Potato Blight & Clubroot

It’s not been the best of weekends, for a start our new cat’s arrival is delayed. He’s been vaccinated, wormed, de-fleaed and had his bits chopped but a tummy bug is doing the rounds at my daughter’s and he’s got it. It’s not serious, but we don’t want to introduce an illness to our cats. For a start, even Squeak, the youngster, is 9 years old. He is a middle-aged moggy; the other two at 17 and 15 are pretty elderly.

Despite our protests that we didn’t want a kitten, although we were thinking about taking on a 5 year old or older when Claude departs this world, we’re really quite disappointed. Oh well, couple of weeks and he’ll be with us.


Down to the plot on Saturday, where I found I now have the dreaded clubroot. This is not the end of the world but it is a serious disease that will affect the way I grow brassicas from now on. There’s an article about it on the site – Coping with Clubroot.

It was one of the cauliflowers in the raised bed that I pulled as the caterpillars had eaten the leaves. Now the question is how the disease got there. I raise from seed, so it’s not been introduced on a bought in or swapped plant.

My main suspect was the municipal compost. It’s made from council collected green waste. If there were infected brassicas put into that waste then possibly that’s where it came from. I know the waste is thoroughly composted, but there’s always an element of bad luck in these things. So it’s possible.

The cauliflowers had been transplanted from 3″ square pots into the bed and it appears the roots have hardly spread from that size. Now this makes me wonder about another possibility, the bought in multi-purpose compost. As I understand it, this is essentially a mix of finely riddled municipal type compost, peat and added fertiliser. Yet not all the plants are affected so maybe it’s not the compost at all.

There’s no way to know for sure, I just have to work with a problem that I cannot cure. Bit like the weather really.


Cleared the half barrels of the last of the early carrots. The maincrop carrots are in a raised bed. I’ve just been pulling from the barrels as we need, leaving the rest to grow on. I suppose these are the runts of the litter! Anyway, I’ll cook these and make carrot mash, which I love, for the freezer. It’s basically the same as carrot & parsnip mash, but without the parsnips.

Sarpo Potatoes

Now I’ve been going on about the Sarpo potato varieties since they became available. They’re blight resistant and they don’t seem to suffer too much from slugs. The Sarpo Mira are a very dense potato and it seems the slugs can’t get too far with them.

This has been a blight year, again. Not as bad as 2007 but still pretty bad. This year though, the Sarpo seemed to be more affected by the blight than last year. I’d got pretty complacent about them, having seen the Sarpo unaffected when every other potato on the whole site had gone down. I’d cut the haulm off the potatoes but not urgently and it’s come back to bite me this year.

I’d say a good quarter of the potato tubers have blight. Some were just mush, a very stinky mush at that, and some you could see the blight starting. It’s pointless saving those as, once into the tuber, blight will spread and to other tubers in the sack.

Nearly as bad, there’s far more slug damage than usual. Now I had used slug pellets a couple of times with the other potatoes, the ferramol based ones, which are safe for wildlife – Safe Slug Pellets – but the foliage on the Sarpo is so dense you can’t get any to the ground once they’re established.

This year I had used saved tubers from last year as seed potatoes for the Sarpo. I can’t help but wonder if that had something to do with the poor results, although the seed potatoes were good quality as far as I knew. I do hope it’s not a new, more virulent strain of blight striking. Anyway, fresh seed potatoes for next year.

It had been lovely and warm in the afternoon, but as the sun started to sink it cooled quickly. Having spread the potatoes on the ground to just harden the skins off and dry them, since no rain is predicted until Monday, decided to leave them overnight. Got up on Sunday to discover it had rained. Typical!!

Gaynor (Larry’s wife) had popped round on Saturday with 3lbs of raspberries, so Val was making jam. The sun did come out and I headed back down to the plot after Gardener’s Question Time on Radio 4. Just loved hearing the RHS claiming all the credit for discovering and publicising the aminopyralid in manure problem. Funny, I didn’t hear a peep out of them when people were wondering what the heck was happening. Perhaps I’m being uncharitable.

Finished getting the Sarpo potatoes up on plot 5. It’s strange, the last row had little slug damage and some plants had no blight at all, yet other plants had loads. Oh well, that’s gardening. At least we should have enough potatoes, despite the losses, to get us through to next year’s early crop. When you consider the effort that goes in to growing something like a potato, especially growing organically, you have to have a lot of respect for the farmers in this country.

