Tomato growing tips

Hi, I'm features co-ordinator on Gardeners' World Magazine and I’m writing a feature about the best ways to beat tomato blight and the best tasting tomatoes. I’d like your input. Growing very early-ripening tomatoes, like ‘Red Alert’, can often mean they ripen before blight strikes. But what are your tips for beating blight?

  • What do you do to help your tomatoes survive blight-free?
  • If you were hit by blight this year, is there anything you’re planning to do differently next year?
  • Which variety do you think is the tastiest tomato? 

So get in touch, with your tips for great tomatoes.

Catherine Mansley

Features Co-ordinator, Gardeners' World Magazine

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Posts

  • Busy-LizzieBusy-Lizzie Posts: 12,089

    I live in France, so gardening conditions may be a little different, longer hotter summers, colder winters. Less drizzle, but when it rains it can belt down.

    I never have blight in the tomatoes in the greenhouse. I grow a variety of tomatoes outside. The cherry ones don't seem as susceptible to blight as the big ones. Old varieties, such as Marmande, are worse. I rarely spray anything, but I plant French marigolds next to tomatoes. I didn't have blight this year, but our summer wasn't as wet as in England. When I have had blight it's been worse when warm and wet than when it's cold and wet.

    Our tomatoes have different names, but I grow some from English seed. The sweetest cherry tomato is "Sungold" from Thompson and Morgan and my favourite big tomato is Dona.  

  • Read something on the Garden Centre Guide regarding this, Making the most of your tomatoes

  • Thanks for the tips Busy-Lizzie and Geraldineb. Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse certainly makes them less likely to catch blight, as the blight spores are airborne. Covering outdoor tomatoes with a polythene sheet, draped over supports, should have a similar effect.

    Do keep those suggestions coming in. 

  • Zoomer44Zoomer44 Posts: 2,929

    I had late blight in the GH this year, it didn't seem to effect the crop though as I took off the leaves affected as soon as they appeared and most of the plants has well developed fruit on them before blight attacked them. I'm going to change th soil in the GH bed before planting again next year..

    Don't know whether it was coincidence but the plants in the bed seemed to be affected first and then the blight spread to neighbouring plants in pots on the ground. The one's on the bench seemed less affected, they were cherry varieties - xmas grape and floridity .  

     

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 43,612

    I grew Marmande and Red Alert outside this year.  The Red Alert did well in what was a rotten  year.  I had 6 Marmande's in large pots.  By the end of July 3 of them showed signs of Late Blight (confirmed from photos by Italophile) with black blotches on leaves and stems.  I moved the three affected as far away from my other plants as possible, and inspected at least twice a day, snipping off and burning any leaf or leaflet with even the tiniest splodge of blight.  The plants continued grow and cropped nearly as well as the 3 unaffected Marmandes, and given that they had been moved to a shadier part of the garden I was very pleased with them. At the end of the season the haulms were burnt.

    No-one knows if you've done your housework, but everyone knows if you've done your gardening !
  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647
    Catherine Mansley wrote (see)

    Thanks for the tips Busy-Lizzie and Geraldineb. Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse certainly makes them less likely to catch blight, as the blight spores are airborne. Covering outdoor tomatoes with a polythene sheet, draped over supports, should have a similar effect.

    Do keep those suggestions coming in. 

    Growing in greenhouses doesn't help against fungal disease, Catherine. Quite the opposite. Yes, the spores are airborne, and they will enter greenhouses. Greenhouses, because of their closed environment, can be incubators for fungal disease. In fact, there are fungal diseases like Leaf Mould that are almost specific to greenhouse tomatoes. You rarely see it on outdoor tomatoes.

    Fungal diseases have to be seen pretty much as a fact of life for tomato growers. You can't avoid the spores. Unless you want to spray preventively - which doesn't guarantee against infection, but gives you a head start against it - all you can do is seek to minimise the diseases' impact with sound housekeeping practices:

    • Air circulation is the priority. It will help against spores settling on foliage. Keep as much space as is practicable between individual plants and avoid clumps of impenetrable foliage on individual plants by judicious pruning of excess branches and foliage.
    • Avoid wetting the foliage at all costs. Damp foliage is an incubator for fungal spores.
    • Maintain a gap of at least 1' to 18" between the lowest foliage and the soil. Fungal spores can and will drop from the leaves to the soil underneath and can be splashed back up onto the foliage when watering. The gap helps against this.
    • Remove any leaves the moment they show signs of infection. It will help to slow the spread. It won't stop infection because there will be more spores arriving on the breeze.

    The reality is that the most common fungal diseases - Early Blight, Septoria Leaf Spot, etc - don't quickly destroy tomato plants. With care, the plants can last the whole season and be typically productive. The nastier diseases - Late Blight, etc - are a different matter. They will wipe out the plant.

    I'd also be wary of covering outdoor plants with polythene sheet. It will trap any spores inside and prevent air circulation. The spores will have a picnic.

     

     

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 43,612
    Catherine Mansley wrote (see)

    Thanks for the tips Busy-Lizzie and Geraldineb. Growing tomatoes in a greenhouse certainly makes them less likely to catch blight, as the blight spores are airborne. Covering outdoor tomatoes with a polythene sheet, draped over supports, should have a similar effect.

    Do keep those suggestions coming in. 

    Didn't Monty Don lose a greenhouse-full of toms to blight this year?

    No-one knows if you've done your housework, but everyone knows if you've done your gardening !
  • ItalophileItalophile Posts: 1,647
    Dovefromabove wrote (see)

    Didn't Monty Don lose a greenhouse-full of toms to blight this year?

    If he did, it further underlines the connection betwixt greenhouses and fungal problems. I wish I'd seen that episode. I'd love to know exactly which disease(s) the plants had. If he "lost" all the plants it probably wasn't one of the common ones. Unless he was negligent.

  • DovefromaboveDovefromabove Central Norfolk UKPosts: 43,612

    http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p00y1zx7

    It's here, but seems not to be working at the moment - certainly the programme showed a sorry sight - an entire greenhouse full of wilted blighted tomato plants.

    No-one knows if you've done your housework, but everyone knows if you've done your gardening !
  • Italophile wrote (see)
    Dovefromabove wrote (see)

    Didn't Monty Don lose a greenhouse-full of toms to blight this year?

    If he did, it further underlines the connection betwixt greenhouses and fungal problems. I wish I'd seen that episode. I'd love to know exactly which disease(s) the plants had. If he "lost" all the plants it probably wasn't one of the common ones. Unless he was negligent.

    Thanks for your comments Italophile. Monty Don did indeed lose his greenhouse tomatoes to late blight this year. My feature is specifically about late blight on tomatoes, rather than other fungal diseases. And RHS advice remains that tomatoes are less likely to suffer from late blight if they are grown in a greenhouse.  Of course, Monty's experience shows they are far from immune!

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