Tomato Blight And Planting Winter Salads

I thought I would start today by telling you about a couple of things we did at the weekend:

On Monday it was my dad’s 82nd birthday.  It has been a long time since my family all got together, so I decided to throw him a surprise birthday party.  He thought he was just coming to our house for tea and loved it when our whole family appeared.

It was a really lovely evening.

My eldest daughter decorated the cake

My eldest daughter decorated the cake

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Another thing that happened last weekend, was my husband and youngest daughter did a ‘Car Boot Sale’.  We had spent the whole of the last week having a massive clear out and decided we would try and make some money from all the things we didn’t want anymore.  It’s amazing how much ‘stuff’ you collect over the years isn’t it.  You can see it all in the photograph below:

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I am so very proud of them, as they made just over £90!  It just goes to show that one man’s junk is another man’s treasure.

We still had some things left at the end, so we took them down to our local charity shop the next day, in the hope that they would make some money out of it too.

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A butterfly on our window, captured by my youngest daughter.

A butterfly on our window, captured by my youngest daughter.

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This week I have been preparing for the long cold winter by sowing a few winter hardy salads to plant out in my polytunnel when I have some room.

I have sown a winter hardy lettuce called ‘Arctic king’ and  some winter hardy spring onions.  I also sowed some mizuna and corn salad as these were both so successful last year.  Lastly, I also sowed some perpetual spinach which will hopefuly be ready in early spring if I plant it under a cloche outside.

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Mizuna and corn salad last year in my polytunnel over winter

Mizuna and corn salad last year in my polytunnel over winter

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My allotment is still providing a feast of salads and vegetables everytime I visit it.

The runner beans are doing very well, even though they started to produce slightly later than normal.  This has had a knock on effect as I have noticed my french beans are nearly ready to pick now and I usually start to pick them when my runner beans have just about stopped producing.  So I will soon have double the amount of beans to harvest and freeze at the same time.

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My outdoor cucumbers are having a fantastic crop because the weather has been warm and I am picking them daily and giving them away as we just can’t eat the amount they are producing. The variety I am growing is ‘Burpless Tasty Green’ which I have found to be a reliable outdoor crop (though last year I only managed to get three or four cucumbers all in all,  due to the rotten weather we had).  The skins are a bit prickly so we peel them before we eat them and they taste lovely.

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I picked my first kohl rabi of the year this week.  Again, they are a little late this year, but it was worth the wait.  Kohl rabi can be grated in salads or used in stews, soups or casseroles.  I don’t get to cook mine, as they are eaten the minute I bring them home.  My family love them peeled, chopped and eaten raw, dipped in salad cream.

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You can see in the photo above that my outdoor tomatoes are finally starting to ripen.  They seem to have been ‘green’ for eternity this year.  When I get enough of them I will be making soup with them and lots of passatta to freeze and use over the winter.

So far my tomatoes are free from tomato ‘blight’, but I am checking them daily for signs.  Below I have written some information regarding tomato blight, which you may find interesting if you are growing your own tomatoes:

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Tomato blight

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Tomato blight

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Tomato blight is caused by the same fungus as potato blight.  It is called ‘Phytophthora infestans’, but it is more commonly known as ‘late blight’.  It is a windblown fungus that can travel long distances.  It spreads when the temperature is above 10C and the humidity is above 75% for two consecutive days, known as a ‘Smith Period’.   In the UK outbreaks can occur from June onwards and it is said to be usually seen in the south west first.

The disease is common on outdoor tomatoes, though tomatoes grown in a polytunnel or greenhouse have some protection from it, as the spores have to enter through doors and vents.

The early stages of blight can be easily missed and not all plants are affected at the same time, however it will spread rapidly.

Symptoms usually seen are brown patches that appear on the leaves and stems and spread very rapidly. The fruit will also turn brown. The underside of leaves can develop a downy white coating of spores in moist conditions.

The first signs of 'blight' on my tomato plants last year

The first signs of ‘blight’ on my tomato plants last year

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What can you do to prevent blight?

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You can grow varieties that are not so susceptible to blight e.g. ‘Ferline’ and ‘Legend’, but remember that some varieties can resist some strains of the fungus but not others.

I like to choose an earlier maturing variety that is ready to harvest before blight strikes, though the tomatoes are usually smaller.

Do not save seed from infected plants as it can survive in the seed and reproduce next spring. Instead, buy good quality seed from a reputable supplier.

