With the temperatures beginning to drop overnight but it’s still warm in the autumn sunshine after the drizzle or torrential down pours, it’s important to keep your eyes open in the garden. Unlike last years very dry conditions this year we are experiencing the near perfect conditions as far as box blight, Cylindrocladium buxicola, is concerned.
With reports already coming in from Yorkshire and Gloucestershire you should keep your eyes peeled for browning in the middle of the leaves that then spreads outwards, after which, if action isn’t taken, the leave fall off the plants.
But don’t panic if you see the problem, just take swift action and follow these simple rules:
Spray the visibly affected area and at least a metre either side of the infection with a fungicide:
- Bayer Fungus Fighter Plus – supplied pre-mixed in a sprayer suitable for small areas
- Bayer Fungus Fighter Concentrate – use when larger areas need to be treated as it will be more cost effective and you’ll use less single use plastic by not throwing away the sprayers
- Topbuxs Health Mix (generally used for ongoing control but can help during an outbreak)
- Other sprays like Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra & Scotts Fungus Clear Ultra Gun also fight similar fungal issues but don’t list box blight specifically
- Make sure you clear away any fallen leaves from around the plants as the leaves harbour the spores that cause re-infection (spores can survive for up to 6 years in the leaves) *
- After spraying cut out affected areas
- The amount to be removed depends on the level of infection but cut further than appears to be infected and don’t wait for the normal pruning time of year
- For server infections you may need to cut back to a few inches from the ground
- Make sure you don’t touch uninfected areas of the plants after touching infected sections
- Clean your tools when moving between plants using a diluted bleach solution (5-10% bleach/water mix – wipe off after cleaning)
Whilst it is near impossible to fully prevent blight, you can do a lot to reduce the chance of box plants getting infected by following these tips:
- Keep your plants healthy – a healthy plant will have more strength to fight off infections
- Keep your tools clean – spores are sticky and will cling more easily to dirty tools – always clean them up at the end of the day to avoid build up of resin on the blades and regularly spray or dunk (and wipe off) tools in a cleaning solution during use
- Clear away all leaves and debris after clipping particularly around the base and inside the plants
* Garden debris can be composted as long as the compost heap reaches 60c. If you are worried yours doesn’t achieve this sort of temperature, it is OK to put blight affected material in your council garden waste collection. The material collected is composted at over 60c to make sure pernicious weed seeds and fungus are killed off before the compost is sold.
Box Tree Caterpillar - Spray now for a caterpillar free spring
The last wave of box moths have nearly finished their flights which means the females have been laying eggs. These will hatch soon and the small caterpillars will start to eat the underside of the leaf the eggs were laid on. If nothing is done, these caterpillars will grow to a little under a centimetre before the temperature drops below 8c at which point they will wrap themselves up between two leaves and go into a state of diapause ready to wake up in the spring and devour all the new young leaf growth.
It is therefore key to kill off as many box tree caterpillars as possible at this time of year so that your box plants are free from caterpillars through to mid-May when the first batch of moths, from other peoples gardens, start laying eggs again.