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    14/11/2012 at 10:02

Hi, I'm features co-ordinator on Gardeners' World Magazine and I’m writing a feature about the best ways to beat tomato blight and the best tasting tomatoes. I’d like your input. Growing very early-ripening tomatoes, like ‘Red Alert’, can often mean they ripen before blight strikes. But what are your tips for beating blight?

  • What do you do to help your tomatoes survive blight-free?
  • If you were hit by blight this year, is there anything you’re planning to do differently next year?
  • Which variety do you think is the tastiest tomato? 

So get in touch, with your tips for great tomatoes.

Catherine Mansley

Features Co-ordinator, Gardeners' World Magazine

14/11/2012 at 11:04

I live in France, so gardening conditions may be a little different, longer hotter summers, colder winters. Less drizzle, but when it rains it can belt down.

I never have blight in the tomatoes in the greenhouse. I grow a variety of tomatoes outside. The cherry ones don't seem as susceptible to blight as the big ones. Old varieties, such as Marmande, are worse. I rarely spray anything, but I plant French marigolds next to tomatoes. I didn't have blight this year, but our summer wasn't as wet as in England. When I have had blight it's been worse when warm and wet than when it's cold and wet.

Our tomatoes have different names, but I grow some from English seed. The sweetest cherry tomato is "Sungold" from Thompson and Morgan and my favourite big tomato is Dona.  

14/11/2012 at 13:04

Read something on the Garden Centre Guide regarding this, Making the most of your tomatoes

    14/11/2012 at 15:49

Thanks for the tips Busy-Lizzie and Geraldineb. Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse certainly makes them less likely to catch blight, as the blight spores are airborne. Covering outdoor tomatoes with a polythene sheet, draped over supports, should have a similar effect.

Do keep those suggestions coming in. 

14/11/2012 at 21:12

I had late blight in the GH this year, it didn't seem to effect the crop though as I took off the leaves affected as soon as they appeared and most of the plants has well developed fruit on them before blight attacked them. I'm going to change th soil in the GH bed before planting again next year..

Don't know whether it was coincidence but the plants in the bed seemed to be affected first and then the blight spread to neighbouring plants in pots on the ground. The one's on the bench seemed less affected, they were cherry varieties - xmas grape and floridity .  

 

15/11/2012 at 06:21

I grew Marmande and Red Alert outside this year.  The Red Alert did well in what was a rotten  year.  I had 6 Marmande's in large pots.  By the end of July 3 of them showed signs of Late Blight (confirmed from photos by Italophile) with black blotches on leaves and stems.  I moved the three affected as far away from my other plants as possible, and inspected at least twice a day, snipping off and burning any leaf or leaflet with even the tiniest splodge of blight.  The plants continued grow and cropped nearly as well as the 3 unaffected Marmandes, and given that they had been moved to a shadier part of the garden I was very pleased with them. At the end of the season the haulms were burnt.

15/11/2012 at 08:29
Catherine Mansley wrote (see)

Thanks for the tips Busy-Lizzie and Geraldineb. Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse certainly makes them less likely to catch blight, as the blight spores are airborne. Covering outdoor tomatoes with a polythene sheet, draped over supports, should have a similar effect.

Do keep those suggestions coming in. 

Growing in greenhouses doesn't help against fungal disease, Catherine. Quite the opposite. Yes, the spores are airborne, and they will enter greenhouses. Greenhouses, because of their closed environment, can be incubators for fungal disease. In fact, there are fungal diseases like Leaf Mould that are almost specific to greenhouse tomatoes. You rarely see it on outdoor tomatoes.

Fungal diseases have to be seen pretty much as a fact of life for tomato growers. You can't avoid the spores. Unless you want to spray preventively - which doesn't guarantee against infection, but gives you a head start against it - all you can do is seek to minimise the diseases' impact with sound housekeeping practices:

  • Air circulation is the priority. It will help against spores settling on foliage. Keep as much space as is practicable between individual plants and avoid clumps of impenetrable foliage on individual plants by judicious pruning of excess branches and foliage.
  • Avoid wetting the foliage at all costs. Damp foliage is an incubator for fungal spores.
  • Maintain a gap of at least 1' to 18" between the lowest foliage and the soil. Fungal spores can and will drop from the leaves to the soil underneath and can be splashed back up onto the foliage when watering. The gap helps against this.
  • Remove any leaves the moment they show signs of infection. It will help to slow the spread. It won't stop infection because there will be more spores arriving on the breeze.

The reality is that the most common fungal diseases - Early Blight, Septoria Leaf Spot, etc - don't quickly destroy tomato plants. With care, the plants can last the whole season and be typically productive. The nastier diseases - Late Blight, etc - are a different matter. They will wipe out the plant.

I'd also be wary of covering outdoor plants with polythene sheet. It will trap any spores inside and prevent air circulation. The spores will have a picnic.

 

 

15/11/2012 at 09:06
Catherine Mansley wrote (see)

Thanks for the tips Busy-Lizzie and Geraldineb. Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse certainly makes them less likely to catch blight, as the blight spores are airborne. Covering outdoor tomatoes with a polythene sheet, draped over supports, should have a similar effect.

Do keep those suggestions coming in. 

Didn't Monty Don lose a greenhouse-full of toms to blight this year?

15/11/2012 at 09:39
Dovefromabove wrote (see)

Didn't Monty Don lose a greenhouse-full of toms to blight this year?

If he did, it further underlines the connection betwixt greenhouses and fungal problems. I wish I'd seen that episode. I'd love to know exactly which disease(s) the plants had. If he "lost" all the plants it probably wasn't one of the common ones. Unless he was negligent.

15/11/2012 at 10:00

http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00y1zx7

It's here, but seems not to be working at the moment - certainly the programme showed a sorry sight - an entire greenhouse full of wilted blighted tomato plants.

