Organic Orcharding



It will sometimes be necessary to intervene with non chemical sprays. In addition to the use of dormant oil sprays and wettable sulfur, as mentioned above, you have several other tools in your tool box. All are available at your garden center.

There are a wide range of insecticidal soaps that are organic and can be used to push back insect populations. Use them according to the instructions on the container and use them sporadically and sparingly, so as to prevent unintended pressure on beneficial insects.


Bordeaux mixture has been used as a fungicide since the 1880’s. It was first used in the vineyards of France. Essentially a mixture of copper sulphate and hydrated lime, it is very useful in preventing buildup of fungal problems. While it does negatively impact beneficial fungi, when used judiciously, it is relatively benign to insects and mammals.


Neem oil, an extract from the neem tree which grows in India also provides good deterrence to many bugs including mealy bugs, aphids and Japanese beetles. It is not known to be harmful to mammals, birds and beneficials such as honeybees and Lady bugs. It works because its odor is extremely offensive to the bugs and they avoid eating anything on which it is sprayed.


Nicotine in the form of a tea made from tobacco powder and pyrethrum dust from the chrysanthemum flower are two other natural insecticides used by some organic farmers, but these two insecticides have greater toxicity than the others and should be avoided.


Fireblight is a bacterial disease which affects pears and apples. It is very hard to prevent, especially during a very wet spring. The bacteria are present in most humid climates, which comprises all of the eastern part of the country. The dry areas, like sections of California and Washington don’t get it. Early surgery is the answer. It is easy to spot. It starts on the tip of a branch and moves down the branch. It makes the branch turn black, so it looks like it was burned, hence the name. Cut off infected branches. Make the cut at least 12” in from the place where the black stops. Don’t be shy as the disease is fatal. If you make multiple cuts, dip your pruners into a diluted solution of household bleach to sterilize them. Otherwise you run the risk of inadvertently spreading the disease.