Gearing up for organic-approach spraying of smaller fruit -- grapes, strawberries, raspberries/blackberries

I think I have a decent idea of what to spray on our peach, pear and apple trees thanks to the different guides and lots of discussions here. But I am pretty hazy on the smaller fruits. We will be trying to go as organic a route as possible since our main focus is to eat the fruits and share them with our kids, and we want to maintain good beneficials around since we garden also.

I am going to try to make out a spray schedule for my husband as he will have to do most of the spraying this year as we’re expecting baby #3 in June. :slight_smile: We both love the backyard orchard we’re trying to start but with him working full time I am usually the one who does the research. Right now I’m trying to figure out what products we need so we can have them ordered and here in time (hopefully).

Grapes – we inherited a few vines when we moved here. They are seeded but varieties are unknown. We cut them back severely though not to the ground last spring and removed mummies and cuttings and added a little mulch around the plants.

I used Serenade and I think I used some copper (I honestly don’t remember too well! sorry!!) I started spraying I think a little too late – right as the grapes were starting to form from the blossoms instead of starting just before. I did work hard through to remove leaves showing Black Rot spots as soon as I saw them as I know that they can continue to spore and reinfect the grapes for a while. I know I sprayed about every week until the grapes were close to full size.

Very disappointingly, the grapes did still get spots as they ripened, cutting the harvest at least by half or more. I also saw signs of Phomopsis on the leaves and wondered if that could have caused some of the grape rot as well (I think I’ve read it can cause a similar rot on the fruit and it is an early infection). All in all I felt like the whole effort was a failure. I’d like to give the grapes another year though as my husband really likes them and the vines did grow vigorously. They get plenty of sun but are near to a young black walnut that we are going to cut down so they may be weakened from that.

My questions on the grapes are: When to start spraying, when to stop, and WHAT is the best thing I can do that is organic or semi-so. I know Scott has said copper is the organic but can build up in the soil, myclobutanil the synthetic that he is currently favoring over that. Any other options for Black Rot and Phomopsis? I think we will cut the grapes completely to the ground this year to try to eliminate any Phomopsis that has infected the wood. If we can’t succeed with them this year we might just start over with our choice of varieties.

Strawberries – We planted them last spring and let them runner freely as most of our original planting died from us not watering them enough (oops). I might have sprayed them a couple times with Serenade or Actinovate when I was spraying other stuff in the garden but we really just left them alone. Now we have a nice bed of them. I expect they should fruit decently this year so I want to be prepared to spray. I will take a look at the leaves (they didn’t go completely dormant) and see if I see any specific leaf problem but I am looking for general recommendations. My experience with strawberries in the past is that a lot of fruit rots if not sprayed. I’m ok with some crop loss but would like to keep it less than 25%. Looking for as organic an approach as possible here too.

Raspberries and blackberries – planted last spring. Didn’t see any rusts and the raspberries fruited and looked good (lots of japanese beetles and smaller bugs though – tiny black beetles). Have a few canes with borer in them but will cut them out. Just want to be prepared and spray preventatively for disease especially. I used to hear that neem oil sprayed on the leaves when Japanese beetles first appear will help to discourage them from later feeding. . .anyone had success with that?

I will be trying to get and/or have:
Actinovate (great for stuff in the garden)
Dormant oil/general oil(s)
Copper (have some but will have to check on actual potency)
Considering Neem oil and a natural pytheroid spray if I can find a good one for using when pest problems are high.

Suggestions for what I need to add to my list are definitely needed!!
Suggestions for health boosters (sprays or solids) are welcome too. I really don’t know much about them other than adding compost or shredded leaves beneath plants.

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I don’t really grow organically, so not much help. Most of the fruits are spray free. Strawberries can get gray mold, hard to stop with anything. All gardening is local, it might not be an issue. If your grapes can take sulfur that would help. Some cultivars though are sensitive to it.

One big problem with small fruit is SWD fruit fly, we can talk about it if it becomes a problem.

