Seedling Time!


I’m so excited! It’s time to start my first batch of seedlings for the year! If you’re like me, you’re probably getting excited, too! This year I’m moving my seedling nursery to the basement to keep the peace in the family. I usually take over the sun porch, which is everyone’s favorite room in the house. Once I get in there and start growing things, the room smells like old garlic and organic fertilizers. And of course, there are dirt and flats of plants in various stages everywhere, along with rogue tools and other accoutrements.  At that point it’s usually difficult to make your way to the seating, and it’s impossible to enjoy it if you manage to actually get there! LOL!

It’s bad enough that I like to do my garden planning out here, and as I type, my catalogs, graph paper, pencils, seed packets, etc. are strewn about the place anyway…

I’m doing something a little different this year. The garden has been a real challenge the last few years. Life’s been messy. We are gone for days at a time so frequently that it’s hard to keep on top of the harvest, and you can just about forget doing any long term storage that takes more than ten minutes. Pretty much everything we don’t eat fresh gets thrown in the freezer or fed to the animals. Sad, but true.

I’ve always said if I could only grow one thing … it would be flowers. I love my flower gardens. As I was thinking about the harvest problem, I got this brilliant idea that I would keep the veggies to a minimum this year — just enough for fresh eating and fall pumpkins — and concentrate on cut flowers. I’ve never stepped outside the realm of cottage gardens and landscaping. So this is an experiment kind of year. Ha ha ha! Okay, okay. If you know me, you know that every year is an experiment kind of year. But this is a *different* experiment kind of year.

I’ve already sown some asclepius (Butterfly Weed/Pleurisy Root) and they are stratifying right now. I’ll bring them in later this week to germinate. Wait. What’s stratifying?!!! I know, right? I’ve been gardening in some form or another for twenty years and I’ve never heard that before. It means pre-chilling them to aid in germination. That’s different from scarifying, which more of us have heard of – where you nick the seed to help it germinate better. Nope. This is a different thing altogether. From what I can tell, there aren’t a whole lot of plants that need stratifying, but this variety of flower does. So … we learn something new.

And here’s something else new — and cool! My friend Elizabeth is a fellow garden experimenter. When she throws herself into something, she throws herself about 175% into it! She and I are both setting up our grow-light stands now and we’re comparing. I don’t expect to have more than three or four flats total (probably!), but she’s going to have more than that. After I proudly hung my new light fixture, I sent her my tidy little picture of the shelf in the basement that I commandeered next to my potting bench.


I put two flats on it, on top of two germination mats. If I need more space, I told her, I’ll add a light to the shelf above it. Cute, huh? Ahem.

She’s like, duh, you’re wasting space. Actually she didn’t say that, and probably didn’t even think it, but I would have! LOL! And it’s true. There’s a lot of wasted space there! I like her idea tons better.


She sent me her pictures. Turn the flats sideways and hang two grow lights above the shelf. Now you can fit four flats in the space you were taking up with two. I can see that, because of the width of them, I can actually fit five flats on my shelves if I make some simple tinfoil reflectors for each end.



Happy seed starting!!!

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Aspendale Farm Update ~ July 2015: Garden Fence Rebuild!


It is shaping up to be a pretty nice summer here at Aspendale Farm! The last two years we’ve been a bit quiet — preoccupied with family matters, keeping up with my expanded responsibilities as an editor, and just trying to keep up with an altogether overwhelming schedule.

Although I definitely planted a few things last year and took a swipe at keeping the farm running, a lot went un-tended — or under-tended, anyway. This year I’m paying for it a bit. My orchard got a little out of hand and I’ve developed a few troubles here and there among different crops throughout the farm. But this year has afforded me a better opportunity to clean things up and to spend enough time keeping my sanity out in my garden. LOL! That’s what gardening is for me … it’s a sanity-saver. How about you? When I’m tense or overworked or grumpy, often the best remedy is to get outside, and it’s a doubly-good remedy when I can pull a few weeds or maybe spend some time hand-watering. I don’t quite know why I find that so relaxing… I deplored weeding as a kid!

Although early spring of this year was really too busy for me to do much at all in the garden — I didn’t plant anything until June 1 — I love that succession planting and season-extension affords me an opportunity to get some things in that I would have completely missed otherwise … spinach, carrots, peas, lettuce — if we’re lucky (and I can do a good job covering them when the first frosts hit) we’ll get a few pumpkins to ripen.

