For six weeks or more we have been enjoying baskets full of sweet sun-ripened tomatoes from the greenhouse.

Greenhouse tomato crop; Sakura, Shirley and San Marzano

Shirley and Sakura tomatoes always grow well for us under glass, and this year we raised some San Marzano tomatoes to accompany them. Their blocky fruits, a favourite with many chefs, have been sweet and tasty, and we were looking forward to freezing them in flavourful sauces for the winter.

Marmande tomatoes

Outside, against a south-facing wall, Marmade tomatoes have been cropping relatively well too, their large pleated fruit full of flavour; ideal sliced into a salad or sandwich.

Tomato leaves, curled with blight (mottling from low magnesium levels)

But this weekend, we found brown spots on the Marmande leaves, and not just on these outdoor tomatoes: the San Marzano plants in the greenhouse had curled brown leaves, and blotches appearing on the fruit and stems. Blight had found its way into our greenhouse for the first time.

We pulled out the San Marzano plants, with handfuls of fruit sadly beyond rescuing, and checked the cordon types nearby. Alas, even these showed the marks of blight, though not so advanced. We cut off all the affected leaves and stems, leaving as much fruit as we could to continue ripening. At least by August, tomatoes should continue to ripen on the vine even with all the leaves removed from the plants.

Defoliated tomato cordons in the greenhouse

Like many others up and down the country, this is not then going to be a year of bumper tomato harvests. One of our favourite, and most dependable, crops has been curtailed. The aubergines nearby, members of the same blight-prone family as tomatoes and potatoes, also looked rather unwell, so we picked their black shiny fruits to carry up to the kitchen, and destroyed the plants.

Bowl of homegrown aubergines and tomatoes

The half-dozen fruits were roasted with some of our courgettes, tomatoes and garlic, and made a few fine meals, but not quite the triumphant harvest we had hoped for. We should continue to pick tomatoes for some weeks, but their days are certainly numbered, and we won’t have the usual supply of sauces in the freezer to enjoy through the winter. Greenhouse crops are often lucky to escape the ravages of blight; alas this year the damp weather has proven too much.


16 thoughts on “Caught

  1. Sorry about the blight, horrid. I remember going on holiday a few years ago leaving a neighbour to water the greenhouse, when we came back everything was black (not the neighbour’s fault of course but a nasty thing to find on our return). I think San Marzano need more heat and sun than any other tomato. Hope everything else is growing well for you. Christina

    • Thanks, it’s pretty sad, though at least we have been enjoying our tomatoes for a few weeks, and we’re still enjoying other harvests from the garden – especially runner beans which love the rain. Suspect the San Marzano were also more prone because of their semi-determinate nature. Their growth was bushy and congested compared to the cordons around them, which had a lot more air and light.

  2. Sara how disappointing to loose crops this way, good you have had some and can save some but it must be disappointing, good your runner beans are doing so well with all your rain I’ve read they need a lot of moisture, Frances

  3. Hi,

    Sorry to hear you’ve got blight on your plants – no doubt aided largely by the wet weather!

    I am yet to have a single ripe tomato; it took them a long time to get going with all the poor weather and I’m doubtful I’ll have any before it’s too late.

  4. I think you should be incredibly chuffed with your tomatoes and aubergines especially considering the year that we’ve had. Being able to grow Mediterranean veg in an climate like ours is an achievement anyway. After 2 great years of outdoor tomatoes when I lived near London I had 3 years of blighted ones here in Wales and then decided not to bother. If I had a greenhouse I’d give them another try but until then I’ll look at your photos enviously 😉

    • Easy to become complacent, but you’re right, of course, and although we are sad to lose half our prospective harvests we are certainly pleased and grateful for the crops we’ve had so far.

  5. I lost all my tomtoes at the allotment to blight a few weeks before without harvesting one fruit. At home they are still OK but they just aren’t ripening despite having removed leaves etc etc. I have concluded that the garden isnt sunny enough for tomatoes 😦

    • It’s been a very ‘blighted’ year. Hope that your garden ones ripen – would they catch more sun at the front of the house? Is there a wall you can lean them against there through the summer? It’s so nice to have a few homegrown toms.

  6. I’m sorry to read about your blight, we get it every year but luckily usually manage a decent crop before it hits – sadly not so this year, our first with hardly any tomatoes and it’s pushed me to try growing back in the greenhouse next year. Your San Marzano look lovely – one of my favourites! Bethx

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