I have a small forest garden that includes (among many other plants) an Aronia bush and a Seckel pear tree. The Aronia bush gets attacked by lace bugs every year. They are small sucking insects, and every place they pierce a leaf for a meal, a brown spot develops. By the end of the season, the leaves are pretty ratty. It still produces a good amount of fruit, but there must be some loss of productivity, and the fall color is spoiled.
The other significant problem I have is pear scab on the Seckel pear. I picked Seckel because of its resistance to fireblight, but wasn't counting on scab being a problem. It made a few fruit last year, but this year it set dozens, and the majority have scab lesions.
From what I've read, an important approach to managing both of these problems is to remove all debris from under the plants to get rid of the overwintering insects and fungal spores. Obviously that doesn't fit in well with the forest gardening approach.
This fall I will rake up everything from under the pear tree and spread a layer of compost, to see if that mitigates the scab problem. I can manage the lace bugs by hosing them off the Aronia bush a few times per season. In both cases, I'd prefer the dynamics of the garden to minimize the problems, but I don't know how to get that to happen.
I have lots of insectary plants and see lots of beneficial insects. Every spring my yarrow plants are swarming with aphids when they first emerge, but they're gone in a couple weeks, no doubt eaten by ladybugs and my other allies. For whatever reason, the lacebugs aren't targeted.
Any suggestions to resolve the conflict between forest gardening and orchard hygeine, or for my specific problems?
Michael Phillips, author of "The Apple Grower," spreads compost around his orchard in the Autumn to speed the decomposition of the dead leaves and increase the competition at the microscopic level. Seems to work for him.
posted 9 years ago
I doubt chickens would eat the lace bugs, they're tiny things about the size of an aphid.
Encouraging to hear that the compost idea works for apples, I'm hopeful for next season!
also try bringing in more birds..of course they might eat berries, but they also eat bugs.
Bloom where you are planted.
Location: Ava, Mo, USA, Earth
posted 9 years ago
A few years ago I read quite a bit about people reporting success at stopping sucking insects by keeping the plants' sap brix high enough. Brix is the sugar content in per cent. The theory is if you keep the brix high enough the bugs either can't suck the juice out, or it gives them a terminal case of the runs. In any case, the higher the brix, the healthier the plant anyhow.
I've not had a chance to really test this myself, but the little playing around I've done was encouraging. Brix meters are reasonably priced on eBay and elsewhere.
I've got mad fungus on my older apple tree this year. It had a lot of debris under it that I didn't clean up. By the end of August I'll sheet mulch more of it and plant it with garlic at the end of October. Theoretically, this should eliminate the debris and also create pest confusion with the garlic's scent. I'll let you know how it works!
"To oppose something is to maintain it" -- Ursula LeGuin
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