Organic Orcharding


An ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure. Follow these simple rules for getting your organic orchard off to a successful beginning:

  1. Site Selection - The best preventative medicine for a fruit tree is to keep it in the sun, in an airy spot with good drainage. The vast majority of problems that you seek to avoid are fungal infections. Sunlight is a wonderful fungicide. Wind dries off the moisture that fungi need to thrive. Pick a spot where the breeze is not blocked from your fruit trees. A well drained soil does the same thing.
  1. Disease Resistant Varieties - Some fruits are more disease prone than others. Do yourself a big favor and pick varieties that lessen the battle. Overall, apples are easier to grow organically than anything. And within the apple category, some are more disease resistant than others. See our chart below for fruits which are more suited to organic growing.
  1. Diversity - Don’t plant five trees of the same type. A diversified home orchard will be better able to ward off pests than a mono-culture. Besides, isn’t it more appealing to have all sorts of different fruit to eat all summer and fall?
  1. Mowing & Mulching - Keep your orchard mowed down regularly. Bugs like hiding places and tall grass provides cover for them. Some organic growers use mulch in their orchard to control weeds as well as conserving moisture for the tree. As mulch breaks down, it also provides additional nutrients for your trees. However, mulch can also serve to provide cover for mice who might like to nibble on the base of your trees, so it is best to clear the mulch away from the base of the tree in the winter.
  1. Pruning - Be sure to keep your fruit tree open. Prune and thin aggressively. This will allow sunlight and air to bathe your tree and will help reduce the pressure of many diseases.
  1. Irrigation - When you irrigate your tree, do so with trickle irrigation. This puts the water right on roots where it is needed. Not on the leaves and fruit where it can aid and abet the fungi. A simple, inexpensive soaker hose does fine for this purpose.
  1. Moth Balls - Putting a few moth balls at the base of the tree can deter most borers. Just put them down when the tree is dormant to ward off these pests. While some people do not consider use of moth balls consistent with organic farming, the choice is yours.
  1. Dormant Oil - Spray dormant oil (available at your garden center) during the fall and winter to prevent scale and other pest problems. It works by smothering the eggs of the bad bugs. Just follow the instructions on the container.
  1. Summer Oil - Oils for use in the growing season have been developed and their use serves to suppress mite populations.
  1. Wettable Sulfur - Some people think sulfur is inconsistent with organic orcharding. But it is a naturally occurring substance and we feel that, used in a limited way, it is an acceptable preventative. Spray when your fruit blossoms are starting to bloom to reduce the chances of fruit rot (various fungi) in your mature fruit. This is when those fungi get into the fruit. Sulfur is not harmful to bees and other insects.
  1. Sulfur and Oils Together - Do not use sulfur and oil sprays within two weeks of each other, as this will generally result in severe foliar damage.