Why Spray Apple Trees?

Before answering when to spray apple trees, you will first need to know why? Spraying apple trees is an important part of orchard management as it helps to control pests and diseases that can damage the tree and reduce fruit quality and yield. Sadly, even after practicing organic fruit tree pest management, your tree may still be susceptible to pests and diseases because of the unique pressures of the environment. Insects like aphids, mites, and fruit flies can feed on the fruit and leaves, while diseases like apple scab and fire blight can cause leaf spotting, premature defoliation, and fruit rot. Spraying apple trees with insecticides and fungicides can help control these pests and diseases, leading to healthier trees and better fruit production.

when to spray apple trees

When to Spray Apple Trees?

The timing for when to spray apple trees depends on the specific pests/diseases you are trying to control, as well as the climate in your area. Knowing when to spray depends on the budding, blooming, and fruiting periods for your tree. Therefore, regularly monitor your apple trees for signs of pests and diseases and also the stages of growth. Then you will be able to adjust your spraying schedule as needed.

Here are some general guidelines for when to spray apple trees:

  • Dormant Season: During the dormant season (late winter/early spring before buds start to swell), apply a dormant/horticultural oil to control overwintering pests and diseases like scale insects, mites, and aphids.
  • Pre-bloom: Just before the buds begin to open, apply a fungicide to control diseases like apple scab and powdery mildew. If you had pest problems the previous year, you can also apply an insecticide to control pests like aphids and mites.
  • Bloom: During bloom, avoid using insecticides as they can harm pollinators like bees. You can use a fungicide to control diseases like fire blight and sooty blotch/flyspeck.
  • Post-bloom: After bloom, you can apply a pesticide to control codling moth, plum curculio, and apple maggot. If necessary, continue to apply fungicides to control diseases.
  • Summer: In mid-summer, you can apply a pesticide to control pests like spider mites, Japanese beetles, and leafhoppers.

When to Spray Apple Trees for Codling Moth?

Generally, we recommend to start spraying around 7 to 10 days after petal fall. Then continue every 7 to 10 days throughout the growing season. However, it’s important to monitor the weather conditions, as heavy rainfall may require additional spraying.

Some sprays you can use against codling moth are Esfenvalerate, Spinosad, Permethrin, and Acetamiprid.

when to spray apple tree for codling moth

When to Spray Apple Trees for Bugs

The timing for spraying apple trees for bugs depends on the specific pests you are targeting. As a general rule, it’s best to spray your apple trees before the pests become a problem. For example, for plum curculio, it’s best to spray just after petal fall. Then every 7-10 days until the middle of June. It’s important to follow the specific guidelines for the type of spray and the pests you are targeting. Therefore, always read the label and follow the instructions carefully to ensure the best results.

What to Spray Apple Trees With?

If you are feeling overwhelmed by all this information, then you can consider a home orchard spray.

Home orchard sprays contain insecticides and fungicides that control for common pests and diseases. These diseases include apple maggot, coddling moth, apple scab, powdery mildew, and cedar apple rust. Therefore, they are an easier combined spray option for beginners! However the downside is that they may waste pesticides if that target pest/disease wasn’t present. Additionally, they can harm beneficial insects or pollinators if you apply at the wrong time. Therefore be sure to check the label to make sure they address your specific issues. And lastly, apply the spray when the flowers aren’t in bloom.

If you would like to choose specific sprays for specific pests/diseases then continue reading!

what to spray apple trees with
cedar apple rust
Cedar Apple Rust
fireblight
Fire blight

Sulfur Spray

Sulfur sprays are used in late winter and early spring. They control for brown rot, scab, sooty blotch, rust, flyspeck, blossom end rot, mildew, peach leaf curl, fire blight, and black rot (on grapes). However, since sulfur is toxic (although organic) it should be used as a last resort in orchards. It can kill both good and bad bugs, as well as fungi and other microbes. Therefore, afterwards it’s a good idea to use compost tea or microbe sprays to help beneficial microorganisms grow again.

