Stone Fruit Rant

I know some of you think nothing of putting on a backpack sprayer and a hazmat suit and going out to spray your orchard, but that’s not my kind of gardening. Unfortunately I am learning that if you don’t spray, you can forget about growing stone fruits. They must have developed a symbiotic relationship with humans, unable to fend off illnesses on their own.

I grow every kind of fruit you can grow here in northern California, and no other plant requires as much maintenance as the peaches, nectarines, cherries and apricots (I’ll let plums off the hook - they have been trouble free.)

I don’t need to spray any other tree to get a bountiful harvest… avocadoes, citrus, figs, persimmons, pomegranates, all trouble free! Same for blueberries, raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, pawpaws, mulberries, feijoas, passionfruit, cherimoya, white sapote or any subtropical fruit. Apples, pears and quince can get fire blight and scale but that is easily managed with a bit of vigilance and pruning. No need to spray.

Stone fruits on the other hand… Powdery mildew. Gummosis. Peach Leaf Curl is a spring constant - some years it does real damage. Brown Rot and Split Pit has ruined entire nectarine crops. Eutypa dieback on apricots. Cherries die suddenly from bad rootstock (Newroot-1 I’m looking at you). Poor fruit set if it rains during bloom (which it always does). And if I do get a decent crop, squirrels devote their lives to stealing ALL of it. Mind you, squirrels leave every other fruit I grow alone.

I wonder if the cornucopia of diseases I’m getting stems from being in an area that was a major stone fruit growing region just a few decades ago.

Could it be that the need to prune these trees so hard every year (peaches/nectarines especially) leaves them super vulnerable?

I’m so close to ripping out all these trees.


Apparently I cannot grow apricots. Just had another one up and die on me, apparently winter kill.

You have my heartfelt sympathies!


I’m on the ranting bandwagon with both of you! Stone fruit are the toughest in my orchard due to spray. There is brown rot, PC, canker and I’m just warming up! This year I’m behind on spraying at got peach leaf curl…

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I used to spray sulfur twice during winter but I still got peach leaf curl every year. It’s especially bad this year with the wet winter we had.

Is your microclimate that different than mine? Or am I just lucky so far? My PLC is hardly affecting my nectaplum. That was after just two copper sprays at random times. Apricots set flowers sparingly right during heavy rains but has set decent fruit. Cherries are too young to fruit heavily but look on their way.

What kind of apricot do you have? My Blenheim and Moorpark trees barely even flowered this year. About 10 fruits on the Blenheim.

I wouldn’t be surprised that NectaPLUM has PLC resistance. Copper may also be more effective than sulfur.

I have a very light fruit set on my Craig’s Crimson cherry, the only one that survived. Birds will surely take all of them. Not enough fruit to warrant the trouble of netting.

I’ve found black knot fungus on both my flavor grenades this past week. It hasn’t attacked my peach, peacotum, or shiro plum. I’m thinking flavor grenade is naturally more susceptible. Peach leaf curl isn’t a problem as long as I spray copper before the buds break. OFM gets all the peaches though and I have bacterial canker as a constant menace on my peach and flavor grenades. The peach tree has bacterial canker on the main trunk and has half girdled the tree and I expect it to die. I want to cut the tree out as it’s only a source of infection at this point.

Shiro plum and peacotum have been mostly trouble free. The peacotum hasn’t fruited - I need to get lucky with pollination, and the shiro plum was sold as santa rosa which was a surprise when it wasn’t. It was supposed to be the main pollination partner (along with the flavor grenades) for the peacotum. But it’s bearing and is trouble free so I’m keeping it.

If I could replant (small garden so I’m forced to be choosy) I’d go for disease resistance or just avoid stone fruit. Persimmon and fig have done well so far and I’d like to plant more varieties.


My cherries and plums have been far more troublesome than everything else… I have no peaches or nectarines and that is probably good.

I am going to give them a couple more years but if it proves to be a constant struggle I will just go with something else.

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My Blenheim flowered during that one rainy week and almost every flower aborted. But then it flowered again and this time it set almost all of them.

My Cot n Candy has set a decent amount too.

Yes, I did spray copper to them all. But no hazmat suit! :smile:

You’ve got it easy if you don’t have to worry about plums! :innocent: :sunglasses: For a gut check, you ought come to the humid east and spend a season. You’ll go back home thinking you’re living on easy street!

For the past 2 years I’ve lost 100% of my plums due to weather. When I used to get a crop, damn near every single fruit would get hit with PC before I was able to spray (luckily Imidan has kickback effectiveness so the plums can survive the bugs). After the PC you have to worry about your run of the mill fungus and rots, but captan takes care of most of them. But there’s more…

A couple years ago, I was looking at my beautiful plums haging on the trees. Harvest was a couple of weeks away and (I thought) I was on easy street. A week later, I learned about brown rot the hard way! I lost maybe 80% of the fruit, maybe more. It was then I learned that captan doesn’t do it all.

I don’t have any advice for you on your situation, just wanted to give you the view from VA :slight_smile:


perhaps also a symbiotic financial relationship between zaigers and monsanto, since you can’t have the former without the latter :grin:

kidding aside, probably best to regard conventional stone fruits as disposable investments. A gamble of sorts. Don’t plant them in the most visible areas of your orchard, so as not to leave an eyesore once they’ve assumed their early demise. After growing 10 feet tall and wide in two years, and then dying on the third…


We grow awesome peaches organically and only spray twice a year. We use lime sulfur in late dormant for brown rot and PLC, and then a biological product called Zen-o-Spore (changing name to Botry-Stop) at about 20% bloom for brown rot. The label for the Zen-o-spore says to spray twice, at 20% bloom and at 70%, but we have 12 varieties that are all over the map in bloom date so we just spray once when we can have maximum impact on all the trees.

