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. Melissa

    Hi. Blight struck here. On Monday I had beautiful lush fruit laden tomatoes. Today I had to pull them all. I am so bummed. I feel bad for all the people who depend on these crops. This was my first attempt to grow more than one plant at a time. I had wanted to teach my young children about the joy of sun-warmed taste. Now it’s all gone.

  2. check out this from my local news station offers some products to treat Blight,0,7438022.story

  3. Vanessa

    have just found this site after researching blight – all my outdoor tomatoes died two years ago (in 2007), and this year I thought that growing them in my new small greenhouse would be the answer. Sadly, no! the dreaded brown leaves are back, and I realise that I have probably made the blight occur by spreading the water around too vigorously.

    I also have melons, peas, peppers and herbs growing quite well in the greenhouse – what would anyone’s advice be – should I take them out, and leave them in the fresh air, or leave them where they are?

    Advice please for a VERY amateur gardener



  4. Steppenwolf

    Greetings All,

    Lots of interesting experiences here.

    Around my place, on the Canadian west coast, we are long-time organic urban gardeners (in keeping with the working class Italian tradition of the ancestors), and tomatoes are a big part of what we grow.

    Sadly, therefore, so is the blight–particularily Late Blight (which apparently caused the Irish potato famine in the late 1800s, since it also attacks potatoes, although we haven’t seen it here).

    The least environmentally risky way of keeping the blight off tomatoes, from our experience, is to keep them out of direct rainfall. That seems to be what causes much of the spread of the disease, especially in the fall when the weather gets cooler and more rainy.

    Copper spray is the favourite chemical way of fighting the blight. Although copper is a natural anti-oxident, and especially effective in reducing the spread of the blight, it is also a heavy metal, and many people are worried about it concentrating and building up in the soil.

    Gardeners I have spoken with say it only needs to be applied maybe two or three times in a growing season (depending on the weather) in order to reduce the blight.

    My only question is, does anyone know if there is any effect of the blight on humans (other than being angry or sad because it destroys your plants)?

    Like many of you here, we make lots of sauce with our tomatoes. Of course, we don’t use blighted tomatoes.

    However, I often will cut out the damage part of the tomato and use what’s left, since, I have found, what hasn’t turned black or grey still very much looks and tastes like a tomato. So far, this hasn’t resulted in any illness to our knowledge.

    Does anyone here have any info on this?

  5. Thank you so much Sue, I was going to make chutney with them as they seem OK. I will make a very small batch I think and see. Hope you have better luck with the crop next year. 😉

  6. Hi Ann,

    I had tomato blight and read on another site that you should destroy all the plants, don’t put them on your composter. I picked off all the tomatoes (green and red) that didn’t show any signs of blight and put them in trays in my small greenhouse. I’ve managed to ripen some but threw away any that developed signs of blight. I found ones that had a small area of blight but ripened had a funny texture and no taste.

    Hope this helps.

  7. Can anyone tell me please if I can use the tomatoes from blight stricken plants. I have been removing some outside grown plants and there are many tomatoes (both green and red) that appear to look ok. I would hate to go to the trouble of making something with them only to find it tasted funny.
    Also I have a friend who has an allotment and he has been told to put Jeyes fluid on the soil in Autumn and again in spring. All the allotment holders have suffered potatoe and tomato blight this year and this is supposed to be a good remedy (I don’t know how environmentally friendly it is though, sorry).

  8. Hi,

    I came across this site when I was researching what I now know to be as tomotoe blight. Having just moved here from Australia I have tried to grow tomotoes for the first time. 6 plants in a city size garden and 3 plants pulled out last night. I think that maybe the other 3 may also need to be destroyed. I also pulled the courgette as it hafd pretty much turned grey. I have a chilli plant and the lower leaves have started to droop and lighten in colour. The plant was moved inside to a sunny windowsill a couple of weeks ago so was hoping that it was just the change in environment. Any suggestions about improving the chilli plant?

  9. Just started picking all my green tomatoes, about a quarter today and they weighed in at 21kg. But how do I store them in the freezer best?
    Does anyone have ideas?
    I am frying some, boiling some and to speed up process am going to roast some – before cooling, putting in freezer bags and putting in the freezer.

  10. Fiona Nevile

    Hi KevB

    Yes we have both types and the Autumn ones are far better – taste wise than the early summer ones. The mid season ones are pretty good too.

    Hope that your toms survive the possibility of blight. Like you, I found some blighty leaves on two plants this evening.

    Well done with your tomato. It’s amazing. Most of our tms are still green but they did go in late this year.

    Thanks for leaving a comment.

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