The Cottage Smallholder

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Tomato Blight

tomato blight on stems and leavesWe have blight. When we were rushing out yesterday evening I spotted it on three tomato plants. Large blackish brownish splodges and a generally wilty look. It is unmistakeable. We had it five years ago and it devastated our tomato crop within days.

At the time we were creating a website for an expert on plant diseases. The fee was to be paid in whisky. Danny must have negotiated this deal.

The expert arrived with a rather good bottle of Isla whisky under his arm. He was immediately shepherded out to examine the tomatoes.
“Its blight. Just like potato blight. They’re the same family.”

It was hard to discuss his website. We were mourning the loss of a summer plucking sun warmed fruit from the plant and a long winter savouring our intense tomato sauce base. A good harvest makes enough sauce to last us through the winter until June.

We lost our entire crop that year. Now I grow tomatoes in at least two places. The blight has affected the plants at the front on a sunny south west facing wall. Usually the warmth of the wall nurtures the plants but warm and extended wet weather conditions are perfect for the development of tomato blight. I have hoiked out the plants and am hoping the blight spores will not have spread onto the other 12 plants. The blight affected the weakest plants, the others all look strong and healthy. If the wet weather continues for much longer I am afraid that they all will succumb.

The remaining plants could be treated with Bordeaux Mixture which was developed in France to treat fungal disease in vines. A lot of people spray their potatoes with this potion to protect against blight. It is a copper and lime mixture that is not environmentally friendly, so I am loathe to use it on our tomato plants.

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  1. Just steep the leaves in boiling water that has sat for a bit. They say not to use right from the pot boiling water with herbs because it can destroy the properties of the oils, so I would imagine same goes for the tomato leaves.

    You know the strong smell of tomato leaves…I think the taste of them must be the same and it repels the pesky insects. Much like Captains nettle stew does with his garden pests. Must apply all the time. Dampness will cause it to wash off the plants.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Lynn,

    It is maddening, another plant keeled over yesterday.

    Tomato leaf tea? Is it a treatment for aphids? How do you make it?

  3. Fiona, I missed this post somehow. So sorry to hear about the tomatoes. Great idea keeping them in different places.

    I need to prune mine back again, they’re too bushy and not enough air circulation. I need more leaves for tea anyhoo 😉

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jules,

    Thanks for dropping by. Personally I would keep tomatoes and potatoes well away from each other. This is mainly due to the problems of transference of blight. I rotate potatoes in a traditional four bed scheme.

    I don’t grow tomatoes in the ground but in grow bags, large pots or recycled olive tins (the latter two are filled with new compost). So each year they grow in new earth to give them the best possible chance.

    If they do not develop diseases the earth will be added to the compost heap in the autumn (about 400 litres)and eventually dug back into the kitchen garden beds.

  5. Jules

    Sorry to hear about your blight. We have an allotment and everyone seems to have it. Do you know if you can grow tomatoes/potatoes in the same spot?

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Pat

    Everybody was preparing for global warming in the UK this year. A hot summer. Now we have a sort of monsoon and we are rushing around trying to cope with fungal diseases… I am sorry about your courgettes.

    So much time caring for seedlings and then disaster. Thank goodness we are not big scale producers.

    Hi Amanda,

    Keep on growing tomatoes. There is nothing like a warm tomato plucked at 5.30 pm.

    Hi Ash,

    Thinking about it, your planting tips are spot on. Good drainage and air around the plants are the answer. Tomatoes grown against a wall when it is cold and wet will develop blight. I have moved the remaining plants back from the wall. Thanks.

    Hi Rosemary,

    I think that we have blight on our potatoes too. Like you we grew loads of potatoes this year. As you say we cannot do anything about the weather. But I wish that we could.

  7. Rosemary

    We have potato blight,this year we had planted more potatoes than before including maincrop.But there is notjhing we can do about the weather !!

  8. So sorry to hear about your tomatoes. We have blight on the allotment in the potatoes and my allotment is almost completely flooded. Funny enough, the one half of the allotment where I made the raised beds has drainage that is ok. The other half is about half a foot underwater.

  9. Amanda

    As novices I really am thinking we’ve gone a bit over the top with planting. We’ve grown tomatoes before and had blight hit them. At the time we didn’t realise that if you spot it you should get rid of the infected plants straight away to try and avoid the others getting it. So far no blight but everything is looking over watered, including the tomatoes!

  10. Ohhhh So sorry to hear about your tomato plants!!! This rain is causing havoc everywhere I have mildew on my poor courgette plants here. And they were doing so well too.

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