Raspberries are easy. Spiosad can be used for the beetles, or bacteria, a couple types to choose from. Milky Spore, and a form of BT sold at Gardens Alive web site. Search Japanese beetles on their site. They have the product in two forms. Nematodes can also be bought. The best method is with a bucket of soapy water, and daily beetle patrols. Hold it underneath them and reach for them, they will drop right into the bucket, well most will, some smart ones are always around. If you have snails eating fruit like strawberries, they love bean foliage too! Sluggo is organic, expensive though! It works till it rains, then you have to reapply.

For ants and any bug diatomaceous earth works well, use food grade (powder), not the stuff for pools! Or the stuff for absorption of oil or kitty waste. I use a dry powder sprayer. I use it for ants and SWD fruit flies. Do not breath the stuff, it’s like breathing asbestos. So is Perlite in potting mixes, both organic, both can be dangerous.
I wear a mask when I use it. Organic does not mean safe, it means natural.The deadliest poisons are organic like cyanide, produced in numerous plants, even peaches, elderberries, almonds etc.DE is like micro glass shards and desiccates insects from numerous punctures to their exoskeleton. . Ineffective if wet. so rain washes it away. it contains silicon an essential plant mineral for hardening cell walls. Not sure how much if any can be absorbed in this form? It may need to breakdown a few years before becoming available to plants.

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Totally agree. I would avoid the attractant traps as it increases the population you would otherwise have to deal with.

Drew, what one do you use?


I have had good luck with a neem oil and potassium bicarbonate spray for molds in my GH. (I also add Dr Bronners soap to it for soft bodied insect control) Never used it outside as we rarely get mold outdoors in our dry climate, but might be worth a try. Quite a bit online as to how to mix it with the recipe something like 2T of neem per gallon and 1/2T of bicarbonate, but it does vary some depending on which recipe you follow.

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I bought a Gilmour Garden Duster. I needed a hose end sprayer, and the Gilmour was awesome! So I went with that one. It squeaks worse than a stuck pig! It works pretty good though. You have to have some muscle to get good bursts of dust. Almost like a fogger on a still day. The only time to use them! Keep shaking it between bursts. It’s like trying to put lipstick on a pig as far as accuracy. It’s the nature of the beast, unless you buy some high end air powered duster. Mixed reviews on performance. For how often I use it, maybe 4 or 5 times a year, it’s fine.

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Grapes in my area require more attention to problems than I’m willing to give them. I don’t know if you can grow muscadines in your area but I have totally switched to them. Some of the newer varieties are excellent such as Black Beauty and Lane. They are different than grapes but very good tasting with almost not effort to grow. Bill

I have diatomaceous earth and Sluggo and while we won’t probably do that this year, we hope to eventually start spreading Milky Spore and/or nemotodes over our garden and fruit areas to hopefully cut down on Japanese beetles. They get on so many things. I just hate how they will get on the raspberry fruit and mess it up.

I agree with you about “organic.” Everything needs to be handled carefully and appropriately. My husband knows a lot of about chemistry so he’ll help keep us both safe, lol. Mainly we want to keep biologicals happy and avoid or limit residues on our fruit as our primary purpose is to grow for our kids.

By the way, you started out saying you didn’t have a lot to offer but actually you did. Thanks :slight_smile:

I wanted to mention besides DE you could use sulfur, and other products are sold in dust form. I have yet to try, I have sulfur, but I’m not sure it’s the right type? I use it to lower pH for blueberries.

Do you think that’s true even on a larger property (we have about 8 acres), and placed away from the areas we’d be trying to protect? Our land is fairly rectangular. We did use the traps last year, placed up high in black walnut trees, and they seemed to help in drawing beetles away from the lower things like the raspberries.

I have done beetle patrols with soapy water since I was a kid! Sort of fun in a victory-over-beetles way! Definitely will always do this.

Yeah, you can do that, it does work. It works better though putting them in the neighbors yard.:hushed:

This year for SWD I bought two hummingbird feeders.


I should have mentioned we live in VA zone 6b. So fairly hot and humid.

I agree with Drew, put the attractants way away from anything you don’t want defoliated. In residential type neighborhood these are counter productive.

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