Beat­ing blight, fail­ing rhubarb and cock­a­too plants

Amateur Gardening - - This Week In Gardening -

QMy neigh­bours on ei­ther side have lost all of their out­doors to­ma­toes to blight. They both re­moved most of the leaves from the plants. Another neigh­bour two doors along, has, so far, not had any blight. Our green­house to­ma­toes have shown signs of blight or some­thing sim­i­lar. Why is this?

Andy McIl­venna and neigh­bours

AIt is very bad luck for your neigh­bours to have lost their to­ma­toes so quickly to blight.

Let me tell you a lit­tle about the dis­ease and see if that helps you all to know what to do in the fu­ture.

The fun­gus that causes blight is en­cour­aged by warm wet weather and its spores are spread by air cur­rents and wa­ter splash.

A film of mois­ture cov­er­ing the leaves is nec­es­sary for the spores to take hold and in­fect the plant, so any­thing that can be done to pre­vent mois­ture sit­ting on the fo­liage will help, such as wa­ter­ing the ground di­rectly and keep­ing air mov­ing around the plants.

For green­house plants keep doors and vents open as much as pos­si­ble to en­cour­age air move­ment to re­duce con­den­sa­tion.

If you grow to­ma­toes in the green­house every year it is worth dis­in­fect­ing the struc­ture and glass dur­ing the win­ter to be sure of deal­ing with any spores. Jeyes Fluid is very ef­fec­tive.

Use fresh grow­bags or com­post each year, or ster­ilise the soil if planted in beds. Green­house to­ma­toes are less vul­ner­a­ble to blight be­ing in an en­closed en­vi­ron­ment, but they are not en­tirely safe from in­fec­tion. Un­for­tu­nately there is lit­tle you can do to pre­vent the fun­gal spores be­ing re­leased (they can travel quite some dis­tance on air cur­rents) so it is worth­while con­sid­er­ing do­ing some pre­ven­ta­tive spray­ing.

This should be done as soon as the first to­ma­toes have set, and then re­peated ac­cord­ing to the man­u­fac­turer’s in­struc­tions. A cop­per-based fungi­cide is ideal. There is lit­tle you can do once the dis­ease has ap­peared, but it might be pos­si­ble to slow the spread by re­mov­ing in­fected leaves as soon as they are spot­ted. How­ever, it is a fine bal­ance and if too many leaves are re­moved the plant has no means of pho­to­syn­the­sis­ing or draw­ing wa­ter up and there­fore no means of pro­vid­ing nu­tri­ents or wa­ter to stems or de­vel­op­ing fruits.

This will ef­fec­tively mean the death of the plant any­way.

Blight rapidly af­fects to­ma­toes and there is lit­tle you can do against it

Green­house toms are less likely to be blighted

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