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Spraying trees may prevent disease problems in spring

Tonie Fitzgerald Special to Voice

As fall deepens, the number of gardening tasks left to do gets smaller and smaller. Some of them, like sharpening tools for next year, can be skipped or postponed until spring without serious consequences. Not so with fall sprays for fruit trees.

The common diseases of peaches, apricots, plums and cherries are best controlled with fall fungicide sprays.

Most insect problems (aphids on the leaves and worms in the fruit) are best treated in the early spring, so make a note of what bugs plagued your trees this year and be ready to deal with them next year.

If you have diseased fruit trees, here’s what you can do this fall:

Apple trees: The cause of spotty leaves and rough scabby fruit is usually a fungus disease called apple scab. Fungicide sprays won’t be of use until spring, but the overwintering spores are lying in wait in the fallen leaves and fruit around your trees. Rake those up and get them out of the way to reduce the number of spores that will germinate next spring.

Peach, apricot, plum and cherry: These fruit trees are all susceptible to diseases that cause red or brown spots in leaves and dieback of twigs and branches. Sometimes there are splits in the bark, and sometimes there are brownish blobs of sap exuding from them. Bacterial canker and Coryneum blight are diseases that cause these symptoms.

Their spores overwinter in the margins of these cankers and in the rough tissue around buds. First, prune out the dead and dying branches and remove them from your orchard or garden. Then, as leaves begin to drop off (and with any luck, before heavy rains start), spray trees with one of the many copper fungicides available in garden centers.

By spraying as the leaves fall, you are protecting the tissue where next year’s buds are. Copper Fungicide, Kop-R-Spray, Microcop, Daconil, Immunox and Captan are some examples of copper fungicides. Read all product labels and be sure the one you purchase is labeled for the kind of fruit tree you have and the diseases you are trying to control.

For more information on diseases and pests of fruit tree and other garden/farm plants, visit the Washington State University Extension Office’s Web site at pep.wsu.edu/hortsense or call your local Master Gardener Program.

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