Growing apple trees can be a fun and rewarding experience for any level gardener, and protecting your trees from pests and disease is critical to their survival. Many people buy expensive pest control sprays, but you can make your spray at home with common ingredients.
With a little ingenuity, you can make a homemade remedy to protect your apple trees.
If you want to make and use homemade apple tree sprays, keep reading, and we’ll tell you all you need to know!
What Types of Pests or Disease Do I Need to Watch Out For?
Any gardener who wishes to grow apple trees must be aware of, and prepared for pests or diseases that can destroy even healthy trees.
Knowing the variety of pests is key 13 Apple Tree Pests. Different pests react to different ingredients, so now that you know what kind of pest you have, you can create the best treatment possible to ensure you get fresh apples.
The most common disease is fungus on apple trees. This can be identified easily by looking for a sooty black substance on leaves. There are other diseases too, so the best way to identify them is to use a guide like 10 Common Apple Tree Diseases to ensure you know which one you have.
Making Your Own Pest Spray
There are a variety of homemade apple tree spray pest treatments that you can make using common household ingredients.
These treatments offer a chemical-free solution that will help you keep your trees safe. Double-checking what kind of apple trees you have is still a good idea before making your homemade remedy.
If unsure, use a resource like Apple Tree Varieties, just in case your particular apple tree is sensitive to any ingredients.
All three mixtures described below are applied in the same manner. It is important to apply the homemade apple tree spray once you first notice any pests to try and prevent the spread.
If you apply your pest control in a preventive manner, you will want to use the oil-based solution as it is the least harmful to the trees. You should do so once the leaves fall, before harvesting.
Do not apply the homemade apple tree spray when the flowers are open, as this can negatively impact the tree’s ability to bear fruit. While there are chemical solutions that claim to prevent pests, the mixtures described below should be applied only after pests are first spotted.
Oil-based solutions tend to be the least caustic and work on pretty much all pests, though harder-bodied invaders may be more resilient to this type of homemade apple tree spray and require multiple applications.
You can use vegetables or canola as your base to make an oil-based homemade apple tree spray. You want to mix this with a common dish soap that does not contain any significant perfumes or chemicals as well as water.
This solution should be mixed with a ratio of one teaspoon of oil and one teaspoon of soap to every cup of water. Mix these ingredients and spray your tree down.
It is extremely important not to leave the solution on the tree for too long as it can lead to burning. Rinse gently but thoroughly with water after 2 hours. Reapply the solution weekly until the pests are gone.
Peppermint-based solutions work very well with hard-bodied pests that may be more resistant to previously discussed oil solutions. This homemade apple tree spray can dissolve the harder abdomen of pests whose shells shield them from soap and oil.
To make a peppermint solution, use 2 teaspoons of peppermint oil, 2 teaspoons of soap, and one gallon of water.
Mix these ingredients thoroughly and spray on your trees directly. As with all solutions, you should not leave the homemade apple tree spray on the trees as it can cause damage and burning. Rinse thoroughly after a few hours and apply weekly as needed.
This solution’s peppermint can irritate humans and pets, so it is important to take added precaution when using it. If you cannot access peppermint oil, other similar essential oils can work, such as spearmint or even mint leaves crushed and blended.
Hot Pepper Based
If your pests are not reacting to oil or peppermint-based solutions, you can use the more extreme hot pepper homemade apple tree spray. This solution is the strongest of the three options but can cause the most damage and requires the most precaution. It also requires the most work to create.
You will need a blender or similar kitchen appliance to chop and puree the ingredients. You will also need the ability to strain the solution once it is prepared, which can be done with cheesecloth or a fine-mesh strainer.
There are a few options for ingredients with the hot pepper solution. One of the most effective but extreme recipes combines half a cup of cayenne, half a cup of jalapenos, and water.
This solution should be made with extra care, given that these ingredients are irritants and can cause a lot of discomforts if mishandled. Using safety glasses and gloves is recommended.
An alternative to the cayenne and jalapenos is using 6 cloves of peeled garlic and a chopped onion mixed in water. This of course, can affect the skin and taste of your apples, just as hot peppers can, so it is best to use it before your trees bear fruit.
With either option, the process is the same. Blend or chop the ingredients as fine as possible and boil them. Let them cook in the water for 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Once this is complete, please remove it from the heat and let it cool.
Carefully strain the mixture through the fine-mesh strainer or multiple layers of fine cheesecloth. You do not want bits of the peppers, garlic, or onions getting into your spray bottle. Once strained it is ready to be applied.
Much like the other mixtures, you do not want to let this one sit. Given this mixture’s much more aggressive ingredients, you will want to rinse after 30 minutes to an hour.
This mixture works on all types of pests but is especially effective on aphids, caterpillars, hornworms and cabbage worms, which are common to apple trees.
Making Your Own Disease Treatment
Most apple tree diseases can be treated the same way, making creating a homemade apple tree spray easy.
First, you want to prune away infested shoots so the disease does not spread. Next you will want to make a mixture using water and lime-sulfur, which you can purchase at most gardening stores. Use the mixture ratios on the lime-sulfur bag to ensure you mix correctly.
Applying Your Mixture
No matter which homemade apple tree spray you use, the process for applying to trees should be the same. You will want to use either a brand-new spray bottle or one that has been thoroughly washed and cleaned out.
Keep in mind if you wash it with heavy dish soap you will want to rinse out any residue as it can affect your tree and solution.
It is recommended, especially with the peppermint and hot pepper solutions, that you use safety glasses, gloves, and even a dust mask or respirator. These solutions contain irritants and they can cause discomfort or injury if inhaled or if they get in your eyes. It is also important to make sure children and pets do not come near the recently sprayed trees.
Once you are ready with your mixture, you will want to spray your trees anywhere thoroughly you notice pests or diseases, avoiding any open buds and roots. If you get sprayed on either of these, make sure you rinse thoroughly immediately to prevent any harm to your trees.
Spray the mixture evenly and in a single coat, making sure not overly to soak any area. Even if it appears the pests or disease is not reacting at first, you do not want to drown the tree. Wait for either 2 hours (for oil and peppermint) or 30 minutes (for hot pepper) and then rinse the tree off.
Frequently Asked Questions
Will spraying my apple trees affect my apples?
The homemade apple tree spray should not affect your apples if applied correctly. It is important to avoid open buds and directly applying to the fruit with some of the stronger solutions.
What kind of mixture can I make at home to treat my trees?
The three best homemade apple tree sprays are oil-based, peppermint-based, and hot pepper based. For disease, a lime-sulfur treatment works very well. Each has a different level of effectiveness and you should choose the one that matches your pests and the level of infestation.
Apple Tree Spraying: The DIY Solution
You can make many easy homemade apple tree sprays to eliminate pests or diseases and ensure a long and healthy life for your apple trees.
These solutions offer a great alternative to chemicals sold in stores and can be made inexpensively at home without causing damage to the trees if applied correctly.
Make your mixture with the correct ratio and apply it evenly and in one coat. This will ensure you deal with pests or diseases without hurting your apple trees. By following these simple steps, you can ensure healthy and delicious apples for years to come
There’s more to know about growing healthy apples! Visit our Apple Trees page for links to all our blog posts and guides.
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Aaron Leeper has spent years growing everything from his own apple trees to vegetables to flowers on his hobby farm. This time growing various crops has taught him the do’s and don’ts of raising and treating plants to ensure the best outcome. A graduate of Skidmore College, Aaron enjoys bringing his knowledge to others