How do you control White Clover around your Fruit Trees? Apple and peach trees. Clover seems invasive. When I spray when clover is in bloom the bees get it

I purchase from a dealer which caters to commercial growers, but I noticed Keystone Pest solutions carries Stinger.

That’s a good point. I’ve had accidents with herbicides too. Just this season we got a little too close spraying herbicide next to a row of peach pits planted for rootstocks last fall. The herbicide washed into the seed furrow and about 2/3 of the peach pits didn’t come up.

However, I’ve had very good luck with selective herbicides used around fruit trees. Pre-emergents like Sinbar or Alion don’t seem to affect peach trees at all. They offer good pre-emergent control. General non-systemic burn down herbicides like gramoxone (no longer available unless special mixing equipment is used) and Liberty (glufosinate) are pretty safe to use as contact herbicides around fruit trees.

I’ve also used Stinger in the row middles with no adverse affect to fruit trees.


I remember when I was a kid, a looong time ago, that lawn seed mixtures included clover. As I remember, most lawns had clover in them, and when bored, we could always go looking for four-leaf clovers for luck. We also loved running in bare feet across the lawn, discovering (painfully) that bees loved it too. It was as others have noted, a source of soluble nitrogen that made for lush lawns. Then Ortho, or somebody convinced suburban America that clover was a weed and needed to be destroyed. Needless to say that bit of propaganda enhanced the finances of those selling herbicides and fertilizer.


I find that hard to believe. Certainly would have thought that peaches would be very dependent on bees for pollination.

Growing up there was a commercial peach orchardist near our farm (dairy and row crops) that had beehives. I can not remember him having much of anything else but peach trees except for like 1 or 2 Golden Delicious apples trees, He had to have the beehives to help pollinate his peaches.

Am I missing something?

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There are a very few peach varieties which are not self-fertile (Indian Free and J.H. Hale come to mind) but just about all peaches are self-fertile.

A lot of peach flowers are pollinated even before they open up.

Perhaps the peach farmer you remember kept bees for the honey. I remember a lot more people used to keep hives for the fun of it, or for honey for their family, than nowadays. I’d keep a few bees if I had more time.


Well I have to admit that as I don’t presently have any peach trees although I had three some 25 years ago so I am nowhere close to being a peach tree expert. And I did not know that most peach trees are self-fertile. But that brings up another question. Would not pollinators be necessary for even a self-fertile peach tree since it would need to be pollinated bloom to bloom? Or can it be wind pollinated similar to pecan trees?

Just trying to learn something here. This thread has been very informative.

Very astute observations! and look at what these people have done to our country! Clover being bad is a joke that people made up to sell more fertilizer, pesticides and herbicides.


I understand all that, and there is truth posted there.
But, not every “expert” is in agreement on all this, (just like all scientists aren’t convinced of global warming or that evolution is fact).

I was contributing to Gleaning in Bee Culture back when current editor Kim Flottum was fresh out of college and wet behind the ears. And I was renting bees 1989-1996 to orchards.

JH Hale and some other peaches do need bees. But, peach trees produce such little nectar, that it is pollen the bees collect when visiting peaches. (And if there aren’t dandelions or henbit or something with nectar in it, bees will starve to death in a peach orchard if the beekeeper doesn’t artificially feed them!) (Ditto for a cucumber patch).

Many a time I’ve seen bees work dandelions .on the orchard floor during apple blossoming…and by noon as temperatures approach 60 degrees or more, the bees all go to the apple blossoms and ignore the dandelions. (Dandelions produce available nectar at a lower temperature than most things…but even so, the first bees of the morning are usually collecting pollen to feed the young baby bees they are actively raising at that time of the year)


Self-fruitful crops

“Peach (except J.H. Hale), nectarine, apricot, grape, brambles, strawberry, sour cherry, currant, gooseberry, and jostaberry do not require cross pollination but do require bee activity for the best fruit set.”

That is from a university guideline. I think it could mean that on some sites bees are more important for the pollination of self-fruitful varieties than is usually believed. Perhaps in places protected from wind- who knows?

On the subject of white clover, where I am in S. NY, broad leafs like clover nourish tarnished plant bugs which jump on peaches and nectarines every time one mows and feeds on them, leaving “catfacing” scars that lead to brown rot.

