A lot of people don’t think “organic” and “spray fruit trees” go together.

It’s definitely better to aim for a healthy, biodiverse system that keeps itself in balance without any spraying at all.

However, there are actually a couple of sprays you can use that won’t do damage. These are the ones that certified organic growers use (under strict organic standards, of course).

The only sprays we ever use on the farm are these organic fungicides. In Australia, that means a little bit of copper (of the right formulation), and elemental sulphur.

In a wet spring, they can make a huge difference in preventing some particularly nasty fungal diseases.

An apricot with brown rot
An apricot with brown rot

You may have seen recommendations to spray fungicides on fruit trees after the crop has been picked in autumn. It’s often recommended as a way to clean up any residual disease, but it’s a bit more controversial.

So, when is the right time to spray your fruit trees?

Do your fruit trees really need an autumn fungicide?

Spraying sulphur on the peach trees in autumn
Spraying sulphur on the peach trees in autumn

The answer is … sometimes!

Some diseases like leaf curl don’t benefit from autumn spraying. But others like brown rot can benefit from an autumn spray of an organic fungicide. (We cover all the diseases that are likely to benefit in Keep Your Fruit Trees Free From Disease).

So we certainly don’t rule autumn spraying out.

It can be a useful part of an overall strategy for cleaning up some diseases. However, in most reasonably healthy trees, you don’t need to routinely use a fungicide at this time of year.

And that’s a good thing, because even organically allowable sprays can have an impact on the environment. They can particularly impact the soil.

You should only ever use the minimum amount of spraying necessary.

Instead, strive for a really rich biodiverse garden, where natural immunity will be at its highest.

And you should never use chemical fungicides.

Remove this diseased wood when pruning for good disease control
Remove this diseased wood when pruning, for good disease control

If you’ve had a dry summer then it’s likely that there’s been very little fungal disease around.

Under these conditions our recommendations include pruning any diseased wood out of the tree. Then make sure you take it away from the tree altogether and dispose of it elsewhere.

But there’s no need to put on a spray at all.

Excellent!