So this year I’ve focused on catching up with the things I’ve fallen behind on. My garden fence finally just gave up the ghost this spring. We built it in 2008 or 2009. Not too bad considering that even then we considered it a temporary fence at the time and didn’t expect it to last more than two to three years! So six- or seven-ish years later the sapling posts we had cut from our woods had finally disintegrated so much there were barely half a dozen wooden sapling posts left standing. Those probably were the newer posts we had replaced as some of the originals rotted away in prior years. We’d also mix-and-matched various other posts as the sapling posts rotted away — t-posts, step-in fiberglass electric braid fence-posts. It was not pretty! LOL!

You can see the jumbled mix of wooden posts (foreground) with the step-in posts, and t-posts we replaced the posts made from saplings that had rotted off at ground level. And the chicken wire was pretty unkempt, too!

You can see the jumbled mix of wooden posts (foreground) with the step-in posts, and t-posts we replaced the posts made from saplings that had rotted off at ground level. And the chicken wire was pretty unkempt, too!

The old fence was truly a wreck, but it did the job — keeping the chickens out. Oddly, those are the only critters I really need to worry about getting into my garden. The deer seem to ignore it, we never have rabbit trouble, and nothing short of solid steel walls and concrete foundation will keep the raccoons out… so I just don’t plant corn anymore and they don’t give me trouble. But once the fence actually fell over this spring, there was nothing I could do short of rebuilding the whole fence.

Although the two-foot-high chicken wire was still perfectly intact, it was definitely saggy and misshapen. The bottom six inches had gotten rusty, and this seemed the perfect opportunity for me to add something I’ve always wanted to my landscape … a white picket fence!


My youngest daughter helped me shop for supplies and she and I got started removing a section of the old fence at the back of the garden. She has been as excited about a white picket fence as I! After clearing away that first section of fencing and the posts, we dug the two back corner posts into the ground before her twelve-year-old self was tired of the project for the time, and we were both pretty hot and sweaty. It was a good start but we had to wait a couple weeks before we could get back to it on account of a two-week vacation at the lake with some of our extended family. Vacation was great! But the poor fence sat, undone, waiting for us to return.

When we got back, I recruited the help of the other kids and it did go faster having two extra helpers. We would go out and work for half an hour in the morning before the sun got hot, and while the shade still covered the garden, making it much more pleasant to work there. We pretty much built a quarter of the fencing each morning. We’d dig in the 4×4 corner/brace posts and drive in two or three sharpened 2×2 posts in between each 4×4 post, doing one section each day. The side of the hay barn was the north boundary and didn’t need any work. This was a nice way to work and keep making progress!

The last day I let the kids help install the posts and screw the pickets to the posts, but I had to head into the machine shed and figure out the garden gate on my own. I didn’t have a plan I was working from, but I know enough about building and how gates work that with some measuring and cutting and fitting things together and eventually that afternoon, I had a gate.


I love the new fence! Funny how something like that can double the pleasure of working in the garden for me, but it truly has. Instead of stepping over, or fighting with, the makeshift old gate, I happily swing the new one open and shut and latch it and relatch it! LOL! Like a kid with a new toy.

We have yet to install a new birdhouse on the tall corner post. We built around the old one, as there is a family of chickadees who haven’t quite finished with the old one yet. It’s beginning to lose pieces here and there, so a new birdhouse is definitely in order. Too bad, as we really like the old one quite well.

Like a kid with a new toy...!

Like a kid with a new toy…!

So … only one more month of summer left. I’m a good bit of the way through the school planning for the kids for this coming year, but I’m not ready to think about getting back into fall. I’m insatiably soaking in every warm, summery day. Hopefully by the time autumn does hit, I’ll have filled up my store of sunshine and warmth to make it through another Northern Michigan winter!

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Help for Empty Nest Syndrome

Goodness it’s been awhile since I’ve added anything here! Sorry about that! Frankly, I haven’t had much that I felt was worth sharing for quite some time. I’ll catch up briefly at the bottom of my post, but I want to cut to the chase for those who just want the nitty-gritty!

