I have been getting a ton of questions about this topic recently. Unfortunately summer is a crazy time of year in the edible tree and plant world so this article is a little late. As my grandma used to say when I showed up late to shovel her driveway, Better Late than Never!
Let’s talk about crushing the pest cycle without using harmful sprays. Fear not, we won’t need any breathing masks, nor will we be using any backpack sprayers. We won’t be killing pollinators either so leave those bottles labeled with warning signs about cancer and birth defects on the store shelves.
If we aren’t using poisons how do we get rid of the pests in our backyard edible plants? The good news is that if you only have a few edible plants and trees you probably won’t have a big pest problem (most infestations are found in mass plantings). The most labor intensive method of keeping your edibles pest free is through mechanical removal. Think going through each branch, leaf, and fruit one by one. Inspecting for any damage or pest signs and then either removing the infested fruit or moving on until all your trees have been inspected. Depending on how many trees this might be an option for you. Say you have 2 or 3 young pear trees or berry bushes, this is definitely possible. But if you have more edibles than time the mechanical method won’t work.
The next method also involves going through your plantings tree by tree. Tarps or sheets can dropped on the ground underneath your tree canopy. Shaking the tree will result in thinning most of the pest damaged fruit. Fruit infested by pests will have a weaker connection to your tree and will usually drop with a good shaking. Shaking the tree will also cause pests clinging onto the tree itself to drop onto your tarp. Once your fruit and pest have dropped onto the tarp, dispose of the pest ridden fruit. This method can be time consuming the more edibles you have but still tends to get the job done.
Last but not least is my favorite, the most holistic way of managing the pest cycle in my fruit and nut trees. It may seem strange but I will use animals to break the pest cycle. Animals like chickens, ducks, turkeys, pigs, goats, sheep, rabbits, and even cows can all work together to clean up our backyard orchard. Don’t be scared off, if you’re doing this in your backyard in the suburbs I don’t expect anyone to run out and get cows, pigs, and goats and put them in your backyard. The larger the animal the bigger the scale needs to be to make a cow or sheep functional.
Let’s talk backyard orchard scale, what animals make sense to run in and around your edibles? These days’ people are big into backyard chickens and for good reason. Chickens can really help break the fruit tree pest cycle. The trick is to allow the chickens to have free range directly in, around, and underneath your trees. If left to their own devices most pests will lay eggs in the tree fruit, with the help of natural thinning pest infected fruit usually drops to the ground. If left alone pests will continue their cycle breeding, laying more eggs, and creating more and more pests. Now think about what happens with the addition of a few animals. Chickens are best known for scratching and pecking through everything and everything. They are looking for bugs, seeds, greens, and anything else they deem edible. Fruit teaming with insect larvae, caterpillars, and other creepy crawlies, YES PLEASE!
The pest cycle is in fact a cycle and no one time solution can fix it. Stay tuned to get the rest of the story and finally break that pest problem once and for all. Do you have a holistic pest solution? Have you tried everything else and nothing seems to work? We would love to hear from you. Leave a comment under this article to get the discussion going.