Fire Blight! Aaauuuggghhh!

Well, it looks like it wasn’t as as hot as I hoped it was, as fire blight has reared its ugly head.  I was thinning the Braeburn tree and my fingered touched something sticky; the brown ooze that is a hallmark of fire blight (the amber drops on the shriveled blossom stem in the photo above).  It was in its initial first stage, as it probably was contracted through bees infecting the blossom.  If I hadn’t had caught this, it would have infected the leaves next, which would shrivel up, turn black, and droop but stay firmly attached, as would the tiny apples. 

Last year I didn’t know what to look for, and by the time I recognized it fire blight had infected whole branches on the Braeburn and Gala trees, making the leaves turn brown and droop.  I was sadly cutting whole branches of fruit off and sterilizing my pruners, and one tree even had it infecting the trunk, requiring major surgery to cut it out.  This year it looks like I found it much earlier, and I just removed the one spur.  I will keep a watchful eye out to make sure I didn’t miss any and that it hasn’t spread past the spur.  I checked the other trees in the orchard, and saw no sign of it there.

This demonstrates one of the distinct advantages for growing apples on a trellis; you are able to get right up to them to check for problems.  If this infected cluster was way up high on top of a tree somewhere, I would not have found it until the whole branch turned brown and possibly infected other parts of the orchard.  Smaller trees are definately the best bet for the home gardener.

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