Broad leaf weeds also transpire a lot of moisture, so if you don’t irrigate or have limited water, it becomes a problem during periods of drought early in the season. Later, with established trees, it might also be a blessing by encouraging sweeter fruit but you don’t want establishing trees to be set back by drought at any point during the season, especially peaches and nects.

For establishing trees, it is difficult to know how much competing weeds are releasing allelopathic chemicals that stunt trees regardless of supplementary irrigation, but research clearly indicates that keeping at least a small area extending from the trunk free of all grasses and herbs is extremely beneficial to rapid establishment.


Also, from an Australian commercial grower guide.

"Most varieties are self-fertile. Because of their attractiveness to pollinators, the self-fertility of most cultivars and the relatively small number of pollen grains that need to be transferred to the stigma, peaches and nectarines are much easier to pollinate than many other plant species. Honey bees are usually the most important pollinators of peaches but, as with many fruit trees, pollen collectors are more likely to contact the stigma as they scramble across the anthers. Some bees visiting peaches climb down through the anthers to reach the nectar and have good stigma contact, while others collect nectar from the side, and are thus less likely to touch the stigma.

Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomology

Honey bee pollinating peach blossom. Kathy Keatley Garvey, UC Davis Department of Entomology

Bees visiting nectarines will also at times collect nectar from the side of the flowers, not touching the stigma. For this reason, colonies managed for pollen collection are likely to be better pollinators of peaches and nectarines. However, because of the flowers’ self-fertility, the difference between the efficiency of pollen and nectar gatherers may not be as large as for other fruit trees. It is recommended that around 2.5 hives per ha are used for efficient pollination of peaches and nectarines, however, in high density orchards this may need to be increased."

And from the Penn State extension.
“Peaches and nectarines are self-fruitful, so there is no need for trees or cultivars used specifically as pollenizers (like many other fruit crops). This allows cultivars to be planted together in solid blocks to make harvesting easier. Honey bee hives are usually brought into the orchard to ensure good pollination. If you do not have your own honey bees, you will need to contact a beekeeper to provide hives.”


I’ll yield to you on the point. I just know I’ve read quite a bit about bees going to preferential flowers over fruit trees.

Alan, I should have clarified peach set improves with pollinators, but don’t need pollinators for full fruit set (which is key for me).

It’s interesting Penn State is recommending renting hives for peach orchards. I have never heard of a peach grower renting hives. Obviously apple, almond, and other orchards do it, but I’ve never talked to another peach grower who rented hives, or heard a peach specialist talk about it, or read about it in one of the trade mags.

Here is what I wrote about peach pollination about a month ago on another thread.

"Peaches are pretty complicated when it comes to pollination. As you mention just about all peach varieties are self-pollinating. Some flowers are pollinated before they ever open up (peaches are capable of doing that). However, wind or pollinators, are generally needed to get the pollen from the anthers to the stigma for most of the flowers. Rain inhibits pollination, even though peaches are self-pollinating. High humidity inhibits the anthers from “rupturing” which is how they release pollen grains once the flowers open. Rain also increases blossom blight. And of course it keeps pollinators from working the flowers.

If there is wind, no pollinators are needed. They’ve done studies and caged peach flowers from pollinators. The trees will still set full crops as long as there is adequate wind. However, pollinators are helpful in pollinating peaches.

In years where there is bad weather for peach pollination, you see more button fruit. Those are fruit which get about the size of a big button, then stop growing and fall off. A lot of things can cause lots of button fruit. Inadequate pollination is one of them.

I’m not aware peaches produce bigger fruit if they are cross pollinated. Of course pome fruits like apples produce bigger fruit if they are pollinated adequately, but that’s because there is a higher seed count. More seeds give off more hormone to produce a bigger fruit. Peaches just have one seed, and either it is pollinated adequately, or not.

All that said, it’s rare that peaches aren’t pollinated adequately to produce a full crop. If the variety is productive, it will produce enough fruit set to set a full crop, that’s why peach producers don’t lease bee hives for their orchards, as apple growers do.

If the peach variety is a shy bearer, then I think poor pollination weather can come into play and compound the problem.

The length of viability of peach flowers depends on the temps. I don’t know how long they are viable at various temps. If you come across any info on that, please let me know.

Lastly, my observations are not so much with poor pollination being the problem. Rather spring frosts or poor bloom performance are the big issues which rob harvest poundage. Peach trees with a nice bloom and no frosts always produce full crops. It’s the trees which have few flowers, or cold frosty weather, which indicates trouble."


