Growing your own luscious fruit is a pleasure many home gardeners relish every season. Watching all the beautiful leaves appear with sometimes highly fragrant flowers that give way to tasty and fresh fruit.
Unfortunately, along with all the wonderful aspects of growing fruit trees comes the task of keeping the bugs and other critters from enjoying your fruit before you do.
Here are things you can do to keep as much of your crop for yourself. They will work both for in-ground trees and for container trees.
For trees, use Vaseline around the lip of the container or a sticky product called “Tree Tanglefoot.” If you get this substance on your hands, don’t worry- it comes off with soap and water, but will remind you of the sticky gunk on fly strips.
For in- ground trees, wrap the trunk for a 2″ wide strip with waterproof paper or tree wrap. Fill any gaps between the tree trunk and the barrier with cotton wadding. Lavish the sticky barrier on the wrap only. Never apply either of these substances directly to the tree trunk itself.
Crawling insects won’t cross the barrier. For those who do try, they will be hopelessly stuck. Apply more as needed. I find that the Vaseline doesn’t last as long as the commercial stuff, and a little goes a long way.
Baits and Granules
For ants and other crawly insects living in the planter with the tree, try baits or ant granules. Make sure to read the directions to ensure the substance you use is okay for use around outdoor food plants. Any garden center or DIY store will have something that is bound to work.
Ants and other crawlies tend to become immune to different substances over time. You may have to keep rotating your products.
Check the internet for home remedies- my favorite is good old-fashioned corn meal. Give the little critters all they want while holding back from watering for a couple of days, then soak the container. They eat all they want, and the corn meal expands in their stomachs and they blow up.
I have a few of my favorite spring bugs- ladybugs and praying mantises. They’re voracious and think my aphid population (who thinks my apple blossoms are theirs) is a Texas- sized free buffet. I have never discouraged them from eating all they want.
If you don’t notice ladybugs in your garden, a strong blast from a garden hose will dislodge aphids and some bugs, while eco-friendly insecticidal soaps will handle or reduce the rest.
Birds and squirrels are a common pest in my area- Mockingbirds and Blue Jays, Grackles and Blackbirds think I grow everything just for them. I guess that’s where we get the term “bird-brain” from.
I have tried bird netting with various results- mostly everything gets caught in it and I have to go out and rescue it. Not a fun task when it’s the neighbor’s cat or a rat snake.
Small dogs are wonderful for chasing squirrels out of the garden and away from digging near your trees, while cats can follow the “tree rats” into the branches.
My cats, however, watch the squirrels for entertainment and every small dog in my neighborhood has yet to catch a single squirrel.
Still, they’re fun to watch.
Whatever method you choose to keep your harvest safe, diligence and flexibility are your best allies. Know what bug/pest you’re dealing with and do so quickly. It’ll keep you from having to buy apples from the store when there are bare trees in your garden.