Tuesday, May 12, 2009

Doing battle in the garden: you win some, you lose some

Peach tree at springtime

Early last month we could never have known that the promising-looking peach pictured above would eventually have something wrong with it, but a reply from a specialist confirmed the bad news. The photo below was taken yesterday at 5½ weeks later and our peach tree is ailing from bolla del pesco, or peach leaf curl as it's known in english gardening circles. The ag specialist says there is hope of saving the tree but chances of a harvest are zero. The advice that he gave was to use a fungicide called Syllit and while I despise resorting to those sort of things, if it means nursing our only peach tree back to a healthy state then Syllit it is.

How ironic for being ready to engage in battle with the aphids (which we won by the way!), yet being wholly unprepared for a fungus. The only question I have about peach leaf curl is if you should remove the sick leaves or not? I have read that you will only further weaken the tree if you remove sick leaves, while the advice on this site here says just the opposite.

Peach leaf curl
Referenced links:

Average daytime temperature: 21°C / 70°F


  1. I sprayed mine with bordeaux mix right before leaves start to grow and though I still have a few infected leaves the tree did improve a lot. Next year I will spray it again.
    How did you manage to win the battle against aphids? My plum tree is covered with them and nothings kills them. There is no hope for plums this year.

  2. Gintoino - I've also heard of the Bordeaux mixture so it is very reassuring to hear that it worked for you. As for the aphids, we used pyrethrum, specifically this brand that we found at a garden shop here. It is a natural insecticide made from specific genera of chrysanthemum flowers and has worked very well on aphids.

  3. Sorry to hear about your bad luck with the peach tree. I think Bordeaux mixture works as a preventive, but not as a cure. I would take the infected leaves off - I don't really see how they can benefit the plant. But I speak as someone who failed to save a nectarine tree from this disease ... we took the whole branch off, it was a new tree and very small, but the rest of it didn't thrive the following year so we took it out. I hope yours fares better than this.

  4. That's what I've been using but its not enough. Maybe I should have started spraying before the infestation got this big. I will do it next year.

  5. Our peach tree succumbed to this problem after we nursed it along for about 5 years. The old guys around here just told us that this was not a peach-growing area - and in truth, I have see only one or two healthy ones. We decided to expend our efforts on a more grateful and generally happier plant. Do you have neighbors who grow peaches successfully? A friend in Piemonte does, but here, no. I agree with chaiselongue - the sick leaves do nothing beneficial for the plant. (but I'm going to write a hort friend and ask her, just to be sure.) I'm really sorry you're having this problem.

  6. Chaiselongue - the leaves have begun to fall off by themselves so that settles that dilemma. It just makes me ill to see the lovely yellow and white peaches in the stores right now. They're all being trucked in from Spain, and demand a ridiculously high price even for being non-organic.

    Gintinio - I think because we had started using pyrethrin as soon as we saw ants climbing up the rosebushes and peach tree, is why we were so successful at battling the aphids. I've seen a few on my fava bean plants but the problem isn't serious enough to spray.

    Farfalle - the owner of the b&b that we stayed at in Piemonte said the same thing of the northern regions. Peaches just don't grow well, and he had more than enough proof with two dead peach trees out back on his property. None of our neighbors grow them so that should have been a clue (!) but we just had to take the initial gamble - darn newbies - we adore peaches!

  7. We love them, too, Rowena, and that's why we also tried -- and failed. Hope you're able to salvage your tree - the blossoms sure were pretty. My hort buddy said if leaves are green, leave them on as they are helping the plant (that 'leaves' and 'leave' in the same sentence is the kind of thing that drive English learners c-r-a-z-y!) - but I guess it's a moot point now.

  8. Farfalle - I should add that the b&b owner in Piemonte believes only in organic gardening (I suppose he is also committed to it being an ecolabel establishment). We are crossing our fingers that the syllit application will help.

  9. I suggest you look into peach leaf curl resistant varieties. There are some out there and I'm sure they exist in Europe as well, as I've seen one variety Avalon Pride (discovered in Washington State) on UK sites. And I cut off my dead branches when the trees get mild bouts of PLC, and even the resistant ones may get it from very wet winters.

    Here's a link to my post on varieties I grow. Of those, I'd stay away from Autumn Rose and John Muir, they don't seem happy in cooler moist climates.

    Good luck! Tom

  10. Tom - thanks for the suggestion, but I noticed that your link went missing in the comments so I headed over to your site (thank goodness for search bars!) That Indian Free Peach is GORGEOUS!!! Hope you don't mind me adding your link here.

    Growing Peach Trees Organically:
    Peach Leaf Curl Resistant Varieties I Grow


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