When my oldest son left for college in the fall of 2013, I admit to being devastated! I knew the structure of our family was changing. Permanently. Even if he came home for vacations, the dynamics would never be the same, and truthfully, I knew it was only a matter of time before he was gone for good, and the next child would leave home, too. The words themselves, the idea of kids leaving home, seem so … distant, I guess. Until you experience it directly for yourself. For some of us, it can be like a death in a way. Others handle it far differently. My husband, for instance, was thrilled to get this kid out of the house and on his own. He was too old and too young all at the same time. He was messy and full of teenage hormones that made him emotionally unpredictable, and took over most of his useful brain cells. All his Dad could see was this was a good thing! Others thought there was something wrong with me when I expressed sadness. They thought I should be happy for him. I was! I was happy for him, but grieving for me.

Mentally, I knew it was a good thing. I was super-excited for this new adventure my son was embarking on. I knew I’d done my job and he was ready. I knew college would be interesting and exciting and open him up to all kinds of ideas and inspirations he wouldn’t get at home anymore. Life was just beginning! Woot! But… it was beginning for him, without me. After all, my job for the previous 18 years had been to carefully train and nurture and raise this young man. I had experienced his day-to-day adventures alongside him all these years. His leaving was the reality that I had effectively worked myself out of a job. That’s the goal, right?!!!

But it left me with a huge hole in my heart. My boy was no longer going to be there to be part of my daily life. No more, “Hey, Mama, come here and look at this funny thing.” No more impersonations of King Julien (my son is the master impersonator and always makes me laugh.) He was forming his own separate life. And his siblings were all-too-eager to follow. And quickly if possible! It dawned on me. My friends were leaving! My kids and I have each forged friendships with each other. We love hanging out together and sharing things together. They are not just my kids. I enjoy each one of them as good friends.

What followed my oldest’s leaving, for those of you who react to this kind of life change in a similar manner, was grief. Deep, gut-wrenching grief. As if someone had died. I cried almost non-stop for two weeks. And then, as you do when you lose someone you love, you start having “good days” and realize you only cried once or twice during the day. Or you actually made it through a whole day without crying!

By Christmas-time, his loooong break from school proved to me that I had gotten used to this new, much quieter life without him in and around all the time. I enjoyed visiting. I liked texting back and forth. We got to see him every couple months. This was going to be okay. But I had to try really hard to suppress the nagging thoughts that my oldest daughter was noticeably hurrying through high school so she could go off to college, too. Preferably in China. Or Great Britain. Or anywhere exotic and exciting.

Fast-forward to November of 2014: The oldest tells me he’s decided to move to Colorado. Panic!!! I was pretty sure I handled it pretty well. But since I had him on speakerphone when he told me, the older daughter, who was listening, piped up, “Do it!  Do it!  Move out there and I’ll come join you as soon as I possibly can!” There was that dreaded thing I knew was coming. Of course it wasn’t only my oldest son. They would all leave. Ignoring the fact wouldn’t change it. A new wave of grief hit me. But not just grief – righteous indignation as well! I was indignant that I was going to have to go through this gut-wrenching heartache repeatedly until the last of my four children had moved on and I’d adjusted to being alone. Darn it! This was so not cool! This is the way it’s supposed to be. None of my kids has died. They’re not into drugs. They’re not dying of some incurable disease. They haven’t been hurt or lost or rebelled and cut off contact with us. They’re growing up and going off to start their own interesting lives the same way I had done. I was really steamed to be going through such intense grief at something that should have been – sad? Yes. Of course there should be some wistfulness. But not bitter grief.

Quite some time before the Colorado announcement, I had set out on a journey to re-craft myself into the person I wanted to be when my kids were gone. I’d read several books and journaled my thoughts and ideas and tried out some new things. It was a good growing process. I especially found books about retirement and second careers helpful because, well, essentially a full-time Mom ends up having to choose some kind of second career when her first career grows up and leaves home! I’d read several of Barbara Sher’s books and found them quite helpful in crafting the kind of life I hoped to have. But in all, you can’t necessarily use logic to chase away negative emotions.

So after my oldest’s Colorado decision (which the skunk reneged on, darn him!) and my second oldest’s determination to get out of the house and go have some adventures post haste, I decided to see what some of the flower remedies could do for me.

