♦ Practical steps for control are as follows:- Where practical, caterpillars should be removed by hand. Peering within the branches of hedging has become an obsession for me.
♦ Pheromone traps can help monitor adult moth activity and are available from several suppliers including Agralan, Dragonfli and Solabiol
♦ The mixed nematode biological control sold as Fruit and Vegetable Protection has some effect on the larvae. It is a fiddly business to get right and there are no guarantees it’s going to be an effective control for the amateur to get right.
♦ Consider choosing alternatives to box plants. A somewhat drastic approach to the problem it may be, but the alternative is being on a state of annual readiness to repel fend off the caterpillars before they munch their way through your prize hedging.
Berberis darwinii ‘Compacta’, Berberis thunbergii ‘Atropurpurea Nana’, Elaeagnus × submacrophylla ‘Compacta’, Euonymus fortunei (various cultivars), Lonicera nitida ‘Maigrün’, L. nitida ‘Baggesen’s Gold’, Osmanthus delavayi, Pittosporum ‘Arundel Green’, Podocarpus ‘Chocolate Box’,Taxus baccata ‘Repandens’
Pesticide control can be effective and extensive infestations can be treated with an insecticide by thorough spray coverage of the infested hedge. Organic contact insecticides containing natural pyrethrins (e.g. Bug Clear Gun for Fruit and Veg, Ecofective Bug Killer) are available. Several applications of these short persistence products may be necessary to give good control.
More persistent contact insecticides include the synthetic pyrethroids lambda-cyhalothrin (e.g. Westland Resolva Pest Killer), deltamethrin (e.g. Provanto Ultimate Fruit and Vegetable Bug Killer) and cypermethrin (e.g. Py Bug Killer. The systemic neonicotinoid insecticide acetamiprid (e.g. Bug Clear Ultra) is also available. Please follow label instructions when using pesticides and wear the correct PPE as advised.
The Garden Centre Association says there is ‘considerable anger’ that garden centres cannot open but it is hopeful that lobbying will persuade the Government to change its mind. In the last few weeks, the B&Q Group have moved from a click and collect presence to opening some 215 stores. The B&Q Store group is unique multi layered brand with garden lines as a key feature. There has been a growing chorus of calls from gardeners such as Alan Titchmarsh, Chris Beardshaw and Peter Seabrook to allow garden centres, currently excluded, to re-open using social distancing measures to help the gardening industry. The Horticultural Trade Association is asking for a £250m compensation scheme to be set up and claims that the UK Government’s aid package simply does not work for the horticultural industry. Less than one in five growers have received help through the Government’s business support measures. Current UK Government support does not consider the total loss of annual income for growers, which is largely seasonal from March to June. Meanwhile, over three-fifths of growers (62%) said that they were not eligible for business support grants, while nearly four in five (79%) growers are not entitled to any kind of rates relief. A collapse of the growers and retailers of British plants would create a vacuum in the market leading to higher prices for the customer and a business model highly reliant on imports rather than domestically grown products.
Lavender off the menu
The concern over the possible spread of the Xyella disease has led to tighter restrictions imposed last week by Defra of plants that are susceptible to the pathogen. With immediate effect there is a blanket ban on the import of coffee plants and polygala myrtifolia, with stricter import requirements for olive, almond, nerium oleander, rosemary and lavender. The restrictions have come as the plant growing industry is paralyzed by the lockdown and the short notice meaning that home grown production of gardeners’ favourites such as rosemary and lavender will not be available for some time. The lack of notice by the government means that the production of home-grown plants will take months to fill any shortages.
For anyone hoping to hone their gardening skills during the lockdown, YouTube is a helpful site to allow keen gardeners to brush up skills and gives tutorials on a host of subjects. One issue with the internet is that there is a great deal of American information on lawn care which is sometime transferable, but we do not always use the same grass species or have the identical machinery to hand or for hire. Three of the best I can recommend include Rolawn, who give simple and effective advice, Alan Tichmarsh who appears on You Tube as guest presenter on a range of videos by Waitrose & Partners offering a host of advice on lawn care detail via YouTube. His no nonsense approach mixed with a few quips adds entertainment in what can be the most mundane of tasks such as prepping a lawn for seeding. A very sleek presentation is available through the FA website which involves the Wembley Stadium Ground staff with footage shot at the training grounds and main site pitch where the fundamentals of lawn care are generally covered.