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Got leaf curl? Peach trees need TLC now

Copper sprays can be effective if applied during dormancy

Peach leaf curl
Distorted and blistered leaves are signs of peach leaf curl.
Now is the time to spray peach and nectarine trees to control
it. (Photo courtesy UC Statewide Integrated Pest Management)

It may be Thanksgiving, but it’s time to talk peaches. In particular, this conversation is about peach leaf curl.

This common fungal disease only attacks peach and nectarine trees. It distorts and puckers foliage and new shoots. It can completely defoliate a tree, leaving any developing fruit to sunburn or shrivel. Over time, it greatly cuts down on a tree’s productivity.

And it comes back, year after year after year. Once it’s established, peach leaf curl will be an issue every spring.

The time to combat this fungus is not when you see its damage in April or May; it’s now, in the days before and after Thanksgiving.

To control leaf curl, peach and nectarine trees benefit from dormant spraying with a copper fungicide or copper soap. Horticultural oil helps make that copper spray stick to the twigs and branches.

According to the UC Integrated Pest Management Program, the copper spray smothers the fungal spores that overwinter on the tree.

“The fungal spores that cause the disease spend the winter on twigs and buds and germinate in the spring,” say the IPM experts. “For effective control, treat trees just after leaves have fallen, usually late November or December.

"A second application in late winter before buds swell can be considered, especially in areas with high rainfall or during wet winters. Don’t apply fungicides during the growing season because they won’t be effective.”

A dry, calm and fogless almost-winter day; that’s the perfect time to spray. And that’s also the forecast for the greater Sacramento area this Thanksgiving weekend and early next week. Copper sprays need 24 hours of dry, calm weather before and after application. This is a good window of spraying opportunity.

If needed, prune before spraying. Pick up any dropped foliage and discard (don’t compost). Those fallen leaves may carry leaf curl, too.

For more on treating peach leaf curl:


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Garden Checklist for week of July 7

Take care of garden chores early in the morning, concentrating on watering. We’re still in survival mode until this heat wave breaks.

* Keep your vegetable garden watered, mulched and weeded. Water before 8 a.m. to conserve moisture.

* Prevent sunburn; provide temporary shade for tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, melons, squash and other crops with “sensitive” skin.

* Hold off on feeding plants until temperatures cool back down to “normal” range. That means daytime highs in the low to mid 90s.

* Don’t let tomatoes wilt or dry out completely. Give tomatoes a deep watering two to three times a week. Harvest vegetables promptly to encourage plants to produce more.

* Squash especially tends to grow rapidly in hot weather. Keep an eye on zucchini.

* Some weeds thrive in hot weather. Whack them before they go to seed.

* Pinch back chrysanthemums for bushy plants and more flowers in September.

* Harvest tomatoes, squash, peppers and eggplant. Prompt picking will help keep plants producing.

* Remove spent flowers from roses, daylilies and other bloomers as they finish flowering.

* Pinch off blooms from basil so the plant will grow more leaves.

* Cut back lavender after flowering to promote a second bloom.

* One good thing about hot days: Most lawns stop growing when temperatures top 95 degrees. Keep mower blades set on high.

* Once the weather cools down a little, it’s not too late to add a splash of color. Plant petunias, snapdragons, zinnias and marigolds.

* After the heat wave, plant corn, pumpkins, radishes, winter squash and sunflowers. Make sure the seeds stay hydrated.

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