You’ve heard me mention flower remedies for dealing with exhaustion from overwork and extreme care (olive) and for fright of various kinds (mimulus, aspen, rescue remedy) or for plant diseases (crab apple). I’ve found them very helpful in the past for a whole variety of inappropriate or overly strong emotions in myself, my family, friends, and animals. I basically just put together a custom remedy that I labeled “Empty Nest” because that’s exactly what it’s for. There is not really just one emotion bound up in the children leaving home. There are a whole variety of thoughts and emotions that need to be dealt with. I only wish someone had handed me a bottle of this a year or more earlier to deal with the initial shock and grief of having my first child leave home. It basically took me only about three days of using the remedy before my mental state was put to rights and my perspective was much improved. Gone was the intensity. I was even-keeled and thinking about other, interesting, pertinent things instead of grieving. Some people, and some circumstances may require much longer daily use – up to as many as three or four months. But I had started out this time at a pretty good place. I suspect that, had I used these last year when he first left, I’d have been on them for a couple months.

Without any further delay, here is what I’ve put in my custom bottle. I didn’t use all of the remedies below, but maybe half a dozen of them.  I use the liquid version of each of these flower essences. (You can just google each of them individually, or start at who carries about 3/4 of them.) I use them in homeopathic form so I don’t have to worry about getting the quantity right, as they work on the principle of frequency of dosage rather than amount. I just add about four drops or so of the custom mix to my 20-oz bottle of water and drink it all day long. You can put it in any drink except coffee, which can have an adverse effect on the action of the remedies:

Chamomile – soothes, releases tensions associated with emotional imbalances. This is especially helpful in the early stages when grief can be so intense and bitter and the feelings are raw. It helps to stabilize emotions and temper mood swings.

Sagebrush – Supports detachment of old patterns and helps us take actions toward making a new path for ourselves. Can clear away energies that are no longer needed, such as the urge to protect and parent our child. Helps create energy toward a new way of life.

Walnut – Helps us feel safer while we get used to new changes, and helps us to accept the changes.

Agrimony – Helps us see the good in a situation

Larch – A great help when we want to learn new things or embark on a new journey, study something, or maybe start a new business or venture.

Bleeding Heart – Helpful during the cutting-the-strings period. Helps heal hurt associated with heartache. Helps to emotionally detach in a healthy way or release any possible feelings of possessiveness in relationships.

Honeysuckle – Helps us embrace the future instead of clinging to the past.

Mariposa Lily – Used to treat hurts caused by a sense of abandonment. Can aid healing of the loss of familiar family status. Can encourage acceptance and caring for the self, turning energies once focused on nurturing the children toward meeting our own needs at this time.

Wild Oat – Helps us find new direction and take the necessary steps to get there.

Willow – Keeps us from feeling sorry for ourselves and give us flexibility to adapt to a new lifestyle

Mustard – to lift depression or emotional wilt.

You can use any or all of these flower essences together. Get an empty dropper bottle and put four drops of each of the flower essences you choose into the bottle. Fill the rest of the way with distilled water or alcohol of some type (brandy, etc…). Shake gently to mix.

*Incidentally, many of these same remedies can be helpful in dealing with other separation issues: death, deployment, divorce, or other similar situations.

Update for friends and fans:

Okay, I promised an update. I haven’t tried anything new in the home farming arena. We’ve been just holding steady with the status quo. Same horses, chickens, garden, and orchard as usual. Got our hay and our beef and still don’t have our firewood, but working on it.

My attentions have largely been taken up by other priorities and interests in the last year: The biggest has been my Mom’s ill health, requiring many, many eight-hour round-trips back and forth to Toledo and a couple trips out to Cleveland Clinic for diagnosis. I’m still filling my position as team editor at Aspendale Communications, which tends to get busiest in autumn and stay relatively steady the rest of the year.

Fun stuff: I spent a fabulous week this last summer at a rock orchestra camp learning some groovy new ways to play with my violin! Woot! I didn’t do any athletic events, as I was put on health leave in April and was glad for the excuse not to train for any races this summer. But on the flip side, my health has improved vastly and I feel like a college kid again! More Woot! If I *wanted to* I could totally start training again. But I’ve focused much more on qigong and yoga with a little weight lifting to help just keep me balanced, prevent me from spending too much time in high gear (which is a real temptation and a constant battle with my Type A personality!).

The latest fun (?) project evolved when, on our last camping trip of the year, our travel trailer presented us with more problems than we felt we wanted to deal with at the time. So we passed it on to some people we love, and purchased a log lodge that was originally a post-WWII camp on a lake about an hour from us. It’s the same lake we had lived on during the winter of 2006-2007 when we trying to be sure we would enjoy the winters up in northern Michigan before we made a permanent move (we do!). The lodge has suffered some neglect and needs some updating and winterizing. If you know me at all, you know the chance to update a house is a challenge that makes me rub my hands together with glee! We closed on that mid-November and I’ve been working at it since. We will be renting it out in one-week stints just a handful of times each year to help it pay for itself, and we anticipate a restful retreat and many happy, fun memories with family and friends there! This week, I’m laying new flooring in the main living area.