We do have a little leaf curl on a few varieties this year, but so far not too bad. One key to keeping it in balance is to make sure you have plenty of potassium in relation to your nitrogen. We try to put kelp in with our sprays for its K content and use fertilizer with a decent amount of K.

I just finished thinning the peaches today. I can’t figure out how to upload a photo from my iPad, but will try to do so from my computer tomorrow.


It does no good to rant except for the responses it motivates that contain recommendations. Sounds like your program for PLC was not the right approach- I use copper as was suggested already- a single app when leaves are off trees MAY be enough.

A lot of aggravation is resolved when you learn the tricks of the trade, but obviously some fruit is just harder than others- but you won’t get much sympathy from me. I was raised in S. CA where unsprayed fruit was abundant, now I must work for it in the northeast. Over time I’ve learned how to reduce the number of sprays to a fraction of what commercial growers around here use, but it is a learning process that requires seeking information and experimentation.

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I spray nothing on apricots. The key for avoiding canker and Eutypa dieback is no pruning during the wet season (if you must, disinfect the area and cover the cut with parafilm). This year, I have a great fruit set on Tilton, good set on Tomcot and Nicole, decent set on Harcot and Afghanistan (both second year grafts). Moorpark did set less than last year, quite below average, but this spring was very rainy.

During previous couple of years, I didn’t have much PLC on peach trees due to relatively dry weather, so I got lazy and didn’t spray with copper even once. This year, PLC was more of a problem but I just manually removed affected leaves, it was not too bad. I do spray a couple of times during the season with BT against shoot borers (mostly on peaches, maybe once on plums), but this is completely organic. Did have to spray neem oil once on one plum tree to control aphids; most of the time all aphids are on my roses and this is where I hit them with neem oil. Couple of applications is sufficient if you catch them early enough, and neem is also completely organic.

Last year, I had a ground squirrel infestation, they decimated my peach harvest in mid-April, but I killed all of them in traps. No tree squirrels in my area. I do have a lot of birds, all kinds and in large numbers. I have to net all my fruit trees (except feijoas) against them. I have a large mulberry tree (too large to net), it sets thousands of berries, and birds eat all of them, strip them clean before they ripen. Another problem I have is leaf-footed bugs. They mostly attack pomegranate fruit but I did see them on figs and plums as well. I fight them but it’s difficult since they have to be killed manually one by one, and also most neighbors don’t harvest their pomegranates, and the bugs multiply in decaying fruit. Earwigs are abundant and they attack fruit (especially peaches) but fortunately they can be controlled with vegetable oil traps.


I’d like to know more about these traps.Thanks,Brady

Cherries in my yard seem to do fine without sprays. Im in ND where its relatively dry and windy most of the time. Biggest problem I have is bird-thievery…

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It’s very simple. I use small flat containers (I mostly reuse small containers from Costco bought foods like hummus, guacamole, etc.). Just fill the container with cheap vegetable oil and put it under the plant. Earwigs are attracted to the oil and drown in it. After the container is filled with dead earwigs, empty it into garbage or compost and refill with fresh oil. I try to put the container so its edge touches the trunk to make it easier for earwigs to get in. Most containers I use are plastic, so I try to put them in shade, otherwise they will be baked by the summer sun.


Yeah. I unknowingly planted my nectaplum in powdery mildew ground zero (with a healthy dose of PLC added) and I’m going to have to cut it down next year, the fruit is just sick with it, even after I sprayed it with copper. It hit so early, but that’s the rain we’ve had. The leaf curl has been pretty bad with some of the new plums I planted and it’s on my peach and nectarine, too (but not too bad). It seems like the curl on my plums and pluots is straightening out now that it’s not raining anymore, though. And I had a cherry I just planted die on me. I JUST planted it 2 months ago.

The 2 plums next to the nectaplum (Padre and Howard’s Miracle) that I planted this year are doing just fine. No problems at all.

I’ve been moving more toward plums since, as you said, they’re mostly trouble free. Oakland has a long history of apricots, so I’m hoping my neighbor’s totally neglected, but still fruiting, apricot is a good sign I can grow them.

But if you’re anywhere near the bay or the coast, it seems like peaches, nectarines, and cherries are going to be pretty rough. I’d hate to have to rip out any of my trees, and I’m going to graft over some other trees with the nectaplum, but man, this is frustrating. It just seems that anything peach/nectarine based attracts the problems, while most plum-based things are just fine.

My friends lived in Berkeley for years and they had a cherry tree in their backyard and it was just great, every year. In Berkeley. Seriously, what the hell?

So don’t give up all hope. I’ve been looking for different varieties of plums I can plant. If I can get some plums to placate my nectarine lust…well, that’s something.

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For all my griping, I do acknowledge I may have just chosen the wrong varieties. I am probably going to rip out a number of my trees and plant different ones next year.

A number of people have suggested to me that my problems can be traced to Dave Wilson’s poor choice of semi-dwarf rootstock - Citation in particular. The DWN monopoly is pretty fierce. I may have to resort to sourcing rootstocks and grafting them over myself.


Check closely,the underneath side of the Plum leaves.Curling could be caused by Aphids. Brady

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