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Winter Wash for Fruit Trees | Tar Oil No longer Allowed


A winter wash is one of the most important - and successful - methods of controlling many insect pests and fungal diseases for fruit growers.

A traditional and very effective method of controlling all manner of insects bugs and many fungal diseases was by the application of a Winter Tar Oil wash in the dormant season. This acted as a contact killer and also as a smothering agent for a wide range of harmful insects and their eggs. Tar based washes are now no longer available for such, or any other use, in the Uk. The EU considered them to be a carcinogenic danger to the amateur gardener. Rightly so, for application and precautions are not always strictly adhered to by amateur and weekend gardeners.

A traditional and very effective method of controlling all manner of insects bugs and many fungal diseases was by the application of a Winter Tar Oil wash in the dormant season. This acted as a contact killer and also as a smothering agent for a wide range of harmful insects and their eggs. Tar based washes are now no longer available for such, or any other use, in the Uk. The EU considered them to be a carcinogenic danger to the amateur gardener. Rightly so, for application and precautions are not always strictly adhered to by amateur and weekend gardeners.

There were other insecticides that also had to remove the tar oil element from their mixes, so there is effectively no 'back door' method of using tar based oil washes. It is also illegal - and irresponsible. All is not lost, for there are other substitutes that can be used to kill off the overwintering insect pests.

In killing off the dormant pests and eggs, you are also going a long way to control certain types of fungal diseases. Many fungal diseases enter plant tissue, either directly with the insect host, or indirectly through the damaged surfaces which are the hallmark of sap sucking insects such as aphids. Viruses are also carried by some insects, so there is every reason to apply a winter wash to fruit trees - and also carry out other tasks that should be done at this time for general wellbeing of the fruit trees - which will eradicate many of these harmful bugs in their dormant period.

Available Winter Washes for Fruit Trees.

As far as we know, there are two types of applications that take the pace of the Tar Wash. They are either based on fish oils or plant extracted oils from Oilseed Rape sources, or a combination of both. They are effective for control of overwintering pests – in particular the wide range of aphid sap-sucking insects. They also control other pests such as mites. They can and should be used on all types of edible fruit trees and bushes.

Vitax Tree Wash is probably the most readily available, though you can be sure that there will be other introductions to meet the demand. Ensure that the product includes such oils as outlined above.

Tree wash acts as a contact insecticide, so it is important to get the wash into every nook and cranny within the tree or bush.

Problems with Winter Wash of Fruit Trees.

Application of the wash is problematic for large trees in small gardens – or even large trees in large gardens. The advice is always to apply as a fine mist spray! This in itself makes for a difficult application for powered mist sprayers are not generally the equipment of amateur gardeners – nor should they be.

It is likely from my own observations and experience that most of the insect eggs are in the lower reaches of larger trees where the bark is rougher and affords a better home for laying the small eggs. Trying to get a fine spray into the top of a large tree is not an option and is fraught with problems. Simply try to get as much coverage as possible to the areas within reach with hand spray of lance spray.

Do not forget to spray the ground around the tree or bush which hopefully will have been cleared of all fallen leaf debris beforehand! 



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