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FAQs - Tree Fruit

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I have plenty of room to plant some fruit trees on my property. Is this a good idea and what types of trees are easiest to grow in Maryland?

The peaches hanging on my peach tree have clear gelatinous blobs on them. Is this serious, and can it be treated without pesticides?

Can pomegranates be grown in Maryland?

What is the best time to prune fruit trees? I have apple, pear and peach trees.

I believe that I have brown rot on my peaches. The spots begin as small brown areas that expand as the peaches ripen, ruining the fruit.  I was wondering what I should do now to prevent this from happening again next year?

There are a couple of apple trees on the property of my new home. They produce a nice crop of apples but the fruit is spotted and pock marked. What are these spots? Are these apples edible?

Every year, my beautiful fig tree produces many large full-size but unripe figs that fall off the tree. Why won’t they ripen?

Can you tell me what spray schedule I should follow to prevent diseases and insects on my fruit trees? I see references to publication EB125 Home Fruit Production Guide in some of your publications but I cannot find it on your website.

I think my pear tree has fire blight. On some of the tips of the branches there are brown leaves hanging but they remain attached to the branch. What should I do? Will it spread to my other fruit trees?

Some of the leaves on my peach tree look very odd. They are puckered, thickened and reddish in color. What is it and what can I do for it now?

I have plenty of room to plant some fruit trees on my property. Is this a good idea and what types of trees are easiest to grow in Maryland?

Tree fruits can be a challenge to grow for the average homeowner. Peach and apples tend to have the most pest and disease problems and they need to be on a strict spray schedule. Asian pears, Japanese persimmons, and figs may be a better choice. Figs grow best in the warmer areas of Maryland but will still need some winter protection from freezing temperatures. Better yet, are small fruits like raspberries, blackberries, strawberries, and blueberries which are less problematic providing the bed is properly prepared before planting. If you do plant fruit trees, research and select the most disease resistant varieties. They should not be an impulse purchase.

The peaches hanging on my peach tree have clear gelatinous blobs on them. Is this serious, and can it be treated without pesticides?

Fruits can exude gum for a number of reasons. This can be part of the natural ripening process, a response to environmental stress or can mean an insect infestation such as Oriental fruit moth, tarnished plant bug or stinkbugs. Diseases such as brown rot or peach scab also cause gummosis. Cut open one of the affected peaches and look for larvae inside. This would indicate Oriental fruit moth. As you can see, peaches are subject to a large number of disease and insect problems in Maryland. It would be advisable to begin a spray schedule in early spring to ensure an edible crop of fruit.

Can pomegranates be grown in Maryland?

Maryland is generally too far north to grow pomegranates (Punica granatum) successfully, although a number of cultivars are advertised as suitable for Zone 7. If you have a protected micro-climate on your property or if you live in the warmer parts of the state you will have a better chance of success. Those sold as 'cold-hardy' may mean the plant can survive the winter, but may not have a long enough season to  produce fruit. Pomegranates are self-fertile so a single plant is capable of producing fruit.

What is the best time to prune fruit trees? I have apple, pear and peach trees.

Fruit trees are pruned when the trees are dormant, usually in late winter just before bud break (March). The exception is peach and other stone fruit (plum, nectarine). Stone fruits are very susceptible to a disease called Cytospora canker. If pruned in late winter the tree cannot protect the pruning wounds from infection by this disease. Prune your peach trees from bud swell through petal fall in the spring.

I believe that I have brown rot on my peaches. The spots begin as small brown areas that expand as the peaches ripen, ruining the fruit.  I was wondering what I should do now to prevent this from happening again next year?

Yes indeed that does sound like brown rot.  Brown rot is a common, destructive fungal disease that makes growing stone fruit a challenge for Maryland homeowners. Sanitation and properly timed fungicide sprays help to combat the disease.  The fungus overwinters in twig cankers and in mummified fruit that is left hanging on the tree or has dropped to the ground. So, pick off and dispose of infected fruit (and fruit stems) from the tree and rake up any that has fallen around the tree. Apply labeled fungicides when the blooms are between 5-10% open, at full bloom, and about 2 weeks prior to harvest. It is best to apply fungicides before a rain event is predicted instead of waiting until after.  Additional cover sprays will be necessary if we are experiencing a cool, wet spring and summer. Rotating fungicides helps to reduce the fungus from becoming resistant to the preventative sprays.

There are a couple of apple trees on the property of my new home. They produce a nice crop of apples but the fruit is spotted and pock marked. What are these spots? Are these apples edible?

Growing perfect looking apples in Maryland is not possible without careful management. This includes spraying for the many insect pests and diseases that apples are susceptible to. The upside is that apples don't have to look pretty to be perfectly edible. Some of what you are seeing are things like flyspeck disease and earlier insect injury, which is superficial. Just peel the apple, and cut out any bad parts, and enjoy. They are also excellent for cooking.

Every year, my beautiful fig tree produces many large full-size but unripe figs that fall off the tree. Why won’t they ripen?

Sometimes the growing season is not long enough for figs to ripen. This is especially true in the colder parts of the state. Often fig trees freeze to the ground in the winter. In the spring they produce an abundance of vegetative growth but produce figs too late in the season for them to ripen before a frost. Figs, especially young plants, should be provided winter protection. Too much nitrogen fertilizer produces excess growth which can also lead to fruits dropping off before they mature.

Can you tell me what spray schedule I should follow to prevent diseases and insects on my fruit trees? I see references to publication EB125 Home Fruit Production Guide in some of your publications but I cannot find it on your website.

EB 125 is out-of-date and is no longer available. We movd the content from that publication to the fruit section of the HGIC website. Please read the information on pest management and use the Virginia Tech home fruit spray schedule a pesticide spray is warranted. HGIC staff will note any pesticides recommended in the Virginia Tech publication that are not labelled for use in Maryland or recommended by UME.

The goal of a spray schedule should be to prevent and manage the most serious fruit problems such as brown rot, plum curculio, and codling moth. Certain insecticides, such as those that contain pyrethroids, are highly toxic to pollinators and natural enemies. Do not spray them during bloom period. Remember when selecting fruit trees to do some research and select the most disease resistant varieties.

I think my pear tree has fire blight. On some of the tips of the branches there are brown leaves hanging but they remain attached to the branch. What should I do? Will it spread to my other fruit trees?

Fire Blight only attacks trees in the Rosacea family, which include apples and pears. So it can spread to those fruit trees in your landscape. It can also attack ornamental plants such as serviceberry and chokecherry. There is a method of pruning called the ‘ugly stub’ method that helps to slow the progression of the disease. In addition to pruning do not overfertilize your trees as this produces succulent growth that is more susceptible to the disease. Copper fungicide applied at bloom time can also help to slow down an infection.

Some of the leaves on my peach tree look very odd. They are puckered, thickened and reddish in color. What is it and what can I do for it now?

This is a fungal disease called peach leaf curl. Once the tree is infected it is too late to treat the problem. Rake up and dispose of fallen leaves. The affected trees will grow new leaves and should still produce fruits this summer. As a preventative measure spray your peach trees with liquid lime sulfur next spring when buds begin to swell.

Please send us a question at Ask the Experts if you have a tree fruit question you would like answered. Digitial photos can be attached to your question.

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