Gardening, Hedging, How To, Jorge, Pest Control

treating box blight

Ever since the 1990s, gardeners have had to witness the destruction of their natural hedging projects due to the emergence of new fungal diseases targeting Boxwood (Buxus sempervirens). This has only been exacerbated with the introduction of the Box Tree Caterpillar (Cydalima perspectalis) that began appearing in gardens since 2011. (It was likely imported from the Far East in 2008.) This has affected many famous gardens and gardeners with even Monty Don witnessing the decimation of his 15 year ornamental hedge project. The blight is so deadly that the preferred option for many gardeners is to simply destroy the affected plants, as even plants that appear to recover are often destroyed with the re-emergence of the fungus. Others have abandoned Box entirely by switching to Box alternatives. However, one need not abandon box altogether as both problems are preventable and treatable, although the blight requires great time and effort to combat. Other less common problems include: Box Rust, Box Sucker, Box leaf-mining gall midge, box red spider mite and mussel scale.

Treating Box Blight

The two most serious forms of Box blight are Cylindrocladium buxicola and Volutella buxi, which often appear together. The former is highly destructive and can kill a plant in a matter of days. It is characteristic for producing discoloured leaves that are white on the underside with brown lesions on the top. In humid conditions, the fungus may result in black streaks on stems. The latter turns leaves yellow, darkening them to a shade of tan. How they enter the plant is also different as the Cylindrocladium enters through leaf cuticles in humid weather, while the Volutella requires a cut leaf surface. Both diseases are treated together with the same methods, although favourable growing conditions may allow the Box to recover from the Volutella without such an intervention.

Treating Box Blight is difficult, but can be done, although there is no guarantee of success, and it may be preferable to simply burn the affected box to safeguard the rest. Key is to prevent further contamination through disinfecting your tools, along with your clothes and boots that sticky spores can attach. We recommend that you use liquid copper to clean your tools. (It will kill the spores.) Now with the affected plant, it will need to be hard pruned in the affected areas, the branches burnt. The cut areas will then need to be treated with fungicides that contain tebuconazole or tebuconazole and trifloxystrobin. Any leaf debris should be picked up and destroyed and the top layer of soil removed and replaced. (Spores can stay in the soil for a whopping six years!) We recommend that you do not use fertiliser, as high nitrogen produces vulnerable growth. Instead, mushroom compost can be used as mulch to provide aeration and better microorganism balance. Finally, important to note is how the diseases are suited to humid conditions where air movement is restricted. Therefore it may be necessary to open up the compact framework of your box – a process known as halting clipping.

If you are unaffected by blight yet, or wish to prevent blight from entering new areas of the garden, prevention is better than adaption. When bringing in new box keep it quarantined and watch for symptoms. To do this, you can either leave it for six weeks untouched, or create humid conditions and leave it for 3 weeks. As the fungus thrives in such conditions, the blight will appear by then. (Sadly, some nurseries use fungicides to hide such symptoms, so it is necessary to be cautious.) Again, preventing humidity is key, and can be achieved through watering at the base of the plant rather than at the foliage, and by positioning the Box away from overhanging plants. Also important is not to clip when rain is forecast, or the plants wet. Finally, it is recommended that you provide adequate ventilation for better airflow, spacing the Box around 30 cm apart from each other.

A Look to the Future

buxus

For now it appears that box blight will run rampant over gardeners’ painstaking creations, but there are a number of blight resistant cultivars being developed in Europe that should appear on the market in a few years.

Treating Box Rust

Box rust (Puccinia buxi) is another common problem that affects Box and is symptomatic for orange pustules on both sides of the leaves. It is usually harmless and is treated through cutting off the affected areas or using fungicides for rust diseases such as tebuconazole, tebuconazole with trifloxystrobin and triticonazole.

Stopping the Box Tree Caterpillar

stop box caterpillar

The Box Tree Caterpillar can leave patches of dieback much like box blight, and is distinctive for patches of webbing and frass droppings. Young Caterpillars are greenish-yellow with black heads, while the older ones have thick black and thin white stripes along the body and are up to 4cm long. Like most insects, they are most active during the warmer months, but can overwinter in webbing spun between leaves. To deal with them, they can either be picked off by hand, or dealt with insecticides that include ingredients such as pyrethrum, deltamethrin, lambda-cyhalothrin, and acetamiprid. (It is recommended that you do not spray plants in flower as this could deter potential pollinators.) Like box blight, prevention is preferable to adaptation so it is recommended that you check new plants in nurseries.