    15/11/2012 at 10:17
Italophile wrote (see)
Dovefromabove wrote (see)

Didn't Monty Don lose a greenhouse-full of toms to blight this year?

If he did, it further underlines the connection betwixt greenhouses and fungal problems. I wish I'd seen that episode. I'd love to know exactly which disease(s) the plants had. If he "lost" all the plants it probably wasn't one of the common ones. Unless he was negligent.

Thanks for your comments Italophile. Monty Don did indeed lose his greenhouse tomatoes to late blight this year. My feature is specifically about late blight on tomatoes, rather than other fungal diseases. And RHS advice remains that tomatoes are less likely to suffer from late blight if they are grown in a greenhouse.  Of course, Monty's experience shows they are far from immune!

15/11/2012 at 11:18

Sorry, Catherine, I didn't see any specific reference to Late Blight in terms of your article. It just says "tomato blight".

Anyway, Late Blight is no different to any of the other fungal diseases in the way it is transmitted. It's just a different pathogen. The only difference is the ugliness of the outcome. So, in terms of prevention or minimisation of the effects, anything relevant to fungal diseases in general relates to Late Blight.

Well, let me clarify that. The traditional preventive sprays - copper-based - can be effective against the common fungal infections but much less so against Late Blight. The other fundamental difference, of course, is Late Blight's destructive properties. It can destroy a plant within a week so there's usually little that can be done to save the plant once infected. Dove [posting above] had all the classic symptoms of Late Blight but managed to save her plants. A triumph of tomato care!

I'm sorry but the RHS is promolgating a furphy. Toms in greenhouses are not less likely to suffer Late Blight. If the pathogen is around, the plants - outdoors or in a greenhouse - can be affected, and the greenhouse incubator effects I mentioned earlier can and will come into play. I'm sure Monty Don isn't the only one who will question the RHS' advice.

15/11/2012 at 11:41

I came back from holiday at the end of August to find all my outdoor tomato plants had blight. What's worse is I hadn't yet harvested any tomatoes. It was my first year growing tomatoes and there has been a lot of helpful advice on the forum on how to avoid blight. I will be trying again next year, planting further apart, being careful with watering, and removing lower leaves to improve air circulation. Fingers crossed!

15/11/2012 at 18:05

I only grew one variety this year - Marmande - it is my absolute favourite. I am still eating the last few now having managed to ripen them indoors (old method, put on newspaper in a warm,sunny window). I grow from seed indoors and put them outside in a very sheltered garden when it is warm enough. They come back indoors, inside the patio doors, when it gets too cool.

Pleased to say I had no blight. I never spray them or anything else I eat but I do plant tagetes in their pots and it seems to work as I never have white fly either.

15/11/2012 at 18:39

Can highly recommend Maskotka cherry type tomato for good flavour. Grown in greenhouse and out this year. While the outside ones did get blight it didn't seem to effect all the tomatoes. Only a few were quickly disposed of. Those in the greenhouse were completely unaffected and I was still picking ripe fruit well into October.

Seed available from T&M and some other online seed suppliers

15/11/2012 at 22:30

I can only repeat that I have never had blight of any sort in the greenhouse, but I have had it outside, late blight 3 times between 2000 and 2008, also potato blight. I stopped growing potatoes for a few years, but in the last 3 years I've grown only early potatoes and I've grown tagetes or French marigolds with the tomatoes and there has been no tomato blight outside either, or whitefly. I've never grown potatoes near the green house door and the greenhouse is always well ventilated. I never water the tomato leaves in the greenhouse, but the outdoor ones get rained on. So I think the RHS does have some gounds for their advice. When June has been wet and warm the tomatoes have sometimes had brown patches on the leaves and I've either picked the leaves off or sprayed with a fungicide, but they recovered. With later blight the plants die quickly.

16/11/2012 at 00:39

no blight at all this year, outside or in greenhouse. Massive yields of moneymaker (bit bland tasting) also Sungold which was gorgeous. Outside toms this year were put in large pots and not grobags, also those in greenhouse, much better and retained water really well.  Our 10 yr old grandson grew the moneymakers from seedsticks which he got at an eco-centre in Wales last year. You push the matchstick like sticks in the compost (the seeds are stuck to the ends)  voila - seedlings thru very quickly, wish there were more available like this (only £1 per packet by the way)  we grew marigolds as usual and put them around the base of tomato plants, I never spray my plants, only water mist the leaves sometimes, no chemicals whatsoever and as I say no bugs or blight, don't know why

16/11/2012 at 01:17

Since increasing ventilation in my greenhouse, removing any leaves with the slightest hint of blight or other fungal diseases, and being careful to water only in the mornings and when absolutely necessary, I've had several years of tomato growing success.  In my opinion, keeping the leaves dry and preventing condensation in the greenhouse is the best one can reasonably do.  All fungal diseases like late blight love wet and humid conditions, so just do your best to produce exactly the opposite wherever you grow tomatoes.

16/11/2012 at 06:36

Growing in a greenhouse I have not had bight.

Best variety for cooking in a meat sauce has been Brandywine which had very few seeds.

16/11/2012 at 09:27

I must have been one of the lucky ones as I did not suffer from blight.  My favourite tomato that I grow each year  from seed is Tamina an early ripening potatoe leaved variety.  It is a strong grower and very productive with medium sized tomatoes of good flavour.I have tried other varieties including the cherry type but stil prefer Tamina both for cropping and reliability.I grow them in my greenhouse although I understand they can be grown outside.  Although I grow them straight into the soil I also put a Growpot (usually used with growbags) around each plant and gradually fill the centre with soil and remove the bottom leaves of each plant.  This I find makes a stronger plant and makes watering simple.

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