Scarlet runners just keep on running
flowering at the top of their climbing frame – and you can’t ask for more than a bean that does all the work for you. However, if you prefer posh French green beans, sow annual ‘Blue Lake Runner’ now, or dwarf beans such as ‘Top Crop’. I find it better to sow dwarf beans every six weeks, rather than waiting for your plants to flower again after their first main flush, as you never get as many beans the second time around. Sow beans direct, in full sun, spacing the seeds 20-30cm apart. Keep well-watered once they start to pod up as fastgrowing beans are the most tender. This blight can be kept at bay by improving air flow around the base of the plants by taking off the older foliage during the season, whereas late blight comes on rapidly and instantly ruins your crop. Late blight sees blackened areas on the stems, wilting foliage and fruit rotting from the stem end. In humid weather, the whole plant can wither, turn yellow and turn up its toes in less than a week.
If you regularly lose your tomatoes to blight, consider growing them in a completely different part of your garden, one that’s open to the wind.
To avoid (or lessen the impact of) blight this summer, you can also spray with fungicides, such as Fungus Fighter or Copper Oxychloride as a preventative. Spray once a fortnight during the growing season. When spraying, don’t overdo it: applying these chemicals at higher concentrations than stipulated on the pack can damage the tender foliage.
To improve your chances of a good crop of tomatoes, thin the lower leaves (do this on a dry day using clean secateurs) and be careful when watering to soak the soil, not the foliage. Mulching This column is adapted from the weekly e-zine, get growing, from New Zealand Gardener magazine. For gardening advice delivered to your inbox every Friday, sign up for Get Growing at: getgrowing.co.nz
after heavy rain also traps soil moisture, keeping the plants’ roots nice and cool.
Some varieties of tomatoes are more resistant to blight than others, so experiment with a mix of hybrid and heirloom types. And don’t be disheartened by the occasional lousy crop: some years the weather simply conspires against tomato growers!
Keep tomatoes well fed from now on too, using a liquid fertiliser that’s potassiumenriched for fruit quality. Regular watering is essential as well, or you’ll end up with blossom end rot.