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. There are two types of Raspberries, Summer fruiting and Autumn fruiting. My Autumn fuiting are just starting to crop and this is quite normal.

    Hope I don’t jinx myself, but so far my Tom’s are looking reasonably healthy. A few browned edges on one or two leaves and one or two fruit that have dropped off with what looks like botrytis (grey mould) to me. I’ve picked quite a few kilos including the biggest single fruit I’ve ever seen, weighing 1lb 7oz or 670g, variety Costoluto Fiorentino, and am hoping to remain unaffected.

  2. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Chris,

    Great to hear that you have some toms after all!

    It is incredible. We picked raspberries here last week (although we are much further south than you). The garden doesn’t appear to twig that the clocks have changed and it is Autumn!

  3. Just had to tell someone this: Note the date.
    This evening I picked a raspberry from the canes growing in an exposed piece of my garden. They are laden with raspberries, which are actually still growing and ripening. I’m north of Manchester. Has anyone else experienced this? I also have Webb lettuce growing in the same piece of land, they are big and crisp and deliciousm, and ‘resscued’ tomato plants in greenhouse are heavy with beef tomatoes. Strange seasons we are having!
    Chris Spencer.

  4. Fiona Nevile

    Hi John,

    Really pleased that yur toms are still doing well. Thanks so much for dropping by with an update.

    Ours our too and we managed to totter through the summer battling blight. We removed blighty leaves every day (and burnt them) I was just determined to use no sprays just to see what would happen. When the blight was on the stalks of the plants I was worried. Yet only the trusses near the ground (our toms are in grow bags) capitulated to the blight. I have read that blight spores are air bound. Clearly low flying.

    If we do not have at least a week of sub zero temperatures this winter I am going to spray the ground and cottage walls with BM. This is the perfect place for our toms, SW facing.- Hugh FW sprays his pots with the stuff, just in case.

  5. Hi

    I posted that I used Bordeaux Mixture in August to arreat the blight wwhich it did and reported good crops continuing in September. Crops still good and am now going to fry some green tomatoes too. By the way down at our local organic foodstore (Better Food Company, Bristol) I noticed they are selling blighted tomatoes which theysay are good for frying and for making sauce!!!

  6. Fiona Nevile

    Hi Catrin

    Some marrows turn an orangey colour when they mature. Personally I would harvest them now. They’ll keep for a while in a cool place.

    With your tomatoes, you need to get rid of the blighty leaves immediately (burn them) and hoik out any stems with blight. Conditions in the greenhouse at this time of year, warm and damp in the day, will cause the blight to spread like lightning.

    You need to ask a tree expert about your kent cob. Most nut trees seem to have done very well this year with all the rain so I would definitely try and work out what has gone wrong before the winter.

    Good idea about the green manures.

    Thanks for dropping by.

  7. Can someone tell me if marrows sometimes turn into pumpkins!!! I have a few huge green marrows that are now turning slowly but surely orange like the pumpkins do. Have they cross fertilised or something – I did have them in the same bed but have never noticed this happening before. Will they be bitter to taste ?

    Greenhouse is full of new tomato growth from the stems that I left in there after harvesting the fruit – but noticed spots of blight yesterday. AAARRGGHH – shall I just pull the lot out and burn them or persevere ? Luckily it hasn’t spread to the peppers and basil. My daughter is addicted to pesto!! She’s taken a few pots back to uni to freeze and indulge in when missing home.

    Also have a problem with my Kent Cob tree – seems to be dying.It is now 11 years old and last year I beat the squirrels to a magnificent harvest but this year the tree looks very sad and fruited poorly earlier than usual – what do I do with it. I have another younger tree which is still green and healthy looking – I hate to have to dig it up as it’s almost part of our family! Maybe a good hard trim would be enough to perk it up for next year.

    Have decided not to plant green manures where I had blighted toms outdoors but leave the ground bare as advised by fn for the frost to do it damnest best. thanks for your help.

  8. Fiona Nevile

    Hi peter m,

    Thanks for the update and another decent link. Very much appreciated.

    We have been harvesting toms well for the past 3 weeks but now it’s getting chilly, I am worried that we won’t get the crop that we hoped for. How about you?

    Hi Anna,

    The blight is terrible in the UK this year. Any tips on sterilising seed would be much appreciated.

    You are so lucky to have had courgettes. All of ours turned up their toe weeks ago. Loads of flowers and then flop and nothing.

    Great news about the marrow and your six year old getting enthused. That’s what it’s all about. At least you had aubergines to eat! Our withered away moths ago.

    Next year we all deserve bumper harvests of everything… I think that this was this year’s plan, wasn™t it 🙂

  9. Been a while since I looked in here and WOW! It’s so far flung this tomato blight! My partner in grime is a Dr of Seed Physiology, so I’ll find out if you can sterilise the seed without damaging it.

    As to our courgettes – fantastic! Just getting mildew now, but still harvesting about 10kg per week from just under 40 plants – quite chuffed.
    We also won first prize in a local hort cult soc show with an 11kg, 90 cm marrow – 6 year old was over the moon and took into show and tell at school!

    Our indoor aubergines just weren’t getting ripe enough.Harvested them all – tasty but tiny.

    Tried more toms, but all blighted including pinchings and self seeded in a flower bed. Never mind – next year, eh!?! 🙂

  10. hi again another site to try this ones for seeds i’ll be getting a few packs for next year. hi jenny all i could find out about your Arasta is that there dutch but try the above site they have instructions for saving seed and telling the good from the bad hope to have been a bit of help ta ta for now

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