POLY­TUN­NEL GROW­ING – BEAT­ING THE BLIGHT

Country Smallholding - - Resilient Growing -

When I first started grow­ing under cover, I re­mem­ber a large row of toma­toes be­ing taken out by the dreaded blight. It swept through the plants in a cou­ple of days and be­fore I knew it the re­main­der of the har­vest was ru­ined. This air­borne dis­ease is caused by warm, wet weather and al­though toma­toes and pota­toes planted out­side will be very vul­ner­a­ble in a soggy sum­mer, poly­tun­nels can be equally as sus­cep­ti­ble. Once you have the or­gan­ism on your land then it just takes the right hu­mid weather con­di­tions for it to strike again. Hav­ing tried many dif­fer­ent meth­ods of pre­ven­tion and so­called cures over the years, I have found a few ef­fec­tive meth­ods.

Mixed plant­ing

It is much eas­ier for blight to pass from the leaves of one vul­ner­a­ble plant to an­other if they are si­t­u­ated in rows or blocks all to­gether. If they are not, and there is an ar­ray of dif­fer­ent types of pro­duce in­stead, then it helps to stop the dis­ease spread­ing.

Air flow

This is im­por­tant in a poly­tun­nel, par­tic­u­larly dur­ing sum­mer, so keep­ing doors or vents open overnight dur­ing the balmy mid­dle of sum­mer will help a great deal.

Pick off lower leaves

If you see the odd leaf with a brown mot­tled patch (the tell-tale sign of blight), re­move it and dis­pose of it well away from your veg patch. Do not com­post. This is all I have to deal with now — the odd leaf af­fected here and there which doesn’t im­pact on the plant or the qual­ity of the fruit at all.

A word on wa­ter­ing

It is rec­om­mended that to avoid blight you wa­ter your plants from be­low to avoid get­ting mois­ture on the leaves and that wa­ter­ing in the morn­ing is prefer­able to the evening. I go with the lat­ter, but per­son­ally use an over­head sprin­kler sys­tem which saves a lot of time and ef­fort. I can get away with do­ing this now without neg­a­tively im­pact­ing on my plants be­cause of the other mea­sures I have in place.

As far as pota­toes go, I just plant new ones ear­lier in the year, pre­fer­ring to grow sweet pota­toes in­stead dur­ing the sum­mer months in my tun­nels.

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