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Are You Behind? Garden Overgrown? Don’t Give Up!

Yes, that’s my bohunkus there, pulling weeds out of my paths again. “The girls” are enjoying a foray out into the wide world to eat bugs and clover.


Don’t quit. Never give up trying to build the world you can see, even if others can’t see it.  ~ Simon Sinek

Sometimes life gets away from us — often it happens in summer, I’ve found. Things start getting out of hand. You’re gone for awhile, there are a lot of graduation parties or family events or sports…. What started as a few weeds untended in the garden quickly become a daunting patch of weeds, then, if neglected, a jungle. My sister-in-law teases that she’s growing some nice weeds this year. Sometimes things happen and it’s too easy to start feeling overwhelmed. But I want to encourage you to stick with it! Don’t get discouraged! Don’t give up!

“But you haven’t seen what’s going on here,” you might think. Ha ha ha! I’ve lived it!

Things may not go as planned, but they still go anyway. We’ll have pumpkins whether I weed my paths or not!

In fact, this particular summer has been only what I can describe as “crazy.” It’s been a weird, crazy summer for me. As some of you know, my Mom has been ill for some time, and since late spring has gotten steadily worse. We live out of town, and it’s been a real challenge to keep up with her needs, to keep on top of her current state and do our best to help out. But it’s been weird in other ways, too. It’s been predominantly only me and my eleven-year-old daughter Betsy living at home this summer. JJ moved out last fall, of course, and Cecily and Danny are both working at The Ranch this summer, ministering to kids using horses in a camp setting. They are only home for about a day and a half on the weekends, and they are exhausted when they get home Friday afternoons. They pretty much sleep, wash laundry, and go back to the Ranch on Sunday. And of course, our load of hay caught on fire and we haven’t seen a replacement yet, so we’re scrambling to keep our horses fed. Altogether it’s been weird having almost no help around the place — and consequently, almost no routine or structure. We didn’t open our pool, haven’t really sat outside around the firepit or in the screen-room like we usually do, and it feels like we have hardly done any other summer activities.

One of my excuses for letting farm things get out of control has been this. I've spent inordinate amounts of time practicing all the cool things I learned at the Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp in Kansas in July. Basically, I've been picking strings instead of beans...

One of my excuses for letting farm things get out of control has been this. I’ve spent inordinate amounts of time practicing all the cool things I learned at the Mark Wood Rock Orchestra Camp in Kansas in July. Basically, I’ve been picking strings instead of beans…

So yeah, yeah, you don’t really care too much why my summer has been weird and crazy and totally disorganized. The point is, it has been. This spring I worked really hard to clear all the weeds out of the paths in the garden, and by now, guess what… yes, of course, there are weeds starting to take over the paths again in spite of a generous layer of mulch. And there are weeds in the raspberries. And I didn’t get my apples thinned and bagged. And there’s a too-big pile of chicken dookie under the roosts in the henhouse. And you know what? It’s not the end of the world! I’m still getting peas. I have lots of ripe blueberries and raspberries. My tomatoes and cukes are starting to come in. My pullets are almost big enough to take off their chick grower rations and put into the henhouse. Things are still moving along.

There may be a pile of chicken poo in the corner, but they haven’t boycotted me yet. The girls are still happy and they’re still giving us eggs. I’ll scoop the corner eventually. It doesn’t stink yet. LOL!

Sometimes, especially when we’re tired — especially when we’ve had two or three not-perfect years in a row we want to throw in the towel. But to be honest, when is it ever a “perfect” year? There’s no such thing. Granted, a couple years where things get way out of control may be a sign for us to cut back a little. Maybe don’t plant as much next year. Just do your favorites. Maybe just peppers, beans, and strawberries. Or whatever. Or maybe decide not to raise your own pork next year. Or hire someone to cut your firewood instead of doing it yourself. Scaling back is okay. That’s not quitting, that’s reality. Joe Perfect over the fence there, with his immaculate gardens, doesn’t really have a life. He does nothing but weed and start the next batch of seedlings. So give yourself a break and just ease your way into taking control again in five- and ten-minute increments. I always promise myself I’m going to go out to pick some fruit or veggies, and I’ll just spend five minutes pulling the worst of the weeds. I always get sucked into it and get more done than I planned. But if I don’t … so what!!! I got five minutes of the worst weeds pulled, and I’ll do five more minutes the next time I get out there.

