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Peaches and Nectarines are some of the most delicious and desirable home grown fruits but unfortunately one of the more difficult ones to grow. Few tastes in the natural world can beat the flavor of a tree-ripened peach, the skin warm from the mid summer sun and the sugary sweet peach juice dripping down your chin! But if you’ve spent anytime growing peaches or nectarines then you’re surely familiar with the dreaded Peach Leaf Curl fungus!
Taphrina deformans is a species of fungi that is commonly called Peach Leaf Curl for the way it distorts peach leaves and it is the bane of peach growers everywhere. One of the easiest diseases to spot,Peach Leaf Curl causes leaves to curl in on themselves and become blistered. The fungus causes the growing cells at the leaf margins to multiply quickly and randomly which results in the curled and distorted appearance. The fungus then wastes no time producing spores on the surface of the leaf that spread to other leaves and fruits on your tree or other trees in the area.
At this point Peach Leaf Curl is an accepted part of life with peaches. But there are a few things you can do…
First, always select the most leaf curl resistant peach and nectarine varieties you can find. Oregon Curl Free and Pacific Pride are two of our favorites.
Second, more so than any other tree it’s vital to spray fungicide on the tree in late fall and again in late winter or early spring. The Pacific Northwest provides ideal conditions for the peach leaf curl fungus, as it thrives in temperatures between 50 to 70°F and when the weather is wet, which is a good portion of our spring. Rains wash the spores into the buds and bark crevices and the fungus quickly spreads. Spraying in winter and again in early spring is your best bet of keeping the fungus at bay. Organic approved sprays such as Neem Oil, Horticultural Oil, Bi-Carb and Copper all work but we’ve found Copper to be by far the most effective against leaf curl.
Third, and likely the most successful for home growers is to keep your trees out of the rain! Which sounds ridiculous on a large scale but home growers who keep their peaches and nectarines underneath their patio coverings or eaves during the cool rainy season can enjoy peaches and nectarines that are completely free of peach leaf curl! Because the fungal spore-filled raindrops never land on the leaves and work the spores into the buds and bark, the tree is virtually free of the disease! Though this usually requires growing your trees in pots, the genetic dwarf Miniature Peaches and Miniature Nectarines make it easier than ever to grow truly curl free peaches! These trees are naturally dwarf and only grow 4-6 feet tall. Though this limits your production somewhat they still produce enough peaches or nectarines to satisfy a family’s needs for a season and with the huge advantage of not having to worry about that pesky leaf curl!
Any variety can be grown like this though it is certainly much easier with the genetic dwarf Miniature Peaches and Nectarines. The Crimson Rocket columnar peach is also a great choice for planting under the eaves of a two story house. Because the tree hardly branches out at all it’s possible to keep it almost entirely underneath the eaves and avoid most of the leaf curl spores.
While we love seeing orchards full of mature peach trees loaded with fruit, we’ve found the most effective and easy way to grow disease free trees in our wet and cool springs is to grow them undercover, which is why we are so excited about our updated collection of Miniature Peaches and Nectarines.