THE extent to which gardeners’ lives have been blighted by blight became clear following my last week’s column.

My in-box was full of tales of woe but also a remedy which one tomatophile swears by. She tells me that it acts as a preventive measure — if used regularly.

Now, I am aware of chemicals which can be obtained from the chemist’s and mixed at home as an alternative to the banned copper sulphate-based Bordeaux Mixture, but this remedy – unless you know differently – appears much more benign. I will be trying this next year.

Isle of Wight County Press: A late blight on Richard's tomatoes.

Richard's tomatoes have got late blight.

Mix a tablespoon of baking soda, a teaspoonful of vegetable oil and a small amount of unperfumed soap in a gallon of water and spray the plants regularly.

One measure that can be taken if blight has taken control is to immediately restrict watering because the blight spores rely on humidity to spread.

It will at least allow harvest of some fruit because blight seems to be selective, picking out some fruit and leaving its neighbours unscathed while the plant itself wilts and probably perishes.

Regular reader Paul Erlam, who grew up in Rookley and now lives in Berkshire, lost his crop of 30 plants and wondered about my tip on soil sterilisation; what planting to try in the future — and if blight would return if he tried tomatoes in the same spot next year.

I use a gas weed scorching wand if I am blighted. It kills weeds, seeds and spores as belt and braces to also changing the soil.

There is mixed opinion about whether blight spoors over-winter in the soil.

If you are growing in soil, you can change it (and hope, as I will) or plant from a different family - not toms or aubergines - but perhaps peppers, chillies or cucumbers and return to tomatoes in future.

Isle of Wight County Press: Eddie's seven-truss Queen.

Eddie Grove's seven-truss Queen.

One gardening old hand who has escaped the blight is Eddie Grove, who has done his best to preserve Northwood horticulturalist Stan Jackson’s Queen of Hearts variety that he worked so hard to perfect over two decades.

Unfortunately, despite his best efforts, unless plants of a single variety are grown in complete isolation, cross-pollination does occur and a battle for genetic domination commences which can result in a single plant producing different fruit.

Eddie allowed his vigorous plants to go to seven trusses but despite having taken seed from two perfectly shaped heart-shaped fruit last year one truss produced one tom which grew like topsy.

It tipped the scales at one-and-a-quarter pounds, which is completely atypical - see the main image (top) of Eddie's rogue monster Queen tomato, with an egg alongside for comparison.

DID YOU MISS LAST WEEK'S COLUMN? Click here to read it and learn more about tomato blight problems.

  • I have had e-mails highlighting re-use and repurposing a variety of containers in the garden and would welcome more photographs from readers to compile a future column.


Ensure you get a good first season crop by planting strawberries now.

Winter-flowering pansies can be sown now for colour in the cooler months. Viola can be sown to over-winter and provide jolly colour in early spring.

Sow winter lettuce such as Winter Gem in modules in the greenhouse to plant out later this month.

Sow parsley, coriander and chervil in seed trays now for growing under glass.

If you have greenhouse space, dwarf beans can be sown for an autumn crop.

Winter-hardy spring onions such as White Lisbon and Performer should be direct sown now for crops next spring. Onion sets and garlic can also be sown.

Radish French Breakfast is very quick to crop; make successional sowings for autumn picking.

Have you got a question for Richard? You can email him at