Instead of getting down on yourself for not doing everything you wanted to do perfectly, pat yourself on the back for taking steps toward living your dream! It’s a journey, an experience, not a destination. It’s about spending time with your hands in the dirt, the joy of producing some of your own food, and the pleasure of creating a life that you love.


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To Be Overcome

To be overcome by the fragrance of flowers is a delectable form of defeat. ~Beverly Nichols


The nasturtiums mingle with the flowers on the beans, the peas, and even a summer squash tucked in there under the peas.

I’ve mentioned in the past my unquenchable love for flowers. If my orchard were to disappear and nothing grow in the vegetable patch, so long as I had a space to grow some flowers I could still be content. One thing my Amish friends and neighbors have on us Englischers is their sublime idea of interplanting flowers in their vegetable patches. Last year I followed their lead and incorporated some flowers into my vegetable patch.

I’ve intertwined peas with morning glories right behind a few broccoli, and separated the spinach and lettuce with a small patch of impatiens.

In spite of the profusion of flower gardens that surround my house, the horse barn, even the henhouse, I tucked a few more in here and there among the beans and shallots.  This year I spread them around even more. Could I use that snippet of space in my small garden to grow an extra couple rows of carrots? Sure! But it wouldn’t give me the same satisfaction, I don’t think, to eat those carrots as it does to simply admire the color around me while I’m picking peas or trellising tomatoes. And why not? I’ve tucked tomatoes into the flower beds. Turnabout is fair play!

These pansies readily re-seeded themselves from last year. I’ve tucked them in between my garlic and strawberries.

It’s my hope that you will let go of some of your pre-conceived notions of what a small home farm should look like. I hope that what you are doing is experimenting, trying new things, talking to each other and exchanging ideas, and incorporating the things you find you love into your Small Home Farm so that when all is said and done, you find that it makes your heart sing!


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Fungal Disease in the Orchard

Photo courtesy of everystockphoto, by iLoveButter

This afternoon I received another question about orchard health that I wanted to share in case someone else is looking for similar help:

Hi Erin,

We are adding trees to our home orchard and are seeking some guidance regarding growing peach trees.

I purchased a Contender which I’ve had for a year but now it has Cytospora canker.

We have nearby wild cherries that are infected with black knot and I am in the process of destroying a wild cherry tree with Cytospora. Knowing this disease exists in the wild nearby should I even consider trying to grow a peach tree?

Thanks for your help.



Hi Christine!
Cytospora is a fungal disease. I can only tell you from experience of some natural methods you can try. You can google for fungal sprays if you are looking for more of a chemical control, but since I don’t use inorganic methods I can’t suggest any.

First, you want to keep good sanitation, removing any gummy residue from the tree and applying anti-fungal agents to any open wounds on the tree. Burn any branches, leaves, etc. that fall or are removed from the tree. I would suggest painting any wounds on the tree (where the gummy residue is leaking out, any pruned branches, and so on) with teatree oil, oregano oil, or olive oil infused with a lot of garlic. In addition, spray a solution of water mixed with the Bach flower remedy “crab apple” and also Bach’s “Rescue Remedy” in it over the tree.  I recommend spraying the entire tree regularly (as often as possible, even daily or several times a week) throughout this year’s growing season with the “crab apple/rescue remedy” water solution. You’ll simply have to monitor it next year to see whether it needs sprays or not.

The crab-apple will help the tree to throw off the fungal infection, and the Rescue Remedy can help it to overcome any adverse effects from the infection that have weakened it — but it may take quite some time for it to take noticeable effect. This should help the tree to naturally become stronger against the infection. In fact, you may wish to treat the wild cherry trees as well. Cytospora is actually carried by coniferous trees, though, and your other trees may be harboring cytospora as well.  A backpack sprayer is great for this kind of spray application. You will only need about ten drops of crab apple and ten drops of Rescue Remedy in a couple of gallons of water. Any anti-fungal agent (the teatree oil, oregano oil, or olive oil with garlic infused in it) you will want to paint directly onto any wounds undiluted. The anti-fungal oil only needs to be applied for a short time — one or two applications.

