Leaf curl (Taphrina deformans ) is that horrifying-looking disease your stone fruit get where the leaves curl up and die and your yields are drastically impacted.
It predominatly affects peaches and nectarines, but can also hit apricots and almonds.
While it'll start to show up in early spring, it's actually been living in your trees over winter.
It lays dormant, waiting for the seasonal rains to come and spread it into every little nook and cranny throughout the tree.
Effective treatment must begin when an affected tree loses its leaves in late autumn or early winter.
What to do
A number of things can be done, but two of the most important things are as follows:
Before the tree buds swell spray them with lime sulphur.
The lime lodges around unopened buds providing a temporary rainproof seal. A warning though, the lime sulphur smells like rotten eggs.
When the buds are swelling (opening) usually in late winter or early spring, spray it again with copper oxychloride - this kills the fungal spores.
If you're a bit late to the spraying party and your tree's buds are already swelling (so can't do the lime spray), go straight to the copper spray - it's still worthwhile.
Be sure to spray on a still day (wind gets a bit chaotic and messy) and that it's not about to rain (it'll wash it away).
Both treatments can be sourced from your local nursery - they'll provide details on quantities to use.
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Importantly, once leaf-tips appear, it's too late to do the above treatments - timing is everything! I put these treatments in my diary a year in advance so I don't forget - I recommend you do the same.
For the best results in controlling leaf curl, use a number of control methods together. Complete elimination can be challenging, but the impact on the tree and fruit production can be minimised.
Clean up any fallen leaves from previous infections and dispose of in the bin to minimise hiding places for the fungus spore.
If a tree is already infected, remove all distorted leaves and fruit and destroy (bin or burn them).
Feed your soil with slow release organic fertilisers and soil conditioners, as well as regular watering regimens, to ensure it is healthy and can recover from infection.
A healthy tree bears more fruit
If you don't treat your trees then your yields will go way down and the fruit you do get will be small and deformed.
If you're privileged enough to have a fruit trees have a crack at maximising what you can get from them.
- Hannah Moloney and Anton Vikstrom are the founders of Good Life Permaculture, a landscape design and education enterprise regenerating land and lifestyles.