix just before spraying, and includes a “spreader-sticker” to help get good coverage. The secret to effective orchard pest control is spraying at two-week intervals starting at bud break, continuing as far into the season as possible. Regular sprays early in the season do the most good; starting to spray after symptoms appear doesn’t help nearly as much.

Orchard management includes weed control around your trees and berry bushes. Grass and weeds in the root zone compete with the plant for food and water, slowing down growth and reducing the fruit yield. We recommend using a contact weed killer like Bonide’s “Weed Beater ULTRA” around your fruit trees early in the season to control weeds and vines. We like this particular product because it works in cool weather so you can get started early, and it leaves no residue in the soil if used properly. You should be careful not to spray it directly on the fruit tree bark, exposed roots or shoots.

This is also a good time to start your mole deterrence program. We use “Mole-Max”, a castor oil-based dry granule that also discourages skunks, rabbits, voles and chipmunks. Early spring application gives protection until summer, by which time moles have found homes elsewhere.

People often ask us about using these types of chemicals around food crops. Our answer is that proper timing allows you to use less chemicals, more effectively, and prevents most problems long before harvest time. Most organic gardeners will admit that orchards require a tremendous amount of diligence, and the best you can expect from an organic orchard is perhaps half the yield of conventional pest management. A good compromise is using regular, careful pesticide applications early in the season to stop problems before they happen, and backing off later on when there is maturing fruit in the orchard.