Leaf curl is a nasty fungal disease that affects peach and nectarine trees. It can cause considerable damage to your trees, and even cause crop losses in bad cases.

There are other things (both pests and diseases) that can make leaves curl in peaches and nectarines, and also in other types of fruit trees. We cover them in length in this blog. The particular leaf curl pathogen (Taphrina deformans) only affects peach (and nectarine) trees.

If you get a bad case, it can even affect the fruit. Really bad infections will even make the fruit fail. Infected fruit can fall off while it’s very small before it gets a chance to grow.

Peach fruit is somewhat protected from the disease by its furry skin. Nectarines are a different matter. Their smooth skin makes the fruit much more vulnerable to infection, as you can see from this photo.

A nectarine infected by curly le
A nectarine infected by Leaf Curl disease

Notice how similar the disease looks on the fruit to the disease on the leaves. You can see the same rough, raised texture and the red colouring.

When should you start monitoring for Peach Tree Leaf Curl?

Peach tree leaf curl actually emerges in spring. However, late winter is the time to start paying attention if you saw any signs of this disease last year. The same applies if a wet spring is predicted.

That’s your best chance of preventing it from happening again next season.

It might seem too early to be thinking about spring. Unfortunately, if you wait until you see the disease, it’s way too late to put out the preventive sprays.

Peach tree flower buds swelling in spring - if you can see pink, it's slightly too late to spray
Peach tree flower buds swelling in spring – if you can see pink, it’s slightly too late to spray

Preventing Peach Tree Leaf Curl

The trigger to spray is bud-swell. Different varieties reach bud-swell at different times, which is where the skill comes in.

Depending on where you live and which varieties you have, your trees may already have reached (or be past) bud-swell by mid-winter.

However, if your peach and nectarine trees still look completely dormant, that’s because they are. From about mid-winter onwards, you need to be monitoring each different variety so you can spray them at the right time.

Once you’re sure your tree has reached bud-swell, it’s time to apply a preventive copper spray.

If the buds on your peach tree are already this swollen, they should have had at least the first copper spray (if not the second)
If the buds on your peach tree are already this swollen, they should have had at least the first copper spray (if not the second)

One of the best options for home use is Bordeaux spray. It’s made by diluting hydrated lime in water, and copper sulphate in water, then mixing them together. As you can see in the photo above, you can actually see the blue spray residue. Making Bordeaux is explained in more detail (with a video) in the Better Fruit With Wise Organic Spraying short course.

Sprays containing copper hydroxide (like Kocide) are also OK to use in home gardens, but avoid other types of copper spray. They can be harsher on the environment and are not allowed in certified organic growing.

Related Articles

Dealing with spring panic

Dealing with spring panic

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.

read more

Get our FREE ebook – 10 Key Steps to Growing Great Fruit

This useful ebook will give you answers to all the topics you need to know, from pests to pruning, and it’s completely free!

You'll soon be enjoying abundant harvests.

When you download the ebook, you'll also get our free Weekly Fruit Tips newsletter to help you stay on track with the little jobs that keep your trees healthy and fruitful.

Just hit "Get my ebook!" to download your free copy.

You have Successfully Subscribed!