The Cottage Smallholder

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Fretting about tomato blight

tomatoes ripeningI woke at four this morning fretting about our tomatoes. It has been the same for the last three nights.

We sleep right under the eaves. When it rains, we can hear the gentle patter of rain drops on the roof and a whispery tinkling into the gutter. In the winter, snuggled up with Danny under the giant duvet, it’s a comforting sound. In the summer, with the prospect of blight, it’s a sound that instantly chills me to the bone.

I am a bit of an ostrich when it comes to bad news. I have been known to avoid opening bank statements for months. As a child, I used to post my mother’s household bills into the drain on the main road outside our house, temporarily delaying her tears. One day she discovered my trick and was tickled by my strategy. Although she explained that the bills turn red and get you in the end, I still think drain covers when a big bill eases through our small letterbox and flops onto the mat.

Early this morning I considered creeping downstairs and examining my tomato plants with a magnifying glass. But the lure of a few more hours of sleep won and I turned over, only to dream about tomato blight.

I checked the main tomato growing area on my way to work. A quick peek first and then a lengthy examination. A few darkening leaves (removed) but no brown black stems. I also discovered that we have ripening tomatoes.

We were lucky. Our tomato plants got blight so early in the season that I was able to replace most of the plants. But I made a big mistake.

I planted the replacements in the same grow bags which probably are still harbouring the tomato blight spores. An extended period of wet warm weather could kill my plants. I have welcomed the chilly evenings these past few nights and pulled on a sweater with a whoop of joy. Eccentric behaviour for August. Unless you are a tomato grower.

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  1. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pete,

    Fingers crossed that we will have a better summer next year.

  2. Thanks for the advice. I don’t think I could bear to watch them all die again next year!

  3. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pete,

    Poor you losing all your toms. They need a lot of care and attention so when your future harvest is knocked out it hurts.

    A very hard winter would kill the spores in your greenhouse if you leave the door open. This seems unlikely but you never know!

    There are sprays available – largely non organic. Although the organic sites do point to a weaker solution of Bordeaux Mixture as being OK. There are loads of comments and ideas within the comments on our first tomato blight post
    Which are well worth reading as every route, organic and non organic seems to have been tried with reports back as to the results. A sort of mini forum.

    We have had a tomato harvest (5 kilos from 12 vines) without sprays but it has been hands on every morning and evening (removing all leaves/plants with evidence of blight) and it has been a lot of extra work. Under normal conditions we’d expect 1 kilo per vine at the end of the season with loads of toms plucked for six weeks or so as they ripen.

  4. My sympathy goes out to you re the potato blight on tomotoes. This year I grew 6 Marmande plants in grow bags in my Greenhouse. Because I had a cucumber in the greenhouse as well I misted regularly for humidity. Big mistake!. Blight ravaged through the tomatoes and killed them in 2 days flat. My son rushed out and picked all the fruit but to no avail. It all blackened literally before our eyes!

    I destroyed the plants and took the grow bags down the tip, rather than use them as mulch. I will sweep out the Greenhouse, but, can anyone advise me as to whether I should attempt to disinfect the whole interior? Should I spray it with bleach, Jays Fluid or similar? Or will the winter simply kill off any remaining spores in what will be a dry atmosphere under glass? Thanks.

  5. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Frankie,

    Loads of people do this as they are the same family. What a shame to lose them. The RHS book of plant diseases is now permanently beside my computer this year, having hardly been opened before.

    We have had a terrible year with our veg. I am just going out to plant some salad stuff and winter spinach. The toms are still clinging on, at the mo, I keep on pulling off blighty leaves.

  6. Frankie

    Mine all got blight – I had foolishly planted them next to the potatoes!

  7. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat,

    Thanks for dropping by. I do hope that my toms survive this wet period. It is like October here!

    Hi Kate(uk)

    At least everyone else in the village will be in the same boat (show wise). Vut it is so disappointing. We are supposed to be getting some sun on Friday. I have noted down the name Tiny Elf to try next year. Thanks.

  8. Kate(uk)

    I know that 4 am feeling- currently fretting over having enough of anything for the village show on Saturday.If only we had some sun I might have some veg and flowers, but no, rain,rain,rain and really cold wind. By the way,the baby plum tomato that didn’t get blight in my greenhouse was called Tiny Elf. It needs to be left to be really,really ripe for the flavour to develop properly, but is a copious fruiter. Sleep well, I’ll be thinking of you when I’m awake willing my sunflowers to bloom in time, the slugs to leave my custard squashes alone and my dahlias not to rot!

  9. Fiona, best of luck with the tomatoes!!! And I hope they don’t get the blight.

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