The Cottage Smallholder

stumbling self sufficiency in a small space

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. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Jane,

    Thanks for dropping by and sharing your experiences with tomato blight.

    Thanks also for the tip on Jeyes Fluid.

    Hi Jenny,

    Thanks for giving an update on the effect of using Diathane 90 as a treatment for tomato blight.

    I can’t answer any of your other questions, I’m afraid. Perhaps someone out there can help?

  2. Hi again.
    Thought I would update you on my success with diathane 90. I have actually ended up with a very good tomato harvest from my remaining plants. The diathane definately stopped the blight in its tracks after 3/4 sprays. The plants looked most peculiar after their severe haircut but they have carried on growing new shoots, flowers and more fruit! Hope I can get them all ripe. I intend to spray with this as a precaution next year and also try to grow some disease resistent varieties. Has anyone any suggestions on what plants to try?
    Does anyone know where you can buy seed for a Tomato called Arasta. I have one plant of this that was given to me and it has cropped fantastically. I am reluctant to save seed from it in case it is carrying the blight or is it possible to sterilise the seed?

  3. Just found this site looking for remedies for tomato blight. Our greenhouse toms developed the blight in August. Daily we cut off infected leaves and removed a few infected tomatoes but we hung on as there were ripening toms. We went on holiday for just over 2 weeks and left the toms, when we came back we hada bowl full of ripened toms which we then picked and then we disposed of most of the plants as the stems were black, however strangely there are about 3 plants that do not seem to be affected in that the stems are not black although there are very few leaves. Some of the tomatoes that I have picked have gone brown, I make tomato juice from the red ones, the green ones I am leaving to see if they will go red.
    As fora remedy I have been told that Jeyes Fluid will do the trick, soak the soil after disposing of the plants and then again in the Spring.
    Hope this helps.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Catrin,

    At least you managed to save a few toms!

    Great that you had such a good harvest with your other crops.

    I would store the mulch until the spring to give the soil the best chance to get deeply frosted. I think that planting green manures could only be beneficial, although I am not an expert on blight, it might be best to leave the soil bare. Perhaps someone else out there knows.

    Thanks so much for dropping by with an update. All this information will be so useful to people struggling with blight in the future.

  5. well just got back online to check out the blight situation and it’s obviously widespread. I live in Hampshire and all my friends have had it also. Did manage to save a few plants in the greenhouse in the end – just took all the foliage off and all the obviously blighted fruits and the rest have ripened nicely!! The plants looked weird and now they are all developing fresh foliage and flowers – so might even get a second crop!! I did firmly close the door though.

    Had a a fantastic crop of peppers indoors and the runners, climbing french beans and courgettes have gone absolutely mad – must have loved all that rain. Never ever had such ginormous courgettes plants either – they absolutely swamped the poor struggling dwarf french beans.

    I was so disapointed earlier in the season but now having had at least a few crops to savour am feeling heartened and looking forward to next season.

    My friend is having her house rethatched and has lots of mulch as a result – would this layer harbour the blight spores or should the ground be left clear to get well frosted. I usually plant green manures and turn them in when the ground is needed – what should I do this year ???

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi John

    Thanks so much for giving us an update and reporting the results of using Bordeaux Mixture. I am delighted that you saved your crop.

    I am sure that I read somewhere that Hugh Fearnley Whittingstall uses Bordeaux Mixture on his spuds (as a preventative measure).

    I have used no sprays and have picked off masses of leaves and a few blighted fruit (particularly from the base of the plants). I have watered very carefully, to avoid splashing and used upturned water bottle reservoirs. We have are enjoying a good crop too. However, each time it rains I am worried that the blight will erupt again as there are traces of blight on a lot of the stems.

    The problem with sterilising the soil is that you kill off a lot of the organisms in the soil too. I am hoping for a decent freezing stretch this winter to kill off the spores.

  7. Hi

    On Aug 21st I posted that Bordeaux mixture seemed to arrest the blight and I applied it a second time as per the instructions. I lost a few more tomatoes and kept removing blighted leaves. Thanks to the recent sun my 3 types of tomatoes have cropped really well in spite of cropping on blighted stems! The fruit is tasty and bountiful and I reckon we’ve got another 100 fruit to harvest from 6 plants. So, I’m a Bordeaux Mixture fan!! More advice on how to sterilise the soil would be welcome but I believe that early application of the said Bordeaux Mixture is a useful preventive measure.


  8. Fiona Nevile

    Brilliant. Thank you so much Peter. Hope your cobs are good!

  9. another useful site
    looks like i’ll be picking me 1st sweetcorn very soon will let you know how it was good harvesting

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi peter m,

    Thanks for this useful link. Glad to hear that your toms are still clinging on. Thank goodness for runner beans!

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