Avoiding leaf curl in your peach and nectarine trees is all in the timing. It’s a fungal disease that can have terrible consequences, particularly for young trees.
It usually affects leaf growth, but can also affect the fruit. It rarely kills a tree, but bad cases can be devastating.
In case you haven’t seen it before, this is what a bad case of leaf curl looks like.
The disease usually shows up on the first leaves as they emerge. It kind of behaves like leaf cancer, causing the leaves to become swollen and deformed.
They curl in on themselves, change colour, and eventually stop photosynthesising. Unfortunately this means the tree may not be getting the energy it needs. Because this new spring growth is so badly affected, it can stop the tree from growing properly.
Really severe infections can even affect the fruit.
Here’s a nectarine showing typical infection symptoms on its skin. Once the fruit is affected, it may stop growing, or can even fall off.
The key to avoiding leaf curl is in the timing
When you’re still mid-way through winter, it always seems too early to start thinking about spring.
And yet … the buds on our Anzac peach trees are usually starting to swell while it definitely still feels like winter.
Have you looked at your peach trees recently?
Anzacs are a great ‘indicator’ variety for us because they’re one of the earliest varieties to show signs of movement in spring. The indicator variety in your garden will be the tree that flowers earliest. If you have an almond tree, this may be your indicator, as they’re also very early.
Rather than monitoring the whole orchard, we just look at the Anzacs and almonds to see what’s happening. If you want to avoid leaf curl, we strongly recommend you do the same!
Why should you be watching out for budswell?
Budswell is the trigger for putting on the simple sprays that can help to prevent Leaf curl.
But do you know what you’re actually looking for? Deciding the right time to spray can be very confusing. In fact, it’s one of the things that people most often get wrong.
This is what early budswell on a peach tree looks like.
You’ll find more detail about how to identify it in this blog. You’ll also learn how and when to spray in this short course, which is one of our most comprehensive short online courses. It also includes guidance on how to manage and prevent about a dozen of the most common diseases of fruit trees.
The other key information is the weather at the time you’re planning to spray. Ideally, choose dry weather to allow the spray plenty of time to dry on the tree for maximum results.
If you spray in wet weather your spray will not set and is likely to get washed off. This is essentially a waste of time.
The Bureau of Meteorology has a handy rainfall forecast function. Enter your state, and then your district, then choose the date you’re interested in. You can get rainfall predictions for up to 5 days ahead.
The good news is, once you’ve figured out how to time your sprays, you’ll find that Leaf curl is (mostly) preventable.
Answers to your pruning FAQ, like whether it’s OK to prune your fruit trees in spring, and should you remove wood in the centre of the tree?
It’s easy to panic in spring, particularly if it rains a lot and your fruit is at risk. Ease the tension by celebrating the season.
Learn our top 5 tips for protecting your trees and fruit against the (predictable) unpredictability of wild weather.