Additionally, follow the instructions on your product and spray all the branches. Moreover, don’t use it if the temperature is over 85 degrees or will be in the next three days. If you do the sulfur will harm the tree. Additionally avoid using it within a month of an oil spray (some also say 2 weeks). If you do it will cause a reaction that will harm the tree. Lastly, it’s best to use sprayers with plastic parts since sulfur can corrode metal.

sulfur spray

Kaolin Clay

When apple blossom petals start to fall certain regions get pests that start to attack the fruit. These include the European apple sawfly, plum curculio, and codling moth. Therefore, these pests need to be controlled with Kaolin clay, which should be applied when the petals first fall. In fact, it works by clogging the openings of the insects with clay particles! Moreover codling moths sense a different environment and choose not to stay on the tree.

However, it requires three applications to be effective. Therefore, one coat is not enough to deter insects, and coverage needs to be maintained weekly for about four weeks. So if there are heavy rains, you may need to apply again.

kaolin clay

Bt (Bacillus Thuringiensis) Spray

Bacillus thuringiensis (Bt) is a type of bacteria that naturally occurs in soil. Moreover, it has been used as a natural insecticide since the 1950s! Moreover, insects that are susceptible to Bt must consume the Bt toxin crystals in order to be affected. In contrast to traditional insecticides that target the nervous system, Bt produces a protein that interferes with the insect’s digestive system. As a result the insects can’t eat within a few hours and starve and die within a few days.

Moreover, different strains of Bt are effective against different groups of insects. In fact, the kurstaki or Btk strain of Bt is commonly used to control specific types of caterpillars.

Bt spray

Bordeaux Spray

Bordeaux spray is a wonderful tool for tree growers! It’s a mixture of copper sulfate and hydrated lime. These ingredients help prevent the spread of plant diseases caused by bacteria and fungi. To clarify, the copper sulfate acts as a fungicide while the hydrated lime helps the mixture adhere to the tree. Therefore it’s a great option for a winter fungicide because it can stick to the tree during rainy weather. In fact, growers have used this spray for over a century since it’s a time-tested way to keep plants disease-free.

However, it is not recommended to apply Bordeaux after trees break dormancy, since it can harm the leaves.

bordeaux spray

Permethrin (Pyrethrin/Pyrethrum)

Pyrethrin sprays are organic pesticides made from chemicals found in chrysanthemum flowers. In fact, people have used it for insect control for over 160 years since it’s so highly effective. Pyrethrin, pyrethrum, and pyrethroids are all related, with pyrethrin being the active ingredient extracted from dried chrysanthemum flower heads. These substances attack the nervous system of insects and can cause immediate death. Pyrethrin is especially effective against chewing and sucking insects like aphids, codling moths, leafhoppers, spider mites, stink bugs, and pear psyllas. Moreover it is also highly effective against the Spotted Lanternfly, making it the best organic spray for controlling this pest.

While Pyrethrin sprays are less harmful than most chemical pesticides, use them with care as a last resort. This is because they can kill both beneficial and harmful insects. Therefore, monitor your orchards regularly during spring and summer. Then use pyrethrum or pyrethrin only when you spot an insect pest causing significant damage to your trees.

Permethrin
chrysanthemum flowers
chrysanthemum flowers

Can You Spray Apple Trees with Dish Soap?

Using dish soap as an insecticide on apple trees is a popular and inexpensive option for many home gardeners! In fact, dish soap is effective against soft-bodied insects like aphids and spider mites by suffocating them. However, dish soap can harm beneficial insects as well as the apple tree itself if applied in high concentrations. Therefore, it’s essential to follow the proper dilution ratios and application techniques to avoid damaging your apple tree. Additionally, dish soap is not effective against all types of apple tree pests. Therefore it’s important to identify the specific pest problem before choosing a treatment method.

apple scab
Apple scab
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Where to buy apple trees?

You can purchase apple trees from local nurseries and garden centers, as well as online nurseries. My dad inspires me with his love for trees and his conviction that growing them is one of the best things we can do for ourselves and the ecosystem. That’s why he started to provide all types of unique trees so everyone could enjoy them accessibly and have the knowledge to grow them. Feel free to discover these trees by growing them yourself!