What's Wrong with my Peach Tree?

Veronika Bond Fruit & Vegetables


photo: Ian Baldwin

“In a time of destruction, create something.”Maxine Hong Kingston

It’s that time of year again. The lovely peach blossoms have come and gone, and our peach trees are making new leaves. But instead of looking green and healthy, they turn crinkly, red and brown.

What’s wrong with our peach trees?

They seem to be affected by a disease. The common name is ‘leaf curl’. The more technical name is ‘Taphrina deformans’. Apparently it’s a ‘fungus’ which attacks peach trees and their relatives.

Diagnosing the problem is easy. The peach leaves  look like the ones in the photo below or worse.

photo: Giancarlo Dessì

In recent weeks I’ve come across several facebook conversations about ‘how to treat leaf curl on peach trees’, and I’ve picked up various pieces of advice on ‘how to kill the fungus’.

Our peach trees have been particularly badly affected this year as well. However, having learned that everything in the garden starts with the soil, we ignore the fungus completely and treat the soil instead.

The curly leaves on the peach tree may be caused by a fungus, but the fact that the tree can’t handle the fungus can be a sign of a magnesium deficiency in the soil.

Please note: I’m not an expert on leaf curl, or peach trees, or Epsom salt. I just thought I’d share what I did because it worked. I did the same thing last spring, and our peach trees looked healthy for the rest of the year!

Last month, after noticing the first curly leaves, I sprinkled a handful of Epsom salt under each tree before watering. Yesterday, a few weeks after the first treatment, most of the curly leaves have shrivelled up and dropped off, and new healthy green leaves are growing on the peach trees. The fruit are developing fine, and I repeated the soil treatment.

Epsom salt is a magnesium salt. There is a lot of information online about the uses of Epsom salt in the garden. Here are two short extracts:

“Magnesium is critical for seed germination and the production of chlorophyll, fruit, and nuts. Magnesium helps strengthen cell walls and improves plants’ uptake of nitrogen, phosphorus, and sulfur.”

“Magnesium greatly improves a plant’s ability to produce flowers and fruit. If the soil becomes depleted of magnesium, adding Epsom salt will help; and since it poses little danger of overuse like most commercial fertilizers, you can use it safely on nearly all your garden plants.”

You can read more about Epsom salt for the garden here.


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