There’s A Fungus Amungus!

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Oh, no!!!  Blight!

It is the scourge of the tomato garden, and it has, seemingly overnight, hit mine with a vengeance.

This season, I have not used fungicides, as I didn’t see a need for them.  I made a mistake!  I’ve been picking funky leaves off the tomato plants since I put the seedlings out, but always lower-branch leaves, perfectly normal decline…or so I thought.  It seems that something ominous has been lurking in my garden, waiting for the perfect moment to strike.

After a couple months of heat and humidity, perfectly normal Connecticut summer weather, we’ve had a nice night cooling trend.  Gorgeous overnight temperatures have moved in, allowing me to turn off the air conditioning overnight and open the doors.

These blissfully cool overnight temperatures have also allowed the late blight that has been lurking in my tomato garden to take hold and wipe out half of my tomato crop.

There is nothing that I can do to stop it.  It’s way too far gone.  This happened in a matter of a couple of days.  I saw some funly leaves, took them off and disposed of them, and then went out to find half of the garden curled up…dead.  Lesions on the stems.  Lesions on the fruit.  All of my research points to late blight.

 

So…what to do?  I’m taking down all infected plants, and watching the ones that aren’t infected yet.  It will happen.  The surviving plants will become infected, for sure.  It’s simply a matter of time.

I have a few plants with plenty of good fruit on them, and no lesions on the stems.  Those, I stripped of all of their leaves, and I’m leaving the stalks with the fruit for a few days while I strip the rest of the plants, to try to get a blush on the fruit, so I can ripen them off the vines.  

It isn’t ideal, but at least I won’t lose all of the fruit.  The plants that are scarred, on their stalks, are being stripped of the surviving fruit.  The tomatoes will ripen off the vines, or not.

Looks like I’m in for a lot of fried green tomatoes!  I did manage to grab one nice and ripe Zapotec, a real freaky guy.

 

Here’s one perk to planting in containers…the soil gets dumped into a compost pile, where Winter will take care of it.  I was talking to Mike about this last night, both of us wondering…if I just take the buckets to the dumpster and dump the soil out into the dumpster…where does it go?  What impact will dumping this possibly infected soil have on the environment  it’s headed for?  Am I endangering another neighborhood with my blighted soil?

We agreed that it is best to take responsibility for, and control of, my tomato bucket soil, put it on top of my own compost pile, and let nature do her thing.  Unless we have another very mild winter like we did last year (and I don’t feel that happening) Winter will take care of any fungus hanging out in the soil.

Blight is a “gonna happen” here.  We have humidity, heat, and sudden drops in temperatures.  I live just a couple hundred feet from a river, which just makes for more humidity.  Blight, powdery mildew, are all bound to happen.

There’s nothing I can do now, except strip the infected plants, bag and dispose of them, and amend the soil in that one raised bed with sheep dip and winter rye to bulk the soil back up, add nutrients, so it can fight off this infection in its own.  I won’t plant tomatoes in that space next year at all.  I’ll plant something else, rotate that space.

Next year, I’ll look for more disease resistant tomato cultivars.  I love my heirlooms, but they’re too prone to disease.  I want to give that space some time to calm down.  So, next year, I’ll shop hybrids.

On a lighter note…my banana plant is super happy, and so are the eggplant and hot peppers!

 

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14 responses »

  1. Hi, and thanks so much for stopping in with this great advice! Garden season will be starting “momentarily,” and I’m already obsessing over tomato blight and powdery mildew. I know that once it starts, it’s impossible to stop. I’m hoping that, if I get on it with the first true leaves, I’ll keep the fungus at bay for a while longer.

  2. Hello there! Just stopped by to take a boo and thought you might find this link useful: although you can’t stop blight or other fungal diseases, once they get started (and they are a normal part of Nature, so will always be around) but this preventative strategy may just help you stay ahead this year? Michaela encourages natural gardening practices, by working with Mother Nature, not against her and has designed the most beautiful gardens around her home in Vermont.
    http://www.thegardenerseden.com/?tag=anti-fungal-baking-soda-solution-for-mildew-and-blackspot

  3. It’s a big job. It isn’t just plants…it’s lives. Seems silly, but there it is. Each of these plants is an organism, one that has needs that must be met in order for the plant to thrive. It’s also a rewarding job, to see them come from seed to fully grown, productive plants, producing flowers and fruit. Some take right off and go on without a hitch, like this year’s eggplant, parsley and onions, others suffer, like the tomatoes and one of my Dahlias. “Peaches” is doing extraordinarily well, but “Jean Marie” has struggled all season. To see buds forming on that Jean Marie Dahlia after it struggled all season is especially rewarding. One winter squash struggled, limped, fell, then got back up and took off running. Same for my little watermelons. I love to watch them come back from the brink, reward me for my extra effort.
    And then there’s “Senor Sergio Amigo,” my banana plant. He sprouts a leaf a week, and has TWO baby plants!
    I’m rambling…I’ll stop now…with one last thought…there is nothing like a plate of home grown spinach.

  4. that’s good to know, you know something?? it seems like a lot of people are growing their own food, it is a big job though…

  5. It really is a garden staple, as is insecticide soap. Unfortunately, this season, the blight caught and ran. Next season, I plan to start neem oil and insecticidal soap treatments as soon as I put out the transplants.

  6. Neem oil is a sort of vegetable oil, pressed from a cultivar of Evergreen. It helps with fungun, insects..you can even use it on your skin! It won’t do much by way of the blight my poor little tomatoes are suffering this season, though.

  7. Yes, unfortunately. Around here, organic growing is not always easy to attain. I tried my best this year, but finally had to reach for the chemicals. I count myself lucky that it took this long, and that the sheep got me off the chemical fertilizers.
    I didn’t bother with the tomatoes. I did spray the squash.
    Looking forward…next season, will look for an organic compound for controlling fungus and blight, and will start treating my plants at the beginning of the season. It will have to be stronger than Neem. The weather, the river…all that humidity conspires. Neem has failed more often than not.

  8. I’m rabid about weeds. Now I have to be just as rabid about fungus. Next season, it will be fungicide from the day I plant out the seedlings until the day I pull my last tomato.

  9. Thanks! Yes, this is frustrating, heart breaking…the season is well past its midway mark, though, so I’ll probably have time to ripen most of those maters.
    Aren’t those Zapotecs awesome? Delicious, too!

  10. Sorry to hear about the blight! it is creeping up in my garden now too, but we are just about done with harvest anyhow. That is the coolest looking tomato ever!

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