A monthly guide to Apple Tree Pest and Disease Management

A well-managed apple tree is less likely to suffer from pest and disease problems. To help you grow healthy organic fruit, follow our month-by-month guide.

January

General care
Renew fat balls in trees to entice aphid-eating birds. Keep growing area free of dead leaves and other woody material which can harbour pests/ diseases.
Winter Moth & March Moth
Make sure greasebands are still in place and sticky , on stakes (if used) as well as trees.
Brown Rot
Remove and dispose of* any ‘mummified’ fruit left hanging on the tree. Prune out affected spurs.

February

General care
Check grease bands (see January). Hoe under tree canopy if possible to expose pests to predators. Check for canker – remove all affected wood and burn. Encourage birds (especially blue tits) into garden by putting up nest boxes. They will feed on caterpillars and other pests.
Apple Mildew
Prune out all infected wood, buds and shoots, cutting back to several buds beyond limit of obvious whitening.

March

General care
Begin a detailed inspection for pests and diseases – including aphids, capsid bugs, winter moth caterpillars, and powdery mildew. Pick off and destroy when found. Remove any old cocoons of tortrix moth.
Apple Budrot
Remove and dispose of*dead buds and twigs. Disinfect implements used**.
Woolly Aphid
Do not allow ‘woolly’ colonies to establish. Scrape off using old toothbrush as soon as they are spotted. Badly affected branches should be pruned out and disposed of*.
Winter Moth & March Moth
Continue to maintain grease bands until end of the month. Attract birds and beetles – see our factsheet – Attracting
beneficial insects.

April

General care
Remove tied on grease bands. Continue to inspect for pests and diseases, as March, and pick off when seen.
Apple Mildew
Pick off/prune out** affected shoots – avoid contaminating healthy foliage by cutting diseased shoots straight into a plastic
bag to avoid spreading disease spores further.

May

General care
Continue all routine inspections. Watch for capsid bugs, winter moth, leaf weevils, fruit tree red spider mite, apple leaf hoppers. Pick off and destroy pests and infested leaves. Apply a mulch (see General Comments below).
Apple sawfly larvae
Cream white larvae (15mm long) are found in open flowers; spray with Derris at dusk a week after petal fall and then again 7-8 days later.
Leaf Weevils
Only a problem if present in large numbers. Hold a greased board under a branch, shaking the branch to dislodge the pests.
Codling Moth
In the middle of the month put up pheromone codling moth traps – leaving them in place until end of July. Earwigs eat codling moth eggs – provide artificial refuges in the autumn for them to over-winter.

June

General care
Continue rigorous inspection, removing all pests observed. Monitor codling moth traps and renew pheromone bait if needed. Keep ground under young trees mulched and weed-free. Established trees can be grassed down.
Fruit Tree Red Spider Mite
Pick off and destroy any affected leaves. Use an insecticidal soap spray if infestation is very heavy. Encourage natural predators, see our factsheet – Attracting beneficial insects.
Tortrix Moth
Check for caterpillars. Pick off and dispose of.* Encourage earwigs with artificial refuges. Erect a tortrix moth trap which reduces the adult male population, thus reducing damage.
Apple Sawfly
Collect up all fallen fruit after June drop – put in hot compost heap (or otherwise dispose of *).
Leaf Weevils
See May.

July

General care
Continue inspection and treatment for tortrix moth, apple sawfly and other pests. Remove codling moth traps at end of month.

August

General care
Continue to check for all pests as in July. Earwigs eat codling moth eggs – provide artificial refuges in the autumn for them
to over-winter.
Wasps
Hang jars of sticky juice in trees to trap the wasps.
Winter & March moth
Hoe the soil to expose chrysalids to predators.

September

General care
Check trees for pests, diseases and dieback.
Canker
Check trees and cut back any affected area to healthy wood. Dispose* of prunings and disinfect tools.** Apply tree grease band against winter moth and ants – only on trees over 2 years old.

October

General care
Check stakes and tree ties before winter gales. Apply grease bands (see September).
Canker
Inspect regularly. Prune out if found. **

November

General care
Check for canker. Hang fat or peanuts in trees to entice birds (especially blue tits) who will pick off aphids and other pests too. Remove debris from surrounding areas, which provides overwintering sites for pest and disease. Apply grease bands (see September).

December

General
Check for canker. Prune out if found. Maintain stickiness of greasebands (see September).
Scab
In winter, prune out and dispose of any affected twigs.*

Other general problems

Bitter Pit
Keep trees healthy – well mulched and watered in dry conditions. A Seaweed foliar spray may help. Summer pruning can also help
distribute calcium to fruit (for more information on this, see the Bitter Pit factsheet).
Silver Leaf
If silver leaf has been diagnosed, and branches begin to die back, cut back beyond affected area and dispose of. *
Coral Spot
Rigorous hygiene – never leave piles of dead branches in the near vicinity. Prune out affected area to at least 15cm beyond affected point.
Honey Fungus
Grub out affected trees and as much of roots as possible. Do not replant in that area for at least 12 months.

* Dispose of : Take to local green waste recycling centre. Large scale composting reaches very high temperatures, which kills most diseases or pests. Burn if no other options are available.
** Disinfect tools: It is important to disinfect tools before and after pruning and in between cuts on certain diseased branches, stems etc. Use a strong, organic approved, disinfectant such as Citrox – available from the Organic Gardening Catalogue – details below.

General care

Good hygiene:
The area surrounding fruit trees should be kept clean of unnecessary material i.e. dead leaves, branches, all of which can harbour pests and fungal diseases.
Newly planted trees:
Keep well watered in dry weather especially during first year.
Mulching for weed control and feeding:
Apply a thick layer (8-10cm) of straw mulch on top of 3-4 layers of newspaper (alternative mulches below) in late spring or when last risk of frost has passed. Only apply mulch to moist soil. Remove mulch material from soil to expose pests in early winter.
Alternative mulches include: Weathered and part composted shredded prunings and woodchips or use your own shreddings or buy in a bagged product.
Pruning:
An annual task; encourages fruiting, helps maintain vigour, removes colonies of pests and diseased material, and creates an open habit, aiding light penetration and air circulation. Bush forms are pruned once every 12 months, between November and February (winter). Trained for ms (fans, minarettes, cordons, espaliers) need both a winter and summer pruning (August and September).
Feeding:
Feed trees if showing signs of decline with garden compost or well-rotted manure. Healthy trees will need a feed once every two or three years.

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