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Organic Box Blight Treatment using Beneficial Microbes

Updated on June 1, 2016

Box Blight Pictures

What does Box Blight look like?
What does Box Blight look like? | Source

What does Box Blight look like?

Box Blight affects Box, Buxus Sempervirens and is caused by two fungal diseases, Cylindrocladium buxicola and Pseudonectria buxi, resulting in bare patches and dieback (shown in the image to the right).

Cylindrocladium buxicola mainly affects species of Box (Buxus), but will also attack other related genus, such as Sarcococca, whereas Peudonectria buxi only affects Box.

Identifying features of box blight are dark brown spots on the leaves and black streaks running along the stems, this then causes the plants to defoliate and the stems to dieback. This disease is not fussy about the conditions it requires to infect plants, but its spores will spread via splash back from infected leaves, around or within the plant; and it is not affected by the cold.

How to Prevent and Control Box Blight

Controlling box blight in the garden is a tricky problem because there are no fungicides for this disease available on the market.

Therefore, by doing the following, it will help to keep these diseases at bay.

  • Remove all dead material within the plant (this will encourage good air flow through the plant, especially box hedges and topiary).
  • Feed with an organic fertilizer with a broad spectrum of nutrients to encourage strong healthy growth. (Box are heavy feeders).
  • Apply organic compost around the base of your box hedge or topiary.
  • Avoid trimming before rain is due to avoid spores splashing into open wounds.
  • Avoid overhead watering after trimming too.
  • Keep shears and hedge trimmers clean.
  • Treat affected box hedges and topiary with Actiferm.

Actiferm is an organic treatment that contains Effective Microorganism, a liquid cocktail of beneficial microorganisms that help to suppress any infection and increases nutrient availability for the hedge etc.

Box Blight

Box Blight Before Treatment
Box Blight Before Treatment | Source

Box Blight Treatment

Box Blight After Treatment
Box Blight After Treatment | Source

Box Blight - Box Hedge Restored

Case Study of Organic Treatment For Box Blight

During the autumn of 2013 I was asked to look at a couples box hedge that was dieing back and as you can see in the pictures, I agreed that this was the case.

I informed the couple that there were no fungicides available on the market for the amateur gardener and inline with my philosophy of preventing diseases with nutrition and adopting an holistic approach, I suggested that there was an alternative solution to this problem.

Working on the basis that plants only fall ill or succumb to any disease when they are under stress because of the lack of nutrition, it is therefore necessary to apply a broad spectrum of nutrients including trace elements.

My treatment plan starts with a soil test to establish current soil nutrient levels, because it is an imbalance of soil nutrients that allow infections to take hold as plants are unable to produce the necessary plant structures and chemicals to protect themselves.

Once I have established the current nutrient levels, I then prescribed an appropriate fertilizer mix to bring the nutrient levels up where they should be, plus an organic fertilizer that includes seaweed fertilizer, rock dust and worm casts. I also recommend the use of EM or Effective Microorganisms to help suppress the box blight disease on and around the plant, and to encourage better nutrient recycling in the soil.

The above treatment plan was duly applied in the autumn of 2013 and the results of this treatment have become evident during late spring 2014. As you will see from the pictures and the video that the box hedge is now fully recovered and you can see regrowth in areas previously affected by box blight.

The couple of this particular box hedge are extremely pleased that they didn't have dig-up the hedge and replace it.

Here is a quote from them “When the Box Blight struck, we were all set to follow Monty Don’s example and dig up the box hedging and burn it. But following a soil test and application of the recommended minerals, GrowBest and Effective Microorganisms; the hedging has fully recovered and is now healthier than it has ever been. We can’t thank you enough for your help and guidance”

I have since, also successfully restored a number of other box hedges.

by Alistair Olver

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