Dealing with tomato blight

I thought I’d gotten from getting a touch of tomato blight this year, but it turns out that in the end I wasn’t so lucky.

I visited the allotment this week and I found that my Gardener’s Delight tomato plants were showing the early signs of blight – something I’ve not had now for about three years or so.

Getting blight on your crops is not a pretty experience. It all starts with the leaves beginning turn brown and shrivel. You’ll also notice that black and brown legions appear on the stem of the plant. Over the next few days (hours even) those legions will spread and soon the whole plant will begin to decay. The tomatoes also then begin to turn a brownish-yellow and fall off.

If you’re lucky enough to catch blight in the very early stages, you can pick the green tomatoes that are on the plant and hope for the best that they will ripen in a fruit bowl sitting next to a banana.

What is tomato blight?

According to the RHS…

The late blight pathogen is a microscopic, fungus-like organism whose sporangia (spore-bearing structures) easily break away from infected foliage and may be wind-blown for long distances. The actual infective spores are released from the sporangia into water and need to swim in a water film before settling on the plant surface and penetrating into leaf tissues; this is why the disease is so serious in wet summers. The pathogen then spreads rapidly, killing the cells. Under humid conditions, stalks bearing sporangia grow from freshly killed tissues and the disease can spread rapidly through the crop.

Source: Potato and Tomato Blight

Tomato blight can be a real pain because it can stay present if old tomatoes or foliage are left in the ground or if the remains are transferred to the compost bin. Typically, tomato plants that are planted outside are most at risk as they’re exposed to weather conditions that could bring on blight, or winds that are carrying blight from other locations.

The best ways to dispose of plants that have suffered from blight is to either bag them up and take them to the local dump or to have a bonfire and burn them.

Planting Tomato plants: Gardeners Delight

We’re on the cusp of the summer months and I finally get to plant out my Gardener’s Delight tomato plants.

Gardener’s Delight is a Cordon/Indeterminate variety which means they grow as single stemmed plants. Shoots that grow between branches (otherwise known as side shoots) are nipped out so that most of the plants energy will be going into the fruit. You can grow them to any height – and when you’re happy with the height at which they’re growing you can nip the tops of the plant out.

Gardner’s Delight tomatoes reach around a 7.0 on the the Brix scale, making them the perfect tomato to snack on or to mix into a salad. The Brix Rating is a measure given to the amount of sweetness in a particular mixture or item. The higher the rating, the sweeter the fruit. You can read up on the Brix Scale here if you’re interested in reading up on how different factors can effect plant growth and the final outcome of your fruit.

Whether you’re growing your tomato plants outside or in a greenhouse – they need something to grow up against. This not only supports the plant against the elements but also helps the to support the plant when it has the weight of the fruit to contend with. Bamboo canes are ideal for this, they’re available at pretty much any garden center and you can reuse them for years to come.

 

I’ve got 9 plants in total, so I’ve planted three plants, in rows of three so that there’s plenty for me to move in between the rows, pick the fruit and do some weeding. Planting plants outside is very easy, you just dig a hole big enough big enough for the root stock and bury. When securing your plants to the bamboo stick, first tie the string around the bamboo stick and then to the plant, using a figure of eight in between the two. This knot will allow greater movement for the plant as well as keeping the integrity of the knot.

Tomato plants attract a lot of greenfly and blackfly and you know when you’re plants are being affected because the leaves begin to curl up. The leaves curl up because the aphids are sucking out the sap of the plant, causing the structure of the leaf to buckle. I’ve planted marigolds in the bed as well, and will most likely sow some more as the weeks continue.

Separating Gardeners Delight seedlings

Since sowing my Gardeners Delight seeds they’ve come up a treat – however, I do think they’ve gone a little bit on the leggy side. Seedlings go leggy because they’re stretching towards the light (meaning that they may have some light restrictions) and the result is a slightly over tall, disproportionate plant.

A good indicator of knowing when to separate your tomato plant seedlings is the presence of the second set of leaves. The sooner you can separate these plants the better.

Gently pat out the seedlings from the pot and the seedlings should break apart from the pot revealing their main root ball.

Fill two inch pots with multi-purpose compost and make a hole in the center of the pot for the the seedlings. Try avoid handling the seedling by the stem as this could damage the plant, instead handle the plant by it’s leaves and root stock.

Place the seedlings in the pot and cover the base of the seedling well.  Because my seedlings are on the leggy side, I’ve tried to bury the seedling as close to the first set of leaves as possible to try and strengthen the plant.  I’ve moved these seedlings into an area that has better access to light so that they don’t continue to get leggy.

When I plant these outside I’ll look to mulch these as this will help retain water during the warm dry spells and also had some much needed nitrogen into the ground. I’ll plant the marigolds that I’d sown earlier to keep the black fly attack down. I’m also considering sowing some spring onions, again for pest management, but also make the most of the space that I have.

I’ll also have to employ some measures to keep the slugs at bay too as I’ve read that slug attacks are said to be higher than usual this year thanks to the mild winter.

Sowing Tomatoes: Gardener’s Delight

Gardener’s Delight! My favourite variety of tomato to grow. They produce tomatoes that are plentiful and sweet from the summer all the way through to the early autumn.

Gardener’s Delight is a cordon variety, which means the plant will perform better when pruned. This means cutting the tops out when the plant reaches a certain height and taking away some of the bottom leaves – this will also help your fruit to ripen quicker as they’ll be getting more access to sunlight and also the plant will put more energy into producing fruit throughout the season.

We have Germany to thank for Gardener’s Delight, specifically, Paul Tellhelm who first bred the plant 1950 and called it Benary’s Gartenfreude, Hochzucht. Ten years later, the plant made it’s way to Wisconsin, USA and was sold by the Randolph Jung of Jung Quality Seed company. The seed become known as the Jung Sugar Lump and for good reason – they sure are sweet!

Back here in Blighty, Gardener’s Delight has become THE tomato variety for amateur gardeners because of how easy it is to grow and the rewards you get from it. It’s even earned the RHS Award of Garden Merit. This particular give off a lovely fragrant and that smell always takes me back to my childhood as I used to pick these tomatoes in my grandmothers greenhouse and have them for breakfast.

Germination is expected within two weeks and I’ll look to spur these on in 2″ pots before I plant them outside.  In the past I’ve fallen into the trap of sowing too many than I can manage, so I’m hoping that my strategic sowing method (which is to sow less), will pay off.