This week, I sprayed a witches’ brew of toxic chemicals all over our fruit trees: eight peach, eight apples, three plums, two cherries, two persimmon. I’ll be doing this every ten to fourteen days for the rest of the summer. This is southeastern Virginia, after all. I live just down the river from Jamestown; it is, as the early settlers remarked, a Pestilential Swamp, Most Steamy and Hot, with swarms of Insects. There are good reasons why the colonists died in droves.

Pre-pink apple spray: Sulfur 90W 2.0-4.0 Tbsp., plus 2.0 fl oz. permethrin and 2.0-4.0 Tbsp esfenvalerate. For scab, powdery mildew, apple rots, fire blight.

Believe me, I do all of the non-chemical intervention that’s recommended to keep those fruit treees healthy. They are mulched and pruned and fertilized. We pick up the dropped fruit from the ground (to quote the current Virginia Tech “Home Fruit: Disease and Insects” circular, my fruit-growing Bible, dropped fruit “can harbor inoculums of fruit diseases”). We rake up all the mummies (the dried old fruit and pits) that lurk in the dirt.

Pink spray, peaches: 2.0 Tbsp Captan 50W, plus 3.0 tsp 336WP, 1.0 Tbsp Daconil 2787, 1.0 Tbsp Sevin. For green aphids, tarnished plant bug, blossom blight, black knot.

None of this provides any help at all against aphids codling moths, apple maggots, mites, redbanded leafrollers, scab, powdery mildew, rust, fire blight, twig blight, sooty blotch, bitter pit, black rot, brown rot, white rot, bitter rot, (there are a lot of different kinds of rot), leaf curl, fly speck, or oozing canker. Yep, that’s a fruit tree disease, not just a complication of Civil War battlefield surgery.

Petal fall, apple: Sulfer 90@ 2.0-4.0 Tbsp, plus 2.0 Tbsp Thionex 50W, 2.0 fl oz., 2.0-4.0 Tbsp esfenvalerate. For scab, powdery mildew, rots, fire blight, curculio, codling moth, aphids, mites, boron deficiency.

This is the ugly backside of living in a part of the country where winters are mild, growing seasons long, and rain plentiful. Yep, you can grow lots of stuff. But if there’s an insect, a fungus, a disease, or a predator, we’ve got that too. These trees are susceptible to everything this side of hemorraghic fever. The spray schedule for apples and peaches have at least eleven different applications. Leave one out, and fruit starts withering, decaying, imploding, exploding, oozing, cracking, and transporting to alternate dimensions.

Don’t get me wrong. I love the idea of organic farming. And on alternate days, I feel guilty about putting this stuff into the air, nervous about getting it on me (because I haven’t yet done a fruit-tree spray without getting at least one faceful of fungicide), unhappy about getting it near my kids. And not thrilled to get a good whiff of malathion when I walk by the orchard.

The other days, I’m tickled pink to have fresh fruit off my own trees. Not to mention sugar-free applesauce, frozen and canned peaches all year, and jam.

The alternative? Apparenty, for us, not eating fruit. Or eating only store-bought fruit. And I am also a fan of eating seasonally and eating locally. Without spray, there’s no seasonal and local. Just oozing canker.

Petal fall through fifth cover, peaches, at fourteen-day intervals, five applications. 2.0 Tbsp. Captan 50@ plus 1.0 tsp malathion 57EC, 2.0-4.0 Tbsp esfenvalerate, 2.0% solution JMS Stylet Oil.

I mean, we could always grow tobacco, which turned out to be pretty darn resistant to southeastern Virginia fungus infestations. But that has other complications.

Peachtree borer sprays, apply July 15 and August 15. 2 Tbs Thionex (endosulfan 50W. Applyt to trunks and large limbs only. Do not apply within 21 days of harvest. Highly toxic.

Showing 7 comments
  • Emily

    The oozing canker sounds dreadful. Here’s to a huge harvest and no nasty diseases, pests, or other!

  • Emily

    Susan, I would encourage you to check out The Holistic Orchard: Tree Fruits and Berries the Biological Way by Michael Phillips. Phillips outlines a way that you can avoid most pest problems by supporting tree health and gives details about the best organic remedies. Our orchard is small (for now), but we are fully utilizing the methods from this book and have had good results so far.

  • Joseph

    If you have chickens you could let them free range underneath the trees and they will keep the bug population down.

  • Voice in the wilderness

    Why persimmons? Will your kids eat those?

    One very frugal lady I know used to be the cook for a small Baptist college my husband attended. She got persimmons off the “side of the road” and made them eat persimmon pudding. Cheap and filling–if you can get people to try it!

    Congratulations on your fruit!

  • Denschool

    Oh to have fruit trees!! I do not blame you for rejoicing on the days where you just enjoy the fruit!

  • Debbie

    I wish we could get away from the unnatural sprays and pesticides, too – and we try hard to work with the health of the plant – but sometimes I’m just grateful not to die in droves.

  • Nicole

    With the utmost respect I have to say that I find myself very disturbed by this entry. It seems there must be a better way to accomplish small-farm agriculture without all those chemicals. Isn’t that what the whole sustainable and environmentally friendly farming resurgence is all about? I think the book Emily suggests would be a great resource to have on hand. The thought of spraying all those chemicals on fruit and then plucking it from the tree and eating it and calling it “fresh” seems a bit ironic to me. Am I the only one who feels this way?!

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