The season so far – from my garden!
This year, March was sunny and warm, and one of the warmest March’s on record in the UK. It was very exciting to see the seedlings do so well and grow so quickly with all the fine weather we had. I thought that we were in for one of the best seasons ever!
However, April was one of the wettest months on record and along with the damp and dull weather that we’ve had, the season so far has been disappointing.
I’ve just noticed early blight on one of my plants, but the main problem this season for me, and a lot of other tomato growers, has been leaf spot.
It’s caused by damp and dull conditions and is either a bacterial or a fungal problem.
There are about six different leaf spot diseases that look similar, they are:
- Septoria leaf spot
- Grey mould begins with similar symptoms
- Stemphylium leaf spot
- Alternaria leaf spot
- Bacterial spot
- Bacterial speck
Most of these are fungal diseases but bacterial leaf spot/speck can also be a problem in damp dull weather and spring from nowhere!
In recent seasons I have tried to be “bio friendly” whenever possible and resisted spraying my plants with a protective fungicide. However, if the weather continues to be as wet as it has been, spraying plants may be the only way to get a good crop.
The traditional method of protection has been Dithane and Bordeaux Mixture, but there are now biofungicides available that would seem to be a good choice for the organic grower.
These work by using friendly fungi to grow a protective barrier around leaves and roots that out-compete and kill the harmful fungi.
Early Setting Varieties
Tomato varieties are often classified by “days from transplanting” and early season, mid-season and late season.
These terms describe the time it takes (in theory) from planting in final position, when a plant begins to flower, to harvesting ripe tomatoes.
I’ve found the “days from transplanting” to be the least helpful because of the time it takes between flowering and fruit setting – when the flowers begin to produce fruit.
If conditions are unfavourable, a delay in pollination can cause a “60 days from transplanting” variety to become a “100 days from transplanting” – the quickness of a variety to set fruit is very important.
For example, I have two bush varieties sat side by side, receiving the same treatment and amount of sun etc.
One is Oregon Spring and the other is Legend. Oregon Spring is 60 days and Legend is 70 days from transplanting.
Oregon Spring started fruiting about a month ago (below) and Legend is yet to begin fruiting.
The variety that is the earliest to mature is usually the variety that is earliest to set fruit.
Red Alert, a bush cherry variety and Oregon Spring, a large fruited bush variety are both early to set fruit and will do so in difficult circumstances – unlike Legend which requires better growing conditions to set fruit.
One problem with bush varieties is that the weight of fruit will often break a branch or tear it away from the main stem. The fruit will still grow (surprisingly!) if you leave it attached and give the leaves a foliar spray/feed from time to time.
The photo above shows a split branch and a leaf that has seen better days. This is not leaf spot though, it is nutrient deficiency which is very common on lower leaves.
Let’s hope we get some better weather soon!