handy helpers

Fruit Pest and Disease Control

There is nothing quite like the taste of fresh fruit straight from the garden.  Add to this the satisfaction and sense of achievement, the savings, the knowledge that your fruit is free of pesticides and you have some very powerful reasons for growing your own.

This brochure recommends pest and disease control through the use of good practice, resistant varieties and low toxicity environmentally friendly products.


Pest & Disease Control in Fruit

The organic gardening philosophy is to let nature take its course, for all organisms to live in balance and therefore accept a level of pest and disease damage.

However most gardeners want to harvest good crops relatively free of pests and diseases, grown in a safe and environmentally sustainable manner.

This brochure guides the home gardener to methods of pest and disease control that best suits their needs, taking into account -

  • Good yields, relatively free of pests and diseases.
  • Using best garden practices to minimise pests and diseases.
  • Using only safe environmentally friendly products.
  • Using products that are commonly available in home garden size packs and are legally registered for the purpose stated.

Minimising Pest & Diseases

Using good basic gardening practices to minimise pests and diseases is common to all gardeners, whether conventional or organic. In simple terms—providing the best growing conditions to ensure a strong healthy crop.

The following are the simple basics -

  • In heavy soils, raise the planting area above the surrounding soil to ensure good drainage.
  • Add lots of compost and work into the soil.
  • Mulching with compost, grass clippings (free from any spray residue), or straw holds in moisture and improves soil structure.
  • Provide adequate balanced feeding—sheep manure pellets or a fruit tree fertiliser.
  • Provide good deep watering in dry periods.
  • Practice good garden hygiene by removing all diseased leaves and plants.

Using Disease Resistant Varieties

Whilst a few ‘Heritage’ varieties may have disease resistance, there are a range of modern varieties likely to be better. Using disease resistant varieties will ensure better crops and greatly minimise the need to use fungicides.

Ask your garden centre advisor for varieties that are best suited to your area and resistant to disease.

Using Biological Controls

Biological control involves using another living organism to attack the bad one. This is becoming common with commercial growers, but these organisms are not available to home gardeners.

What can be done however is to endeavour to use only pesticides that are soft on desirable insects such as bees, ladybirds and predator mites.

Using Pesticides

If good gardening practices are followed and disease resistant varieties used, the use of pesticides can be minimised.

There is a range of  very low toxicity, environmentally friendly pesticides available to home gardeners. Also, be aware that some pesticides are toxic—both chemical and natural organic. Being natural organic doesn’t necessarily make it safe.

Prevention is better than cure. Once you have gained experience and are aware of what pests and/or diseases attack which crops, you will be able to anticipate and spray at the first sign, which is more effective and minimises pesticide use.

Follow recommended spray programmes for each type of fruit,
especially the early season preventative sprays

Always read the label


  • The label is a legal document for registered pesticides.
  • Take normal precautions when handling concentrates during mixing.
  • Wash hands thoroughly after using.
  • Store out of reach of children.

What To Use

Fruits are susceptible to attack from a greater range of pests and diseases than vegetables.

There are also a number of complicating issues -

  • Different pests and diseases attack different fruits.
  • Most pesticides are only approved for use on some fruits.
  • There is also significant variation in the effectiveness of pesticides.
  • Withholding periods also vary between pesticides and between different fruits.

There are generally three choices for which type of pesticide you can use — ‘organic’, ‘environmentally friendly’ or other pesticides approved for use.

Pesticides vary greatly in effectiveness.

Whilst organic pesticides are usually safer (but not always) they are generally less effective.

Synthetic pesticides approved for home garden use are very low in toxicity compared to commercially available pesticides. So much so, that they are often less toxic and more environmentally friendly than an organic equivalent. 

Withholding Period

The NZ Food Safety  Authority has set withholding periods for each pesticide, and particular crop. 

The withholding period is the period that must elapse between spraying and harvesting, and is on the label of each product.

Most home garden pesticides have withholding periods of 3 to 14 days. Always check the label.