Apple leaves curling, some brown tips

Good morning. I have been noticing some leaf curling and brown tips on my grafted apple trees. All of my apple and pear grafts are in 3g homemade fabric pots. I water every evening unless it rains. I’m in zone 7a in middle Tennessee and we have had weather in the high eighties and low nineties recently. I don’t know if I’m watering enough or maybe too much. I water until water drips from the bottom of the pot which only takes about five seconds and I hand water everything at this time.

Am I looking at fireblight? Aphid damage? I saw aphids on one apple graft last week but I have not seen them anywhere else sense. There was also a ladybug camped out having dinner on a leaf of the graft that had the aphids.

I have pea shrub and Nanking cherry seedlings in small containers, elderberry and hardy kiwi in small containers, root cuttings of comfrey in 1g containers, currants and gooseberries in 1g containers, figs in 3g containers, a jostaberry in a 5g containers, pawpaws and jujubes in 5g containers and none of them show leaf curling of any kind.

Here is a picture of my set up. This is my first year grafting and doing anything at this scale.

A little closer up.

Closer still.

And here is the end of a pear leaf. It is black but none of the leave are curling on any of the pears.

1 Like

I don’t know if that’s water strees. But fabric pots setting up in the air like that will be hard to keep wet. Your mix also sounds like it drains very well. Combine all that and the mix can dry out and be hard to rewet. My fabric pots set in shallow black plastic saucers. That way the mix has more than 5 seconds to rewet.

1 Like

A question, have you had this setup before? Around here the wind during a storm would scatter those pots/trees all over the yard. Esp so when they get some top growth. I’d be inclined to push them together, say min 4 pots to a cluster, and tie those together. Maybe tie that to the table. That would increase weight and bottom area to improve stability.


I have never done this before. I elevated everything to prevent possible rabbit/rodent damage and for air pruning. I could bring everything back to the ground if air pruning is over rated.

Is water stress too much water or too little? Is there nothing alarming in those pictures?

It can be either of or a combination of: mites, lack of water, salt in the water, the sun heating the black pots and killing roots near the pot surface.

There is no salt in the water but we do have hard water. Could that be an issue?

If anything it’s too dry. A 5 second wetting of the soil isn’t adequate.

Hard water isn’t a concern. Salty water could be but I don’t think that’s the issue. The trees are just getting too dry.

That looks like a well draining potting mix with large pieces of pine bark. I made a mix like that and found that it was too difficult to keep it adaquitely watered especially in full sun, hot weather and fabric pot.

Was any weed killer been sprayed in the area?

No weed killer has been used at all.

The mix looks like mine. Stand the pots in a shallow saucer and they’ll probably do fine. The saucer should dry out between waterings. Don’t stand them in water 24/7.

I was just about to write about that lol

I was going to ask about saucers vs drip system. It seems like drip would waste a lot of water with the well draining mix. It would also cost a little more too. My mix is the 5-1-1 mix.

If you think saucers will work just fine I’ll order some momentarily.

Thanks for all the help!

I’ve tried saucers but they don’t hold much water, I’ve tried deep plant liners but although cheap(< $1) they are flimsy. Then I found dishpans which at Walmart are cheap, deep, and much more durable. I get the white ones since they reflect the summer sun. I bought black ones to absorb heat in the cooler months, but the dishpans accumulate too much water in the rainy months so I only use them when the weather is hot and I want to make sure the plants don’t dry out.

A 5 gal container will easily fit into a 12 quartt Sterilite dishpan($1.76), and a 15 gal container will just barely fit into the 18 quart one(about $2.50). So far they’ve held up for 2 years with no sign of plastic deterioration.

About the 5:1:1 mix: if you have large pieces of bark, then you must not be sifting the bark down to the 3/8"-1/2" size. I use 1/2" hardware cloth for that. The 5:1:1 is known for needing a lot of watering as it’s designed to limit the perched water table level. I don’t like it for that in my hot summers, so I’m experimenting with 1;1:1 (bark, compost, used supersoil). If I can find pumice in bulk, I’ll add it to the mix also.

1 Like

OK so my saucers came in a few days ago. I have watered everything at night until the saucer fills up (about 1" deep). The next evening most saucers are empty but pots themselves are still very wet on the outside. Even the next evening the pots are still damp to the touch. The soil at the top of the pot isn’t dry but I wouldn’t be able to wring water out of it either.

How long should I let them go before watering them? Can they get too much water with the saucer being only ~1" deep?

My figs grow best watering once a day. That’s in a shallow saucer. But I don’t water the next day if there is still water standing in the saucer. If dry, I water. Your weather will be a lot more variable than in my greenhouse. You might need to be flexible.

1 Like

I can be flexible. I just want to do the right thing and not kill my trees lol

I understand fully. You won’t kill them by being too wet as long as the saucer dries out daily. My concern would be during long wet spells. I know it would be a lot of work but maybe turn the saucer over during those times.

I water mornings and hope for the saucer to be dry by nightfall. But honestly at least with figs standing in a little water doesn’t seem to hurt.

1 Like