It’s important to understand that a healthy tree will not be very susceptible to disease and can withstand something like cytospora in spite of its presence in the area. This is why preparing a great, healthy soil before planting is so beneficial when possible. You may wish to google “cytospora resistant peach tree varieties” and see if you can find any that do well in your zone 4 climate when you plant your new trees. But most importantly, a very healthy soil will help your tree (and any new trees you plant) to be strong and healthy enough to withstand disease. You can have your soil tested to see what amendments you need to add to the soil around the dripline and under the tree. Using a good liquid organic fertilizer (such as manure tea, kelp, etc.) as often as recommended on the label to increase the nutrients available to your tree is a good place to start.

I have had excellent success interplanting garlic around my fruit trees, and among my fruits and tomatoes to ward off fungal, bacterial, and viral diseases, and find that my berries in particular do poorly when there is not garlic planted among them. The soil here is not good soil and there is a viral disease present from the wild berries that grow here. But the garlic helps them keep healthy. I also have had very nice success rescuing diseased or dying plants with the crab apple/rescue remedy combination as well.

You can actually also make a spray of “garlic tea” (a couple gallons of water with lots of chopped garlic steeped in it, then, strained) and use this as a topical spray to ward off fungal diseases. I would personally use several of the approaches I’ve mentioned in combination to try to save the tree, and prevent infection in the new trees that will be planted. It is becoming much more widespread among professional organic tree-fruit growers to use garlic sprays against fungus (scab, etc.), and they are sprayed immediately following each rain, and/or every couple weeks throughout the growing season. They will, of course, wash off in the rain, which is why they must be reapplied.

While you can certainly choose which approach sounds the best to you, if I found myself in your situation, I would definitely use the crab apple/rescue remedy spray, clean up the tree(s) and paint the wounds with garlic oil, plant garlic around the tree, improve the soil health, and also spray with a garlic water. A lot of concerted effort, certainly, but not terribly expensive. Just time consuming.

When you plant your new trees, if possible, you may want to plant them well away from the infected trees. This may not be possible, of course.

Here are some links to the crab apple and the rescue remedy, which also goes by the name “Feel5ive”:

I hope this helps. I’m afraid I don’t know much about conventional chemical sprays and medications for trees if that is what you were looking for, but I find the organic treatments mentioned above adequate in my own experience, and perhaps they can help you as well.

Good luck! Let me know how it goes! Great question – I will probably post both your question and the answer on my blog so that anyone else with the same problem can find some ideas as well.

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Spring: Codling Moths and Other Orchard Pests

green apples

I received a Listener Question this morning. With the warmer weather, it’s time to get busy in the orchard again!


Hi Erin,

If you have a spray you use on your apples trees in the spring, please let me know as I will need to spray in the next week or two.  I have a huge tree that gives tons of apples every year but the coddling moth ruins them.  I want to spray them with something that is not unhealthy for my boy and I to eat. 

Thanks so much and my best to you and your family!!


Have a great day! 



Organic Pest control can be confusing — and is potentially time-consuming depending on which methods you employ. But I really like the approach my Amish neighbors take about their farming and their work. They choose to see it as a privilege! And something pleasant at that.  They (and I) feel that being a good steward of the earth is its own reward. The satisfaction, serenity, and pleasure that comes in each act of caring for your plants and animals is refreshing when looked at, not as a “chore-that-must-be-done,” but as a chance to relax and enjoy nature. It’s all in the attitude you take as you approach the job at hand. Our experience is shaped only 10% what happens to us, but 90% by our attitude toward it! 

There are several effective ways of controlling insect damage in your orchard. Use one or more of them according to what you fancy, can afford or have the patience for, and what you find works the best in your own orchard. Codling moths can be difficult to manage, especially when the population has been allowed to build up over a season or two (or more). It’s definitely better to keep populations low from the outset if you have the opportunity.

The good news is — Codling Moth, Plum Curculio and Apple Maggot can be almost 100% eliminated by bagging your pears and apples, or by using a bagging and kaolin clay/”Surround” combination.  You can monitor the codling moths with sticky pheromone traps to know when when it’s time to bag the fruit, but in general, it should be done no later than four to six weeks after bloom when the fruit are between 1/2–1 inch in diameter. Later blooming fruits can be attacked by Codling Moth before they reach that size, and in general, later-blooming fruit is more susceptible to Codling Moth damage in general.  Also know that the larvae affect walnuts as well as pears and apples, so all must be treated to reduce the population of the codling moths.