Val came down later and harvested a load more borlotti beans and half a carrier bag full of tomatoes. I’d taken the car round and by half six had the boot full of potatoes and headed home to make my carrot mash, which went very well with dinner.

Photo Below: The roots of a cauliflower affected by clubroot.

Clubroot affect Cauliflower Root

Posted in Allotment Garden Diary
13 comments on “Potato Blight & Clubroot
  1. Tracy says:

    Same here with the sarpo mira. Blighted. Never tried them before, perhaps I was a bit complacent with then too. I don’t think you are being uncharitable about the RHS either. Sometimes their cogs move slower than they realise.

  2. George says:

    I planted a row of Sarpo Mira from fresh seed potatoes. They had blight and slugs, although they did survive longer than other varieties and quite a few were OK. I’m registered with the blightwatch service from the Potato Council. They e-mailed me with blight in my area (North Worcestershire) about two weeks after everyone’s spuds on our allotment site were blighted. I think next year I’ll go for varieties which bulk up early.

  3. Iain@jbaseedpotatoes says:

    That’s a shame about the blight but you must remember that potatoes are not resistant to blight just some have more resistance to the disease.In general maincrops have the most blight resistance.With your slug problem may I suggest you try a second early called Kestrel.

  4. John says:

    Thanks Iain, I did well with my Kestrel this year – lovely potato and popular with the show growers as well.

    As for Sarpo, I think they’ve done better than any other potato would have under the circumstances. It’s just that this year they haven’t done as well as they usually do in blight and slug ridden conditions.

  5. Iain@jbaseedpotatoes says:

    The earliest potato you could grow would be Swift if you wanted to try and avoid blight.
    I think everyone has blight this year but it has happened later than normal with most people.
    There is always next year to try again and do better I always say.
    Maybe you were very unlucky John and planted your Sarpo in a previously blight infected area that you didn’t know about?

  6. John says:

    Pretty hard to find a patch where potatoes haven’t been grown before on my plot. I think with growing you have to accept some losses. Next year the weather must be better.

  7. nickyveglover says:

    Hi John sorry to hear about the blight. Ive been very lucky over here no blight at all, grew maris peer, kestral and pink fir apple also nadine. All did very well thank god.

  8. lay_reb says:

    hi there sorry to the bearer of bad news but i can honestly say that up here in east anglia we have had no blight at all. My tatoes did very well i am very new to gardening and allotmenteering so this was my first year. I chose arran pilot, arran victory, desiree and anya beautiful and tasty and have two big sacks to keep me going til the new year. Hopefully we will have a another free year 1n 2009.

  9. Chris says:

    Only planted first earlies up here in Cumbria this year. Planted Maris Bard but not till early May and had an excellent crop of spuds in Late July with very little slug damage and missed the blight just lucky I think as the plots around me with main crops all seemed to be blighted from late August.

  10. dwtomo says:

    Hi John just some advice passed on to me at our allotment with regards clubroot, apply a small amount of lime to the planting hole even though you will have already limed the plot and this seems to give protection and reduce the effect of the clubroot to the plants even if affected.
    Also regarding slug damage to potatoes, as a newcomer I was advised to plant my potatoes using a bulb planter to lift the soil from the hole to be planted and place a small amount of manure in the base plus layer of soot then the potatoe then another layer of soot and then replace the soil from the planter and so on down the row, then when you earth up sprinkle a small amount of soot over the row and also when you earth up again, this then washes down into the soil and the slugs do not like it, I have tried one without soot and another with, and it worked very well just thought I would pass this on hope it is of some use.(we are fortunate that the chimmny sweep drops the soot off for us as he has to pay to get rid of it at the tip so good for him and good for us)

  11. dwtomo says:

    Hi John just read coping with clubroot so I have only repeated the advice sorry

  12. paul jones says:

    hi, clubroot can lay doorment in soil for up to 20 years.its not the end of world, i find if there is a bit of club root about to put a bit of jays fluid into planting hole before you r brassicas,and rotate your crops as normal.

  13. Simon says:

    Just wanted to check if anyone else in the Bristol area has potato blight? I checked this morning 01/05/2009 and my potato leaves are all covered in brown patches. I know the weather has been unusually warm and also damp recently but thought this is very early for Blight? I know Blight happens when conditions prevail rather then time of year but after checking all the other plots on the allotment can only assume it has come early as all potato plants on the other plots also have brown blotches.

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