Prevent brown rot in apricots

It’s not uncommon, particularly after rain, to see some brown rot developing in stone fruit like apricots (you might also see it in peaches and nectarines). Notice how the brown rot often starts around a hole?

 

The holes might be caused by a tiny pest called carpophilus beetles, or in this case, earwigs! The combination of a small hole in the fruit, and a bit of rain can lead to a bit of a brown rot outbreak in your tree.

A lot of the infected fruit tends to fall to the ground, and also it’s important to remove any that you see in the tree to stop it spreading. Be sure to clean them up from the ground (goats or chooks will love to eat them) to help keep the tree disease free next year.

Controlling brown rot, like all fruit tree diseases, relies on the 8 principles of disease prevention:

  1. Love your soil
  2. Prevention is easier than cure
  3. Protect the predators
  4. Encourage variety in your garden
  5. Hygiene, hygiene, hygiene
  6. Maintain your trees
  7. Monitor your trees regularly
  8. Plan your fruit tree garden.

You’ll find more detail about the 8 principles, and details of how to manage 27 different diseases of fruit trees in What’s That Spot? Common diseases of deciduous fruit trees.

Earwigs as pests

What can we say? When we get it wrong and don’t get the earwig tape on our trees early enough (or at all…) this is what can happen.

Earwigs just love soft fruit like cherries and apricots, and as you can see from this photo, will take up residence in numbers.

This is a problem that tends to be worse on young trees; on mature trees, we find that the ratio of earwigs to fruit is much lower, and we have a smaller ratio of damaged fruit – though of course, we’d prefer none!

Earwigs are a very common pest, and trying to get rid of them is basically impossible (though chooks do love them, which is a great reason to let your chickens browse under your fruit trees.

The lesson is, as with all pest and disease control, focus on the potential damage that can be done to your fruit rather than on the pest, and think about strategies that will stop them getting to the fruit, rather than wishing you could control the number of earwigs, which is basically impossible unless you adopt a “scorched earth” spray-and-kill strategy, which inevitably does more harm to the environment than good.

Find out more about organic pest control strategies here.

The important work of becoming a fruit tree parent

Proud parents picking up new fruit trees

It’s tree pick-up week, and as people have been coming to the farm to collect their fruit trees the days have been full of conversations about their plans for their gardens and orchards, explaining different tree training systems and giving mini-pruning lessons, explaining the merits of different fruit varieties, and providing impromptu planting demos.

When they feel ready and armed with all the right info, we help them load up their trees and wave them off as they go home to get planting. It’s a little like sending new parents home with their babies, and as I imagine midwives must feel when they say goodbye to a young family, I’m simultaneously delighted to see them start their journey together, and slightly nervous about how they’ll manage, particularly if they’re first-time parents.

Trees waiting to be picked up and taken to their new homes

Of course, trees and babies are completely different cases, because babies are the most precious thing in the world and must be kept alive at all cost, but it doesn’t really matter if a tree dies from neglect or mistreatment, it’s just a few bucks down the drain and you start again, right?

Strictly speaking that’s true, but actually, there’s a little more at stake. You see, I know something more…I know what it feels like to nurture a fruit tree all the way through to maturity and harvest, and it’s almost indescribably satisfying.

Rhonda bravely pruning her brand new tree for the first time

It starts with planting it out in the right spot in the garden and giving it the first (terrifying) pruning.

Then you’re responsible for protecting it from pests that might damage it and making sure it has healthy soil and enough water.

You nervously watch it grow and then bloom, are awed by the miracle of pollination and seeing fading flowers falling off to reveal tiny fruit.

You protect the fruit from pests and diseases, and then … finally … harvest the most delicious fruit you’ve ever tasted in your life, because you grew it yourself.

Over years the trees grow, your skill grows, and your confidence that you can protect your precious crop against all the hazards and dangers that threaten it will grow too. And it needs to, because this is important work. You’re providing nutritious organic food for your family for the whole year, not just summer. You’re saving money in the family budget. You’re giving your kids irreplaceable memories of picking fruit straight from the tree. You need to get results every year, not just the years you’re “lucky”.

And when it works and you bring in the harvest, you feel on top of the world because you know you’ve joined the ranks of one of the most important groups in society—the food providers, those salt-of-the earth types who have the seemingly magical ability to coax delicious food from a little dirt, sunshine and hard work. You’re a farmer.

I know all this because this has been my journey over the last 20 years.  Yes, as with raising children, there’s pain along the way as you make mistakes and things go wrong, but I know the joy that lies ahead for you, and while admittedly it’s nowhere near as special as bringing a whole new human into the world, I’ve done that too so can say with the voice of experience that your fruit trees are not going to give you nearly as many sleepless nights!