Sunday, February 28, 2010

More Farm Show and Tomato Blight

One of the reasons I love the Farm Show is that it is a benchmark in a bleak winter that assures us Spring is on the way. Everyone walking around the show had one thing on their minds, the coming Spring season.

Unfortunately, there weren't any booths with information on tomato blight and fungicides. During last year's major blight, this is the information I gleaned from Cooperative Extension's articles in the newspaper:

The blight came from tomato plants sold at big box stores that came in from other states.
*Solution* Buy local tomato plants or grow them yourself from seed.

The blight will last a couple of years in the soil.
*Solution* Do NOT plant tomatoes or potatoes in your existing garden plot (other plants seem to be ok there). I am personally planning on putting my tomato plants in pots up on the other side of my house away from the garden and away from any cross winds from the garden.

To help eliminate the blight, use a fungicide. In fact, it is recommended to use a fungicide to not only help your own crop out but to avoid destroying a neighbor's crop and spreading the disease.
*Solution* Not good news for organic gardeners! I'm looking to use as safe a commercially made organic fungicide as possible. Tomato plants must be treated early and often throughout their entire growth. I'm also researching other organic ways to treat not only the plants but the soil in my garden. I heard something about applying cornmeal.

Other ideas some may be able to use are:

If you have a greenhouse, grow them in a greenhouse this year, perhaps even starting plants earlier to avoid the late blight. The blight is spread by the wind and infectious soils. If your plants are sheltered from the wind, they may avoid the blight.

If you do put your tomatoes in a plot, make sure they aren't crowded. Mine always vine out massively and create a sort of mini rain forest that keeps everything so damp under the leaves.

I'm avoiding crazy hybrids (which I usually do) and those silly massively large tomatoes (which I usually do. I prefer romas and heirlooms.)

However, if you're open to it, look for blight resistant hybrids on the market this year.

If you didn't dispose of your tomato plants in the garbage last year (put them in the compost pile or burned them) or if your blighted tomatoes dropped into the soil, look for soil treatments or perhaps even remove and replace the soil in your garden where the tomatoes fell. If you don't have that option, research organic fungi treatments from the soil and avoid planting tomatoes and potatoes in there for a few years.

**If this years tomatoes start showing signs of late blight, remove and bag the plants IMMEDIATELY and dispose of them in the landfill.** While this makes many environmenally conscious people cringe (including myself who'd rather compost) this is a recommended solution to help control and eventually stop the blight. Remember, the blight isn't just hurting you and your few jars of spaghetti sauce and salsa. It is destroying the livelihood of local farmers, people you want to support and not see go bankrupt and sell off their farms to developers). We may have to take a few non-environmentally friendly measures now to ensure a better environment later.

Here is a place I shop for environmentally friendly garden solutions: Gardens Alive


Stephanie said...

Thank you for posting this, it is very helpful. To me, tomatoes ARE summer and it's not summer without em'! I remember walking through rows of dead tomatoes and crying last year...I do not want that to happen again!

Anonymous said...

wow, thanks for this. My affected tomatoes were the ones I bought from the (local) Amish greenhouse. Bummer. I do have saved non hybrid seed from my own garden so I'll start those this year. I am so fortunate that I have an alternate location. Too bad the soil is not at all built up like my home garden :) It will take forever to rid the garden of the volunteers. I must think of it as much needed exercise!

Kate said...

Elsie, unless the Amish ordered the plants wholesale rather than growing them themselves, those plants might not have been carriers, but rather victims.

Anonymous said...

I should ask them; I've never actually purchased tomato seedlings from them (or anyone in the past couple of decades) previously. Now off to read your cornmeal link :)