I discovered to my horror at the weekend that or entire potato crop has been affected by blight. In all the years that we have been growing spuds this has never happened to such an extreme extent. There was a blight warning issued to the farmers last week and with all the rainfall it is no surprise. Potato blight is caused by a fungus, Phytophthora infestans. This can also affect other members of the potato family, Solanaceae, such as tomtaotes. It spreads through the air and develops when weather conditions are warm, humid and wet. There is little you can do to avoid it. Brown freckles on the leaves or a section of brown patches with a yellowish border spreading from the brown patch are a sign of blight. Tubers should be earthed up immediately so as to protect them from the spores going down into them. The foliage should be removed and burned. If the tubers are well covered with earth the crop may be ok but should be then left alone for a couple of weeks so that the blight spores on the surface die and to allow the potatoes develop a thicker skin. After harvesting you should then check your store regularly for signs of blight and remove these spuds straight away. Tubers affected by blight will have dark patches on the skin and will have brown rot on the inside when cut in half. Thompson and Morgan sell a sarpo variety of potato which are extremely blight protective, I’ll be ordering them next year.
Its not all doom and gloom thankfully. Hesperis matronalis is thriving in the garden. This is an attractive, hardy plant which self seeds. It is a member of the mustard family and is also known as Dame’s rocket. I planted mine at the edge of the wooded area in partial shade. It has seeded in the gravel in another part of the garden and looks great there too. I am grateful for its bright snowy white blooms as other perennials are behind this year due to the lack of sun. Another lovely little plant providing unusual colour now is Tradsescantia ‘Blushing Bride’. This has delicate pink flowers from now to September that change to white as the season progresses. It reaches only 45cm in height and is ideal for the front of the border. What a lovely little plant to give to someone who is hosting a wedding this year!