Gardening

Horse Chestnut: [Crop, Associations, Pests and Diseases]

Important points when planting Horse Chestnut
  • Where to sow? In full light. It needs a lot of sunlight. 
  • When? fall or winter. 
  • How do we prepare the land? Removed with acid soils. PH of 6-6.5. With universal culture substrate , or one for acidophilic plants.
  • How do we water? With drip or spray. 
  • How often do we water? In summer , 3 to 4 times. The rest of the year 2 to 3 times a week. 
  • Plagues and diseases? Insects Anthracnose, chancre and chestnut ink.

The horse chestnut (Aesculus hippocastanum) is a tree that is part of the Sapindáceas family and is sometimes called «false chestnut» by some specialized books.

The reason why this is so, refers above all to the fact that the fruit it bears has a strong external similarity with those that the trees of the genus Castanea bear.

It is a majestic tree, up to 25 meters high, with a rounded crown and large leaves , divided into oval and toothed segments, and flowers grouped in characteristic pyramidal inflorescences. 

When to plant a horse chestnut?

The horse chestnut should be sown in autumn or winter, when the temperature is low, to promote good germination in spring .

It is an angiosperm species whose flowers begin to appear in spring, around April and the seeds appear in September. If they fall on the ground they can germinate easily.

Where to plant a Horse Chestnut?

In its native areas it thrives in various habitats including swamps and mixed and deciduous forests, and in the countries where it has been introduced it is mostly seen in parks and gardens .

For the sowing of the horse chestnut plant it should be placed outside , since it needs to feel the passage of the seasons. 

If possible, it should be in the sun all day, but if you live in the Mediterranean, I advise you to put it in semi-shade (as long as it has more light than shade), as it will grow better. It supports frosts down to -17 ° C, but not temperatures over 35 ° C.

How to prepare the land?

The horse chestnut can grow in any soil at a maximum altitude of 1485 meters. It prefers acid soils, with a pH of 6-6.5 and alkaline soils (pH 7) as long as it has good drainage.

If the climate is mild, with frosts and snowfalls in winter , the soil can be prepared with a universal growing substrate, or one for acidophilic plants. Otherwise, it is recommended to mix 70% akadama with 30% kiryuzuna. 

Both are substrates imported from Japan, which are normally used for bonsai, so its price is high, but it is worth placing it because it is of good quality and is special for horse chestnut.

How do we water a Horse Chestnut?

Irrigation for the lush horse chestnut must be frequent, it does not support drought. It is important to do drip or sprinkler irrigation , to maintain soil moisture without waterlogging.

During the summer, it will be necessary to water it 3-4 times a week, especially if you live in a climate with very hot summers. The rest of the year 2-3 per week will suffice. 

The use of rainwater or acidified is recommended.

How do we plant a horse chestnut step by step?

It can be sown through its seeds. To germinate they need to be cold during the winter months, so if the weather is cool, you can plant them in pots with universal substrate and let nature take its course. 

Otherwise, it is better and it is recommended to use a container with vermiculite, a little natural fungicide (copper or sulfur ), and of course with the seeds to be able to stratify them in the refrigerator for three months.

You must proceed as follows:

  1. Fill a container with vermiculite.
  2. Bury the seeds.
  3. Sprinkle a little copper or sulfur .
  4. Water.
  5. Put the container in the fridge.
  6. Once a week, open the container so that the air is renewed.
  7. After three months, the seeds will be sown in pots using, for example, vermiculite.

What favorable associations does it have?

The association of compatible plant crops produces benefits compared to their separate cultivation, in addition to the use of light, water and / or nutrients.

However, as horse chestnut is a large shrub type, it is preferable not to associate it with other plants to prevent its development from being affected.

What pests and diseases attack the Horse Chestnut?

The horse chestnut can be seriously affected by different pests and diseases that reduce its wood production .

The pests that affect the chestnut tree, for the most part, are insects that affect the foliage, the wood, the fruits, and their incidence may be higher or lower depending on the weather and conditions of the area.

Pests

Among the pests we can mention: 

Pammene fasciana

This lepidopteran is known as the precocious chestnut tortrich. In the adult state, it can reach 17 mm in wingspan, it has a vivid coloration with a gray-leaden background and a characteristic ivory-colored spot. 

Cydia splendana 

It is another tortrícido lepidoptera that in adult stage can reach a wingspan of 22 mm; typical form coloration is ash gray or brownish gray on forewings. This species can produce significant damage to the ripe fruits of horse chestnut trees.

Cydia fagiglandana

It is another tortrichid lepidopteran that can reach a wingspan of 19 mm in its adult state; the coloration of these individuals is reddish brown or orange and the forewings resemble a fish bone.

Zeuzera pyrina

This lepidopteran of the Cossidae family can reach 70 mm wingspan in adult stage, it has a silvery white color with black spots and metallic blue on the wings. 

In trees 8 to 10 years old, they can cause branch breakage as they are weakened by the galleries made by the larvae in them.

Lymantria dispar

This lepidopteran is also known as a hairy lizard. The females of this species have a large hairy body that can reach 65 mm, with a white coloration and zigzag spots.

Regarding the control of the mentioned pests , it can be said that there are no authorized chemical treatments; although there are active materials that can give good results and that are being used in other countries.

Diseases

Among the diseases that affect horse chestnut are:

Chestnut anthracnose

produced by the fungus Mycosphaerella maculiformis, which has as hosts the hardwoods in general and especially the oak and chestnut. 

Chestnut canker

Caused by Cryphonectria parasitica, it was described for the first time in Spain in the 1940s. Currently, it is the most devastating disease that affects chestnut groves in the Principality of Asturias.

Chestnut ink

It is the most important root disease that affects this hardwood. Symptoms of the disease are: rotting of the root system, yellowing of the leaves , drying of the tips of the branches and abortion of the fruits.

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