What exactly is “bagging” and how do you do it? Bagging is simply putting the young fruit inside a bag and closing the bag to keep the codling moths off and out of the fruit. Some orchardists have good luck using nylon fruit socks to bag their fruit, but nylon does not seem to have consistently high results when using nylon alone as it does when using small paper sacks or using nylon in combination with “Surround“. Surround is one brand of kaolin clay that you mix with water and soak the nylon fruit socks/bags in. The combination is reported by the Home Orchard Society to be nearly as effective as using paper bags.

I suggest googling “bulk paper bags” and looking for a good price on how many you might think you’ll need. Here‘s just one example of 1000 #6 bags for $27.00.

You can take care of both thinning your fruit and bagging at the same time. After the “June drop” (when some of the small fruits fall off the tree), when your fruit has reached 1/2-inch in diameter, head out with a large supply of nylon fruit socks or with small paper bags, a stapler, and plenty of staples. To begin, pluck off all but the largest of the fruits in each cluster – usually it is the center fruit and it is called the “King fruit” because it is the largest. Now slide the fruit inside your nylon fruit sock or insert that small fruit into your paper sack, fold over the top and staple it shut, taking care to leave no open spaces for the codling moths to get inside the bag. So now you have one bagged fruit left instead of a cluster of unbagged fruits. Don’t worry, that one fruit will grow larger than it would have if you hadn’t thinned the fruit in that cluster since more energy will go into growing and ripening that one fruit. And of course, it is only one fruit to bag instead of five or six.

When your apples or pears are 1/2″ or slightly larger, thin them to just one per cluster and bag the remaining one fruit. Photo courtesy of rocketjim54 via

If you are using a “nylon sock/bag” and kaolin clay/”Surround” combination, you’ll want to soak all your nylon bags in a bucket of water mixed with the Surround and allow them to dry before bagging your fruit. Here are some detailed instructions by the folks who first promoted this method.

The bag on each fruit acts as a physical barrier to keep the codling moth off of the fruit. You remove the bags at harvest time. Do note that red apples won’t get as red without the sun directly on them. This is one reason some people prefer the nylon fruit bags, as the nylon allows some amount sun directly on the fruit. You can always use slider-type sandwich baggies as well, in order to let sunlight reach the apples, but you must snip off the bottom two corners to allow moisture to drip out of the bag. I haven’t seen the plastic baggies in use nearly as much as paper or nylon. If you have a heavy infestation, though, I would be inclined to use paper bags for several years until the codling moth population has been decimated.

Other methods of control involve interrupting the life cycle of the moth. You can use codling moth traps with pheromone lures to catch and kill male moths before they mate.  Set the traps out at the start of the bloom period, in the top third of the tree. Use 1-2 for small trees and 2-4 for larger trees. This method alone is not sufficient to protect against heavy infestations. It will, however, reduce the number of affected fruits when used alone. However, it is a great way to monitor the numbers of codling moths present, especially over the course of several seasons to help you see if your other control measures are effectively reducing the population, and may be sufficient control alone when codling moth numbers are minimal. We use traps solely to monitor populations at Aspendale Farm and not as a preventive.

Through the growing season, you should monitor fruits for entry holes and discard all affected fruits. In fall, you can wrap a sticky band around the trunk (coated with tangletrap) to catch the larvae as they make their way down the tree to pupate over winter in order to reduce numbers.  On smooth-barked trees, some have found it effective to wrap a band of corrugated cardboard around the trunk to catch the mature larvae as they seek a place to pupate, discarding and replacing the cardboard regularly to eliminate the larvae that do find their way inside to pupate. Banding with cardboard is not effective with rough-barked trees, and will not eliminate a sufficiently large number of codling moths to be used as the sole method of control. Use it in conjunction with other methods.

In addition, encourage woodpeckers to hang out in your orchard by providing them with suet.  They relish the tasty insects that destroy your orchard fruits and will help control the populations. Why not give them a treat! Hand-picking can take care of other orchard pests like tent caterpillars or leaf rollers. Walk through your orchard at least once a week, twice is better. Be on the lookout for signs of insects and remove them immediately, taking other precautionary measures immediately as needed.

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