What to Do About Leaf Curl


Leaf curl will be showing up in your stonefruit about now – spring being the time when fungus comes out to play. My preference is to eliminate trees that religiously go down with severe leaf curl year on year – it signals to me, that they aren’t well suited to my place. For the ease of all, I’d rather discover another that loves it and grows with ease.

All in all, I like to keep it simple and natural

  • choose the right variety that matches conditions well
  • take the time to build diversity and soil strength
  • use mixed, woody mulches to drive a strong fungal network
  • don’t use artificial fertilisers, manure or other strong food – trees don’t need it! And overfeeding causes – you guessed it – fungal infections.
  • don’t use fungicides – they wipe out all the beneficial fungi which leaves the tree wide open to pathogenic fungi
  • and most of all, don’t panic when those leaves start to bubble and curl. They look ugly as, but truly – they ain’t no thing my friends.

Vulnerable situations

Newly planted hazelnut

There are 2.

Young trees are more prone, especially if they are in new gardens. Lots will go awry because the beneficial soil life support networks aren’t yet in place, but they are coming! As your system grows in strength, your trees may well overcome the leaf curl.

So too, a garden that is transitioning from being sprayed + fed artifical fert, to a natural system – this is huge transition and balance will come, but once again, takes time.

In both cases, keep your cool and wait it out. Trust the process and keep steadily building your beautiful garden.

Tonic Support

river peach tree blossoming in october
A healthy diverse orchard doesn’t need alot of care once established

Biological sprays are the cats pajama.

Mix together EM Garden 1 OR aerated compost tea + liquid seaweed OR fish hydroslate. Spray on as often as weekly for new gardens or trees under a full on infection.

The simple truth is this – whoever holds space wins. If your trees are covered in healthy biology, theres no room for pathogens. So create the environment and bring the biology!

If your tree has a full on infection, it’ll defoliate. In which case it’ll kick into high gear to produce another set of leaves to support the fruits. That’s a bit of a load, aye – churning out new leaves and new fruits at the same time, when it’s already poured a heap of energy into that first set of leaves. Being under resourced like this adds pressure, which is some tonic support is cool. Thinning your fruit hard, when the time comes will also help by reducing the demand on the tree. Send your tree encouraging positive vibes – don’t worry so much, its totally got this.


  1. Tony Winter says

    Wonderful advise & thanks for the Moonlight Organics connection as I am having a battle at present to get the Thames Market concessionaires to accept Bio-Bags composting system as well as the shopping bag option. Now there is a far bigger & more dramatic option for agriculture , market gardening mulching film – what a breakthrough!!!

    • Yes, such good products! High levels of patience required when you’re trying to change a mindset. An easy solution usually takes people forward in leaps and bounds. All the best here

  2. For me, the best way to avoid leaf curl is to choose disease resistant varieties. I have not seen leaf curl on my black boy or hiawatha peach trees. Both trees are productive.

    • Yes excellent advice Liz – variety plays a big part here. Different climates suits different varieties so a great way to go is to chat with local gardeners to find ones that work in your hood and when you do grow your own tree from a stone for the ultimate leaf curl resistance!

  3. Its hard for growers to say whether or not leaf curl will impact in different environments – it may well be sweet for them but alot comes down to your soil, how active beneficial fungi are in your soil and of course rain and spring temps… peaches and especially dwarf ones are always going to have a problem with leaf curl in high rainfall + cool springs except perhaps for for blackboy and the little river peach. Your other trees wont necessarily ‘catch’ it… if they are in good health and well placed they’ll will be fine, its a bit like how some people get the flu and some dont if you know what I mean! I cant make the remove call for you sorry, just follow your heart here – theres no right or wrong.
    To find varieties to suit your garden check in with neighbours or garden clubs or community gardens to find varieties that work in your hood.

  4. Thanks for that, just the advice we needed as our tomcot, fantasia nectarine and wiggins peach trees are all hammered with leaf curl. Seaweed tonic coming up. Love the idea of hanging kelp in the branches.

    • Tracey Bonnington says

      Hi Kath, my newly planted Peach got leaf curl last year. I sprayed it 2-3x a week with Apple Cider Vinegar diluted in water 1/16 and within 3-4 weeks got a new growth of beautiful leaves free of the curl.
      Not sure if that was coincidental….
      So great to see your success my friend
      Tracey xx

      • Thanks Tracey 🙂 Oh yes thanks so much for sharing this – I have read about it but not done it yet and indeed no accident it seems to work wonders. I’ll include it in my post. much love Kath x

  5. John Notley says

    Hi Kath,

    Maybe this will help someone.