Do you have any ideas for controlling Plantain, and Black Medic? I spray low ester 2,4-D every spring, it burns it and knocks it back… My concern is the fruit trees with a second application later into summer.

Those sources come from areas with a much different climate than yours and KS wind is famous. However, university guidelines are not gospel. I would be interested in what Georgia and Ca growers do.

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So are you telling me that this year with all your pollination needs you don’t wish you had a carpet of mixed clover and dandelions? I realize with your sprays that you do not want things underneath there but wouldn’t it be nice if there was an area that attracted pollinators at least near the orchards? Do you think there are predators that could be nourished to eat the tarnished plant bugs? Have these issues gotten better or worse over time in your experience?

I have lots of flowering plants to feed bees and my problem this year is an early but very cool and wet spring as far as getting the earliest flowering trees pollinated. There was food, but the bees were not warm enough to come out and forage.

I have my orchard trees and my nursery trees and then areas where I just let the native flowering weeds thrive. I also have nourishing perennials that are ornamental, such as Canadian aster that I brought to the property. Alliums, crocus and beds with annuals they like, like zinnias and various sunflowers.

My buzzems eat well here.

My bees don’t also need white clover, especially if it grows by my orchard trees.

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That’s good I figured you had lots of wildflowers at your home but did not think your orchards you manage do also! Personally i have seen a insanely huge reduction in beneficial insects around here and it seems like more than just cold weather affecting them. To me the amount of pests we have seems to be increasing and the native pollinators are way down. We still get lots of monarchs but when i was a kid there was thousands that would sit in the yard on some days. I guess the only benefit is its been at least fifteen years since we had a insane moth year, but i will take those over the JBs.

Actually orchards grown in pure grass turf mowed weekly have the fewest pest problems in my experience. Predators only take you so far, but not many fruit tree pests survive well in a frequently mowed, pure grass lawn.

However, I’ve never had a problem with scale or mites, so maybe my wild landscape has some rewards.

Could there be other factors in that like being rained on with more and more pesticides each year?
What happens if there is a interruption in your supply of pesticides in these well mowed pure grass lawn Orchards? How would these fair? Most of the successful natural orchards i have seen are near wild areas or incorporate wild areas into them.

Blueberry,I’m at the orchard today. White clover has been in bloom for a while, so there is overlap with apple bloom.

Apple bloom was heavy enough two days ago that I didn’t spray apples. There are just a few blooms left on apples, but again the clover is in bloom.

Wind is blowing the flowers around so have to hold it still.



I’m not answering for Alan, but I wish you could realize there’s a difference in climate b/t CO and more humid areas.

You’ve mentioned you used to live in KC, but I wonder if you ever tried to grow tree fruit here?

Just today we got some heavy rains, again. Here’s what the orchard looks like now, with more rain expected.

Those tractor ruts are about a foot and a half deep. Almost got a tractor stuck.

Colorado simply doesn’t get the rain or humidity we do. The techniques you encourage may well work for areas like CO where rainfall/pests are light. Here, it’s a completely different story.

I’d love to just leave green spaces and let beneficials do the work, but as we’ve discussed, the task is beyond the beneficials capacity here.

All the rain causes anything, including pests, to grow like mad here.

This is an unmowed row middle since our last frost a couple weeks ago. Let’s see a pic of ground growth in CO a couple weeks after last frost for comparison.

Please don’t misunderstand, I’m not saying light-handed pest techniques don’t work in certain climates. Rather each climate has different pest pressures/challenges which require different intensity of pest control.

Unfortunately, there’s not a one-size-fits-all philosophy (i.e. all synthetic pesticides are bad) for every climate.

Synthetic pesticides are one of many tools, which may come into play in order to get a harvest. The amount of use needed is dependent on many factors climate being a big one.


There is a premium price paid here for organic fruit- at the farm markets double price fore ugly organic fruit is not unusual, and yet no one sells organic stonefruit, it isn’t commercially feasible at this point, apparently.

In N.CA my sister grows absolutely pristine apples without a single spray.

What happens when the pesticides stop coming? Maybe we in the east coast will have to buy western fruit where it doesn’t rain during the growing season.

This forum isn’t about politics, even the politics of organic and conventional fruit growing, especially in the general fruit growing forum.

The idea is to provide advice for every kind of growing we know about, not to convert people to any particular kind of growing.