July and August often see summer turn into an overcast damp mush in the UK, and when that happens it’s a time to keep an eye open for blight. This serious disease, which affects both potatoes and tomatoes, is caused by the tiny, wind-blown spores of a fungus called ‘phytophthora infestans’. Blight was responsible for the Irish Potato Famine many years ago, and it’s still with us today. Not only that, it’s with us just about everywhere. Whether or not you actually get a blight infestation depends mostly on the weather, and partly on you.
While you’re unlikely to have potatoes growing in the polytunnel, tomatoes are a very common crop. Unfortunately, polytunnels tend to be havens for blight due to their high relative humidity levels – and, as is true with almost all disease and pest problems in the polytunnel, once you have it, it’s difficult to get rid of it.
Prevention is the best cure – as there is no ‘real’ cure. Blight can only take hold in damp or wet conditions, so make sure your plants have plenty of space around them. When they’re tall enough, remove all the leaves up to a height of 30cms. This improves ventilation, especially lower down where the air stays cooler, which in turn helps keep the leaves dry.
‘Smith Periods’ are weather patterns likely to result in the spread of blight spores. They are calculated using temperature and relative humidity data, and until recently predictions were restricted to a few Met stations dotted around the UK. The Blightwatch website is FREE to sign up, for Smith Period warnings that are now calculated based on data from the entire UK at postcode level. Once you register you can request warnings, either by email or text to your mobile phone of Smith Periods in up to 10 postcodes near your garden or allotment.
If blight arrives, all you can do is try to slow it down. Remove any affected leaves or fruit immediately, then spray everything – yes, the entire polytunnel – with a solution of bicarbonate (baking soda), 10g per litre. Add a couple of drops of a plant-based detergent to help the solution stick to the leaves. It‘s a good idea to begin spraying before you see any sign of blight, so make this a bi-weekly task from the beginning of the month.
Blight tends to affect older leaves first, but not always. Leaf edges begin to turn brown, watery, and quickly shrivel and collapse. Fruit will become discoloured at first, then decay quickly, preventing even short-term storage.
Advice about blight disagrees on whether or not it is truly capable of overwintering in the soil. Many, including the RHS, are convinced that it can. Either way, it is definitely capable of genetic mutation producing new strains capable of infecting varieties of potato previously considered ‘blight resistant’; all tomato varieties will eventually succumb to blight if the conditions are bad enough.
This, of course, is a very good reason to get an early start on tomato plants. If your area is prone to blight, choose very early varieties – then you have some hope of getting a crop before disaster strikes. I normally start a couple of ‘early’ plants indoors in February, and last year I had fruit from them in June.
Start sowing seeds for winter and the hungry gap this month! And yes, I know it’s the peak of summertime, but you have to give the seedlings a good start as they’ve got some pretty thin months ahead of them. Don’t forget cold-hardy lettuce varieties such as Rouge d’Hiver and Bronze Arrow which will survive even when there’s frost on their leaves. For detailed information on sowing, growing and harvesting times for all polytunnel vegetable crops, see ‘How To Grow Food In Your Polytunnel’.
Beetroot, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, coriander, daikon, fennel, kohlrabi, lettuce, spring onion, pak choi, radish, rocket, strawberries, turnip.
Aubergine, broad beans, French and dwarf French beans, sprouting broccoli, cabbage, carrot, cauliflower, celery, chard, coriander, courgette, cucumber, elephant garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, onion, spring onion, pak choi, peas, radish, rocket, spinach, strawberry, tomato.
And finally sweet corn and sweet peppers both make it on to the ‘harvesting’ list. Dinner is served...
Please see our Top Of The Crops for a list of over 80 Vegetables, Fruits, Herbs and Spices, Flowers and Exotics.
We’re a close-knit bunch of skilled professionals who take an enormous pride in the quality and versatility of our products, But we’re enthusiasts too - we use our own products, and that means we’ve introduced lots of improvements and innovations over the years…based on first-hand everyday practical experience. We work hand-in hand with top growing experts. We even have our own allotment for some seriously hands-on gardening, often accompanied by communal summer and winter barbecues because all work and no play would be very dull!
Reviewed by you, Followed by you, Liked by you and listened to by us. We have a strong online polytunnel community, 35k Facebook Fans, 10k Twitter Followers and over 3m YouTube Views. Our community of dedicated, passionate Polytunnel gardening friends, love to share their sowing tips, growing hints and harvesting secrets with each other. But more importantly for you, as a customer or a potential customer, you can post your comments in all their glory or gory details. Come and join the Polytunnel family.
Our six man construction team has a wealth of polytunnel construction knowledge and are more than happy to share tips and advice with any of our customers. Many of the team have been quite literally 'hands on' developing the First Tunnels vast array of construction videos and in depth instruction guides. Our construction team are available to answer your questions and help in whatever way they can. Simply call 01282 601253 on week days between 9am-5pm...PLUS weekend cover on 07801 601253, between 9am-5pm.
We are proud of our products and the time that we have put in to making sure that all our products are first class. We understand that purchasing a polytunnel is a considerable investment, and whilst we have lots of help and advice on this site, Facebook, YouTube, Twitter and blog pages many people like to compare and contrast before they commit their hard earned cash to buying. To this end we have compiled a list of the most common questions and provide 10 top reasons why First Tunnels Polytunnels is the top choice.
Part of the fun of owning a polytunnel is picking the brains of people who really know how to make the most of the real growing potential. So we're making it easy for you...with some of the best brains in the business! This site now includes features, produced exclusively for First Tunnels by Andy McKee and Mark Gatter - best-selling authors of 'How to grow food in your Polytunnel' and 'The Polytunnel Handbook'. We also have videos from BBC’s Gardeners’ Question Time presenter, Paul Peacock. We also have a host of growing guides from Sam Youd, presenter & judge for the Royal Horticultural Society & Tatton Park Head Gardener.
What better way to learn about company dependability, product quality and customer service than to hear it straight from other consumers? By giving customers the opportunity to share their First Tunnels shopping experience, we believe this is the best reflection of our companies’ product and service. To help reinforce credibility, popularity and reputation, we have subscribed to not one, not two...but THREE independent review companies. We value all feedback, good, bad or ugly and hope to build a long lasting relationship with our customer, through our high quality products and friendly service, to ensure they do not hesitate to order again and again with First Tunnels in the future.