IT WOULD seem the causes of tomato leaf curl can be almost as difficult to solve as a smooth Brexit.

But as increasing numbers of gardeners turn to peat-free composts I have received ever more reports of what appears to be herbicide poisoning of plants, a problem which first surfaced on the Island years ago.

There are several causes of leaf distortion of plants, from temperature change outside the range a plant would normally be expected to cope with, growing conditions swinging from wet to dry to virus infection and attack by pests.

Those are certainly the most common but it seems possible from several of the photographs I have seen that some are chemically caused.

The first report came from the old Weekly Post’s advertising manager Paul Dyer, quickly followed by the son of another reader, but the most telling came from Eddie Grove, who has faithfully kept going the hybrid tom, Queen of Hearts, created by the sadly departed Stan Jackson.

Darren Flux wrote on behalf of his father, Dave. “Last year my father had problems with tomato plants in a greenhouse and other plants in the garden.”

“He has since fumigated the greenhouse, dug out and re-soiled and put netting over the greenhouse, but the problem persists.”

I don’t know whether Dave has used bought-in compost as a supplement but the distinctive fern leaf curl which affects new growth and stunts the whole plant’s growth looks identical to poor Eddie’s problem.

Earlier in the year Eddie supplied me with several plants, one of which I kept and the rest of which I sold for charity. I have had no problems with mine and I would be interested to know if other readers have...

Eddie says: “Sad news and perhaps an apology is due to all those that had Queen of Hearts plants off us earlier in the year.

“My friend Reg Milton has a selection of tomato plants and he phoned me to say that it looks as though the Queen of Hearts (from me) was in trouble. I checked my six plants and found them all to be in trouble too.

“My courgette fruits are all coming off extremely distorted and the plants themselves are nowhere near as vigorous as last year’s.

“I have concluded that I am back where others were in previous years and purchased peat-free compost into which I transplanted this lot and it may be that last year’s selective weed killer is still active in this commercial product.”

Eddie is now faced with the choice of whether to in future continue going peat-free or buying peat-based compost which is, of course, the antithesis of ‘green’ and should be avoided if possible.

As compost companies look to replace the bulk formerly provided by peat with composted green material from local authority composting sites the peril caused by long-lasting and powerful broad-leaf hormonal weed-killers which can find their way into the mix from treated lawn trimmings has been well-documented.

The main suggestion I can make is for gardeners to make their own compost if they want to avoid a lottery. In a future column I will suggest compost-your-own recipes so that you can grow your own produce without risk and more cheaply too...