Remove any potatoes that were left in the ground from the previous year as the pathogen over winters in rotten potatoes. 

Keep the plant foliage as dry as possible by watering in the morning and at the base of the plants.  Mulch will reduce the amount of watering needed.

Try to avoid brushing past tomato plants when they are wet as this can increase the likelihood of spreading the spores.

Space plants wide apart so the air can flow around the plants.

Keep monitoring your plants and act quickly if you see blight on them.

You can use a ‘bordeaux’ mix to control blight, but you need to spray before blight takes hold as it protects the foliage.  It also needs to be sprayed on your plants regularly so organic gardeners do not favour this method.

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 My tomato plants have blight, what can I do?

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 If you catch it early you can strip the tomatoes from the plant and ripen them on a windowsill.  Be careful to check them every day as some of them may already be affected.

If you haven’t caught it really early, you can use the green tomatoes to make chutney, as provided they haven’t turned brown, the tomatoes are safe to eat.

Take up your blighted tomatoes plants straight away and dispose of them, so you don’t help to spread the spores to your neighbour’s plots.

 According to ‘Garden Organic’ the stems and leaves of affected plants can be added to your compost heap, as the spores won’t survive on dead plant material, but do not compost any blighted fruit as the spores survive in the seeds.

Tomatoes ripening on my windowsill last year

Tomatoes ripening on my windowsill last year

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I hope this information has been of use to you.

I will be back on Monday at 4pm.

I hope you have a good weekend.

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18 thoughts on “Tomato Blight And Planting Winter Salads

  1. Our French beans have actually beaten the runners this year!
    As for red tomatoes I think we have one that is trying to turn now but all the others that have managed to turn red have had blossom end rot.
    I[ve never been to a car boot sale so I envisaged selling out of the boot not a proper stall.
    AS for cucumbers we grow Burpless too which actually produced a fantastic crop last year even with the poor summer weather but we must be tougher than you as we leave the skins on :)

    • It’s a funny year for beans isn’t it Sue and yes the tomatoes are late turning red aren’t they. It’s a shame about the blossom end rot, what bad luck. I remember you saying you grew the same variety of outdoor cucumbers as me….as regards to the skin, my lot are a bit fussy aren’t they lol

  2. Thanks for the ideas for planting now for winter, i shall try to get some of those in the greenhouse, the perpetual spinach seems to be doing well in there, we have never been struck by tomato blight, so far. Great post, your dad must have had a lovely birthday.
    Sue

  3. The cake looks delish! I’m so happy tp hear he had a good b’day :D
    Speaking of tomatoes, I went out the other day to get my seeds, deciding to have a go at early tomatoes, right? Well, I discovered something that got me so cross everyone stayed away from me for ages! You know what?! A rottern mouse ate ALL my seeds!!!!! Every single one!!!!! AAAAHHHH!!!! I am still cross! Now I have to start all over again. Some f those seeds were third generation babies! :( :(

      • No! Not a single one! Only teeny bits of paper and a whole lotta mouse poo. For this Springs plants I am strating all over. I still have yet to get the seeds from this winters plants when I don’t want them any more, though, so not a complete and total loss. I need a tin bucket with a tin lid. Yes. Definitley tin. Too tough for mouse choppers, tin. :(

      • I really feel for you Mrs Yub, it’s so frustrating when something like this happens isn’t it. Remember when I dropped my sweetcorn at the end of May/ beginning of June?….I’m still going on about that now to anyone who will listen as it upset me so much lol.

  4. Hi! My tomatoes don’t have blight but they get splits in them. Do you know why this happens? They have a slit from the top to the bottom on one side and I’m afraid to eat it because I think maybe a bug has been in the tomato?? I get so upset because I think I have a really ripe tomato to eat and then I see the split. Frustrating! Is it caused by too much rain?

    • Hi kearnygirl and thank you for being here. This is a very annoying problem, but the fruit is fine to eat. Tomatoes split when there are fluctuations in watering…e.g. if they are dry one minute and then have a good soak. This usually happens as the tomato begins to ripen as the outer skin becomes fragile then. This can be helped by watering every two or three days (at the base of the plant to help avoid blight), giving them a good soak each time. Also if you add a mulch around your plants, this will help too. Modern varieties of tomatoes are also better at resisting splitting as they are bred to have thicker skins.

      Hope this helps kearnygirl.

  5. Hi! Thank you so much for your reply to my “splitting tomato problem” . I’ll definitely try that. Thanks again for your help. I really appreciate that.

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