Other Box Problems Caused by Insects

  • The Box Sucker (Psylla buxi) can distort your box by turning the leaves into mini-cabbages. (Oh, No!) The insects suck the Box’s sap and leave chemicals that retard new growth. It is not usually serious, but can be controlled with the above insecticides and clipping.
  • The box leaf-mining gall midge (Monarthropalpus flavus) effects Box through causing a yellowish discoloration of the leaves. This discolouration is caused by the fly’s larvae that hatch and feed inside the foliage. It is, again, unserious and not usually worth treatment.
  • Mussel scale (Lepidosaphes ulmi) are tiny mussel shaped sap-sucking insects that usually attach to bark, but on occasion will appear on leaves. Small infestations are not worth treating, but larger infestations can be treated with the above insecticides or organic sprays such plant oils. Such treatments are best applied in May and June when the next generation is emerging and vulnerable.  
  • The box red spider mite (Eurytetranychus buxi) is another sap-sucker that feeds on the undersides of leaves, causing a fine white mottling. While the mites are difficult to exterminate, they do not seriously damage the plant; the bugs can be treated with fatty acids and plant oil sprays applied continuously in five day intervals until the all the life-cycles of mites are wiped out.

Have you had trouble with box blight? We’d love to hear how you coped. Post in the comments below!

Jorge at PrimroseJorge works in the Primrose marketing team. He is an avid reader, although struggles to stick to one topic!

His ideal afternoon would involve a long walk, before settling down for scones.

Jorge is a journeyman gardener with experience in growing crops.

See all of Jorge’s posts.

How To, Pest Advice, Pest Control

Most gardeners might find the presence of birds in their garden very relaxing and interesting. It’s lovely to hear them singing and they are a great help with insect control.

But sometimes birds can become pests themselves, causing more harm than good! Tired of big birds scaring away other wildlife? Fed up of cleaning bird mess off your patio? Here are some helpful precautions you can take to be free of birds in your garden.

 Keep birds away from garden

1. Removing Food Sources

Stop attracting birds to your garden by removing or protecting any food sources. If you grow your own fruit or have put down seeds recently, consider covering your crops with netting so birds can’t ruin your efforts.

If you’re still keen on regular visits from smaller birds, try using hanging feeders. Larger birds such as pigeons find it  difficult to get the food so will give up. Alternatively, if you are using a flat table feeder, try putting a hanging basket dome upside down on the table so only smaller birds can reach the seeds.

2. Ultrasonic Repellers

One modern and very effective way of scaring birds away is by using an ultrasonic repeller. They give out an output that birds can hear and will deter them from resting in the area. Different ultrasonic repellers allow you to change the frequency of the ultrasonic output meaning it will not affect people or any pets within the house, but will still stop the birds.

pestbye bird repeller

3. Anti Bird Spikes

Anti bird spikes are easy to lay and can be placed anywhere such as window sills, guttering and fencing. It will stop larger birds from perching and soiling the garden. They are long lasting and and are blunt at the tips so will not cause any harm to birds. Anti bird spikes can be made from different materials, the most popular being a translucent polycarbonate which helps with blending into the surroundings so they don’t cause too much of an eye sore.

4. Bird Proof Gel

Bird proof gel is a tacky substance that can be applied to anywhere that birds will try to rest such as fence tops and window sills. Gel works similarly to anti bird spikes in that it makes perching on ledges very uncomfortable to birds due to the sticky effect. It does not harm the birds and is very discreet compared to spikes, so could be used as a more efficient alternative.

bird in garden

5. Bird Distress Calls

Another way of keeping birds away is to play recordings of bird distress calls or predator calls. Birds are very sensitive to sound so when they hear these calls they instinctively leave the area as they think they are in danger.

6. Visual Deterrents

Decoys and scarers such as figures or statues of larger birds or animals might intimidate birds into leaving the area. You can also use objects that move in the wind such as scare rods or wind chimes, simply hang them up and the wind does the job.

bird scarer
Have a go at making your own windmills or wind chimes! It is a fun activity for children and is very effective in scaring birds away, with a bonus of adding a bit of colour and decoration to your garden.

 

Animals, Composting, Geoff, How To, Insects, Ponds, Spiders, Wildlife

wildlife friendly garden

Wildlife is often synonymous with countryside and rural areas but wherever you are situated, why not encourage some vibrant wildlife into your own garden? With spring now fully in motion, become one with Mother Nature and bring your garden to life with the following tips:

Long Grass
Although it is tempting to neaten up your lawn for the summer, by leaving sections of long grass in your garden you pave the way for butterflies and ladybirds to easily lay eggs and inhabit. Also, remember to allow dandelions to flower as these attract bees – just remember to cut them before they turn to seed heads or they will infest your entire garden!

Bird Boxes and Feeders
Bird boxes and feeders are a great way to attract different types of birds, some of which you may have never seen. Situate these in sheltered sites out of reach of predators, and be sure to put out protein-rich feed during the spring, while they are feeding their young and seed in the winter. Another good tip is to place your bird box or feeder near dense bushes allowing smaller birds such as blue tits to feed while providing cover from cats.

