If you are growing tomatoes outside this summer in the UK, one of the best ways to ensure a successful crop is to sow blight resistant tomato seeds.
They have been bred to include the genes necessary to fight off blight, which is a fungal infection. By including the blight resistant genes – Ph2 and Ph3, makes the fruit totally protected, unlike tomato varieties that are only blight tolerant.
The first blight resistant tomato variety in the UK was Crimson Crush. This was developed and bred by Simon Crawford and James Stroud, a plant breeder from Yorkshire and a scientist at Bangor University.
For the first time ever, we now have a tomato that can be grown outside and cope with our increasingly wet summers here in the UK.
There are two types of blight
The first is early blight that as its name suggests appears early in the season ad can reduce the number of tomatoes an affected plant can yield.
- Late blight is much more destructive coming later in the season, usually after a wet spell in late July and August.
- Late blight can destroy a whole crop of tomatoes growing outdoors in just a week or two. Starting with dark patches on the edge of leaves and spreading to the stems and fruit.
How blight spreads
Blight spores can travel on the breeze over a good distance but blight spores are also easily spread from plant to plant, often on the gardener’s hands during pruning. Secateurs and blades can also transfer blight when pruning, so a good idea is to sterilize them between plants using hand sanitiser or anti-bacterial wipes.
The blight resistant tomato seeds that are available in the UK are:
Crimson Crush – produces large tomatoes on indeterminate (tall) plants.
Lizzano – a cherry trailing variety, great for containers.
Mountain Magic – a good size cherry tomato producing long trusses on tall plants.
Indeterminate and cordon are both terms meaning “tall” plants, in contrast to bush plants which are, as their name suggests, much shorter!
Crimson Crush and Lizzano, both available from Suttons seeds and Mountain Magic which is available from from a number of seed companies that include Thompson and Morgan.
About hybrid seeds
These varieties are all F1 hybrids, meaning that they are a fist generation cross between two parents that carry special characteristics that the breeder wishes to be included in the hybrid – namely blight resistance.
Of course they are also very vigorous plants with excellent tasting tomatoes too, so there is no compromise on yield or taste.
Best container for each variety
Tall tomato plants such as Crimson Crush and Mountain Magic, are best grown in grow bags or a reservoir system such as the Quadgrow Planter.
Bush trailing varieties like Lizzano are best grown in high sided pots and containers so they can trail over the sides. Hanging baskets are also good for trailing tomatoes but some varieties need a little more root area than hanging baskets can provide.
The benefits of sowing blight resistant tomato seeds
The obvious benefit is that they are immune to late tomato blight. If the fungal infection is severe, some signs of blight may show on their leaves but the fruit is not affected because the plant’s immune system fights off the infection.
Other advantages of growing blight resistant tomato varieties is that they can be grown outdoors in a wet summer. In the UK our summers are often accompanied by spells of wet weather.Those who grow on allotments and in their gardens will know how vulnerable tomato plants are to both early and late blight.
Each of the three hybrid varieties mentioned on this page are very vigorous and will grow at an optimum rate of growth, given good conditions.
Other varieties are best grown under cover if you live in an area where wet summers are becoming more frequent.
Blight tolerance is not the same as blight resistance
Among the blight tolerant tomatoes are Ferline and Legend. These can put up some fight against late blight, but they are not fully
protected as blight resistant varieties are. They will eventually succumb to the fungal disease if the weather remains wet for a long period.
Avoid blight this coming season!
So why not put a blight resistant tomato variety on your list for this coming season and order a packet or two of blight resistant tomato seeds. Crimson Crush for the larger slicing tomatoes and Lizzano or Mountain Magic for cherry tomatoes.