Aphids in the orchard

SAT 7th June 10.30 – 4.00pm SHAFTESBURY PLACE. Celebrate 150 years of Brighton to Seaford railway with coffee/tea and homemade cake, exhibition, open garden, cookery demo, model railway display, music, picnic, guided walk, etc.  See ‘Events’


It’s not a good year for pests. The winter was too warm and wet; pests were not killed off. Slugs, snails and aphids are much in evidence. Last year, we didn’t suffer much from slugs and snails – it has been too cold. Our brassicas and leaves were, however, severely attacked by caterpillars: as well to remember now, as a cabbage white butterfly was circulating yesterday, so it’s time to look at covering our cavalo nero in some way. Slugs and snails are just a perennial problem: I have learned to be marginally more tolerant over the years, and have discovered that they really do not like strong coffee and coffee grounds. My garden is starting to smell like an cafe.

apple tree leaves aphidsThe major evidence of pests in the station garden is on the fruit trees. Last Tuesday, the leaves on the apple trees, particularly Saltcote Pippin, were all shrivelled and curled. The new leaves were a sickly light green. Closer inspection revealed a serious infestation of aphids. The under sides of the leaves were black with them. I took my pressure sprayer and on the worst affected trees, systematically sprayed the aphids off each leaf. We’ve now had heavy rain over a few days and the trees are looking better: leaves are a darker green and not so curled.

Aphid infestations basically suck sap from the trees and weaken them in this way, but they are not usually fatal, thank goodness. The leaves do get horribly deformed but they generally recover. The most effective approach I’ve found is to squash the aphids manually and then spray with water to remove them. I’m proposing to follow this up with a foliar feed spray to help the tree recover. I’m waiting for a dull, dry day: the rain could wash Plumlets cthe feed away, bright sunlight can cause damage on the leaves.

Interestingly, the serious aphid infestation is on the apple trees at the station. The pear tree seems to be recovering from the virus, discovered earlier this year, while the plum is growing on at full strength and there are even a few plumlets on our two-year old tree.

My three-year old plum trees in Ditchling Rise and my neighbour’s cherries, however, have been seriously attacked by aphids. The books I’ve consulted tell me that this should not damage the fruit, but it does make the trees look very unhappy. The aphids should disappear of their own accord as the summer moves on, and with the rain, but they may then return late summer to settle in again. So I’m squidging and spraying, and then feeding them as soon as I can to bring them back to health and resistance.

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