Insect Hotel
Most insects aren’t fancy; a pile of rocks or rotting wood will do just the job. A quiet space with plenty of leaves, twigs and anything they can hide under will be just the habitat for insects to thrive.  If you want to give them a luxurious safe haven, turn it into a project like our user Kingston has done with their fantastic bug garden! Alternatively, cutting bundles of drinking straws, hollow canes or plant stems and placing them in suitable areas works well when creating a living space for these critters.

Pond
All creatures in your garden need a source of water, so why not make a pond! If you need some tips on how to make one from scratch we suggest you take a read of our handy guide. For those of you without the space or time, you can simply bury a shallow bucket or stone basin, just be sure to leave some shrubs and twigs to allow frogs and similar creatures to get in and out. To be fully self-sufficient, you could even use rainwater collected in a water butt to fill up your pond.

Compost
It’s always good to keep a compost area or bin in your garden, not only for wildlife but also for the good of your plants. They are a great habitat for worms, woodlice, frogs and spiders which are all useful for the ecosystem in your garden – typically attracting larger animals such as birds and hedgehogs. Be sure to turn your compost every week to aerate your soil, a pitchfork or compost aerator will do the job. This gives your compost an influx of oxygen and speeds up the decomposition time.

Fruit Trees and Bushes
Fruit trees not only attract great wildlife but also provide you with fruit to grow and eat yourselves. During the spring time, fruit trees such as apple and pear trees flower, providing a sweet source of nutrients for many pollinating insects such as honeybees. Furthermore, once the fruit begins to fall in the autumn, this becomes great grub for birds and insects alike.

Weeds
Before you go and clear your entire garden, be mindful of long term benefits to some weeds. Plants such as buttercups, daisies and foxgloves flower over a long period of time and are a great source of pollen. These can grow in the harshest of growing conditions and attract many beneficial predators to your garden so consider leaving a section in your garden to keep pests such as aphids in check!

Like weeds, there may be some forms of wildlife that you’d prefer to keep out of your garden. Learn how to get rid of rats and other pests.

 

GeoffGeoff works within the Primrose marketing team, primarily on anything related to graphics and design.

He loves to keep up with the latest in music, film and technology whilst also creating his own original art and his ideal afternoon would be lounging in a sunny garden surrounded by good food, drink and company provided there is a football nearby.

While not an expert, his previous job involved landscaping so he’s got some limited experience when gardening.

See all of Geoff’s posts.

Animals, How To, Pest Advice, Pest Control, Spiders

A video has surfaced on social media, reminding us of our great fear of spiders (scroll down to see it – it’s a great watch). In late summer/ autumn, there is an abundance of our eight legged friends, who seem to appear from nowhere.  For the majority of us, these cause minor heart attacks, and we do anything to rid of them. Thankfully there are various ways to rid of spiders, so fear not. Also, if you’re reading this and you’re in the UK, the chances of you seeing a poisonous spider are very, very low so please don’t worry.

Electronic Repeller – a modern way to repel spiders, electronic repellers work through simply plugging the device in a plug socket and emitting sound waves to deter spiders. The ultrasonic wave frequencies (which are distributed per room) are uncomfortable for spiders, but inaudible to humans, children and pets. Electromagnetic wave devices operate throughout the whole house via the wiring of your house (but electric devices aren’t affected).

Hand held catchers – coming in the form of a hoover or a brush, hand held catchers are a humane, simple method to manually remove spiders you see hiding in the corners of your room or underneath furniture. Depending on which device you use, you simply extend the catcher arm, catch the spider and then release it elsewhere (say at the very back of your garden).

Sprays – used as a preventative method, sprays are an effective and humane way to form a natural barrier to prevent spiders from arriving in the first place. Ideally you should spray where you think a cobweb will form ie window frames or doorways.

Webs – similar to sprays, removing the source of the issue is a good preventative method. By removing the spider’s home, they will be forced to locate elsewhere (and yes this might mean elsewhere in your house if you’re really unlucky). If you notice a web with a spider on it, wear gloves and place both the web and the spider in the garden if you’re feeling brave.

Cobweb, Network, Networking, Nature, Close, Lichtspiel

 

Homemade – although one of the most common ways to rid of a spider you see, it can be a challenge for those with a huge fear of arachnids. You will need a piece of paper and a glass for this homemade method.  Simply place a glass or cup over the spider, slip the piece of paper under the glass (ensuring the spider doesn’t escape) and carry until you reach somewhere far, far away from your house (or the back of your garden maybe).

Let us know how you plan to rid of creepy crawlies from your house!

AmieAmie is a marketing enthusiast, having worked at Primrose since graduating from Reading University in 2014.

She enjoys all things sport. A keen football fan, Amie follows Tottenham Hotspur FC, and regularly plays for her local 5 a side football team.

To see the rest of Amie’s posts, click here.

 

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