How do I control peach leaf curl?

posted in: Trees in trouble 0

A reader describes a frequently-occurring problem: peach leaf curl

Hi Dan, I have a couple of issues with these two trees, a peach and an apricot, they are five years old, the leaves are browning and shrivelling up. Could you let me know what is going on here?

peach leaf curl

Dan replied on 20 May 2020:

Hello, peach and nectarine and sometimes apricot all suffer from the same fungal disease, called peach leaf curl. You will find lots of detail about how to deal with peach leaf curl on this web page. In the past, a fungicide called Dithane was available. Now that this fungicide has been withdrawn, the only way to control the disease is to plant the trees in containers so that they can be put inside a cold greenhouse or similar building during the winter months, while they are fully dormant. This is necessary to keep the tree wood completely dry during the dormant period. So the only real solution is growing trees in containers or in a poly tunnel.

As we are in May, don’t move the tree now. Water the tree weekly from now on, and remove all the damaged leaves by hand on a weekly basis. At this time of the year the tree will produce new healthy foliage, and it will stay healthy as long as you have removed the sources of infection, which are the curled-up bubbly leaves. Do not abandon the damaged leaves on the ground! Put them in the non-recycling waste bin, remove from the orchard and dispose of accordingly.

Secondly, as soon as all the healthy leaves have fallen in late autumn, you can dig up the tree and plant it in a decent-sized container, with good-sized drainage holes in the bottom. Prune the tree back and cut the roots back to a size you can manage well. Use the best planting compost, such as John Innes compost number 3. Make sure the container is on wheels. Keep it inside during the winter, right up until the middle of May. By then, the fungus is no longer active, and so you can move the tree outside.

The tree won’t die provided you look after it well now, and continue to remove damaged leaf, right up to the time that the tree naturally sheds its leaves in late autumn.

I repeat, no infected leaves should be left around, as the disease spores will survive and could infect new foliage in the spring.

Take a look at this video:

How to prevent peach leaf curl