    I had a bad leaf curl problem with my dwarf stone fruit and because the trees are close to the house, spraying with copper was awkward because it stained the paintwork.

    I did some reading about how the conidia get onto the young leaves. It appears to be raindrops splashing from the bark where they overwinter, so I decided to cover the dwarf trees from late winter until the leaves have emerged. Plastic sheeting worked well for a roof and sides, and the bees could still get in to do their thing.

    Three years later and without any spraying, the only leaf curl I get is where there are holes in the plastic sheet, and the occasional branch that pokes out past the walls.

    It’s not really practical for larger trees, but for dwarf ones it’s worked a treat. I imagine espaliered stone fruit would be easy to cover, too.

    I bought your book a few years back after hearing you talk to Kim Hill. It’s fantastic. Thanks for the great advice.


    • Thanks so much John – yes covering to avoid rain splash is indeed the cure all. I dream of an umbrella type structure that can go up or down according with the weather. It seems while I draem, you’ve built it! love your observation, interaction and solution here …. and your sharing of it too! Love Kath

  6. Jill McIsaac says

    Hello Kath,

    Stuck with leaf curl and on reading your advice I’m assuming the seaweed tonic is watered in not sprayed on the tree. Plan to get some kelp to hang down in the future and perhaps cover the espaliered fruit though the plums dont seem so susceptible. Thankyou for your very helpful website.
    Cheers, Jill.

    • Leaf curls a tricky old thing. If theres not too much on the tree I’m not so worried and yes our plums are the same as yours but for others they get hammered. Liquid seaweed is sprayed all over, add EM for a bit extra. Or try cider vinegar – it is I think you’ll find a bit of magic. Or a comment above, add lime or woodash – presuming to the soil but I’ll find out more!

  7. Hi Kath
    I’ve found adding lime and wood ash sorts leaf curl in a few days. Saw idea from 1940s magazine
    Are you coming to Palmerston North with your new book? ( I love it)

    • Thanks so much! Are you dusting the soil beneath the tree? Would love to know more! Be such a great help for everybody.
      We are on again off again with the Palmy launch in our covid world – oneday perhaps it may happen 🙂

  8. Jill McIsaac says

    Hello again Kath, I,m stuck with what EM is please..?

  9. Melissa Savage says

    Kia ora Kath
    Just got your book is a fantastic help for a first time gardener! So I’m in a new place this spring and the nectarine tree has leaf curl very badly – I did the seaweed tonic but am wondering about trying cider vinegar although there are a number of small fruits already. Is it okay to spray the fruit as well?
    Thanks Mel

    • Hey Mel – this is a new thing for me using vinegar, but so far so good. I’m super excited by it, and a bit sad I didnt learn it until after the book was published 🙂 New fruits will be fine ok. Use 1 tablespoon per litre is the measure I’m doing. I spray in the evening but have other customers tell me they spray after rain and others in the morning and all work wonders so take your pick. Observe what happens and trust what you see. The more I look into it the better cider vinegar seems for all types of fungal problems – it makes me wonder how copper sprays ever came about! Love Kath

  10. Mike Stewart-Jacks says

    Hi Kath, during a visit to an orchard at the Taranaki Garden Festival recently the owner said he had driven Copper nails in the limbs of the trees a number of years ago and this has cured the Leaf-curl problem. Have you heard of this one?

  11. Bridget Farndale says

    Hi Kath,
    Yesterday, I found leaf curl on my little dwarf nectarine tree that I had proudly planted last year. Today I saw and read your article suggesting Cider Vinegar. I was motivated to stop my reading and get onto it straight away. Nothing ventured, nothing gained. Thank you for the idea.

    • Hi Kath .- When finally we were allowed to travel to our 1 year old fruit trees, after Lockdown, I discovered leaf curl in the peaches and nectarines. Following the apple cider vinegar suggestion above, I applied it twice 2 weeks apart. And removed affected leaves. Now, a month later, the leaf curl has all but disappeared. Just the odd leaf which I remove. Trees are looking very healthy. I didn’t have a serious outbreak, but ACV seems to have been effective.. Thanks for passing on the suggestion.

  12. Richard Roberts says

    Hi Kath,
    I have got hydrolysed fish fertiliser but I’m not sure whether I should dilute it before applying fore soil improvement. Any advice would be appreciated.
    Richard Roberts

  13. Hi Kath,
    Just wondering if the liquid from my Bokashi bin would work in lieu of EM? I was going to make up a mix with seaweed tonic. And would this be okay to spray on the fruit?
    Thanks for your awesome blog, its super useful.