People that want to sell their fruit as organic need to treat it with only materials that are suitable for use in organic farming, including fruit tree sprays. Fruit tree spray can keep bugs and worms out of the fruit so that it is fit for people to eat. It can also prevent fungus from growing.
Organic-Approved Sprays for Orchards
Organic fruit tree spray is not meant to be applied to the fruit directly. By the time the fruit is out, it's too late. Instead, the grower should apply it to the tree for the first time during the early spring. Depending on the spray, some growers continue to do so weekly throughout the growing season.
There are three main types of fruit tree spray: dormant spray, horticultural oil and homemade spray. Although their ingredients are not technically organic by definition, some contain ingredients that are approved for use in organic farming. A good way to determine this is to search the Organic Materials Review Institute's (OMRI) website. The OMRI Products List is a directory of products suitable for organic production or processing. When purchasing organic approved fruit tree spray, look for the OMRI seal.
Like the name implies, dormant spray is designed to be applied early in the season only while the tree is dormant. This means that the buds have not yet formed. This spray is a combination of two ingredients -- lime sulfur and horticultural oil. The oil smothers insects that are spending the winter in the tree's bark. The sulfur kills bacteria and fungus.
The grower needs to use this spray as soon as buds appear on the tree. Using sulfur after this point can kill the flowers or the leaves. Depending on the region where the tree resides, the prime time for spraying is early March to late April.
To use the spray, the grower should take the following steps:
- Mix the spray by following the instructions on the bottle exactly.
- Beginning at the top of the tree, spray downward, insuring that all of the branches get coated with at least a millimeter of spray.
- Check back in an hour to see if the spray has dried. If it rains before it's completely dry, apply again the following day.
It's best not to apply the spray on a windy day, since it will be hard to get it to stick to the tree and it could blow back into the sprayer's face. The sprayer should wear long sleeves, goggles and gloves just in case. Even though the spray is organic, it is not nontoxic if ingested via the mouth, eyes or nose. This spray can be very messy to use.
Not all sprays containing lime sulfur are approved for organic use. The following fruit tree sprays carry the OMRI seal:
- Monterey Fruit Tree Spray Plus: This spray uses 70 percent Neem oil to combat fruit tree pests. Its hose-end applicator makes it easy to apply. A sixteen ounce bottle costs $21.80 plus shipping.
- Surround Organic Spray: This spray is OMRI approved and protects fruit trees with a clay cover that prevents bugs from laying eggs. It's meant for fruit in the Roseacious family such as plums, peaches, nectarines, apples, pears and cherries. Five pounds of spray costs $22.00 plus shipping.
Horticultural Oil and Water
People that do not have fungus problems can spray their trees with pure horticultural oil diluted with three parts water instead. The grower can use this spray all season long, since it does not have the potentially damaging effects that sulfur does. It's best to spray in the morning. It's harder to get the oil to stay on the tree during hot afternoon weather.
The following horticultural oils are OMRI approved:
- Monterey Horticultural Oil: This oil uses mineral oil to control insects, fungus and mites. A one quart container costs $11.99 plus shipping.
- Golden Pest Spray Oil: Using soybean oil to smother common unwanted bugs, this oil is suitable for fruit trees and other plants. A 32 ounce bottle costs $15.95 plus shipping.
Homemade Organic Fruit Tree Spray
Those who really want to get their hands dirty can make their own tree spray. It's a good choice for people who want to use USDA certified organic materials. This spray can be used all season long. It's a great option if you want to stick with truly organic ingredients, and these ingredients are inexpensive and easy to find.
- 2 cups of compost
- 1 Tablespoon organic liquid seaweed
- 1 Tablespoon raw, organic apple cider vinegar
- 1 Tablespoon organic dish soap
- 1 Tablespoon organic blackstrap molasses
- 1 gallon hot water
- Mix all ingredients well in a garden sprayer.
- Spray leaves of tree, being sure to spray both sides.
Note that this spray works to fight fungus but does not do anything to control bugs. Those who have both problems can use this spray and the horticultural oil and water spray. It's best not to spray both at the same time, but instead to alternate weeks.
Grow Delicious, Organic Fruit
The world of organic fruit tree sprays can be a little confusing. But if you want to sell your tree fruit at a roadside stand and call it organic, you must adhere to strict organic growing guidelines. By purchasing OMRI approved products or making your own, it is possible to adhere to those guidelines while growing delicious, pest and fungus-free fruit to enjoy and share.