Tomato Blight Can Be Controlled
The time of year is fast approaching when tomato growers will begin to see the first signs of tomato blight. In the eighteen hundreds a fungus-like mold devastated the potato crops in Ireland leading to the great potato famine. It is the same fungus-like mold that causes the tomato blight that we experience.
There is an early and a late tomato blight, both equally destructive. The symptoms are similar. Yellowish or brownish spots will appear on the leaves, quickly growing larger and spreading to the stalks and the fruit. Without drastic actions, both plant and fruit will shrivel and die.
Once the blight is established, it is very hard to control it without strong chemicals that can destroy friendly insects and the birds who feed on them. Chemicals also remain in the soil, possibly entering our water supplies.
The best way to prevent tomato blight is to start early and make some wise decisions. There are some blight-resistant tomato species available. Most of these are late producers, for good reason, as it is the early producers that seem most susceptible to blight. It may be worth investing a bit more and considering these varieties.
Whatever type you choose, there are several things you can do to help protect your crop.
Whatever plants you choose, inspect them carefully, before purchasing, to make sure they look healthy and free of disease symptoms.
When you plant, leave plenty of room between plants, a minimum of three feet. You don't want to be touching the leaves any more than necessary. Never plant tomatoes near potatoes, as both are susceptible to the same blight. Also, never plant tomatoes where diseased plants grew the year before. Plant in good soil with plenty of mulch. Strong plants are better able to resist any disease, just like strong people. Stake your plants at the time of planting.
Depress the soil around each plant so it can be watered without wetting the leaves. Remove any leaves that drag in the soil.
It is preferable, for water conservation purposes, to water in the evening, so the water does not just evaporate in the heat of the day. If you do so, water only the soil around the plant, avoiding the leaves. In the morning the sun will quickly dry wet leaves, but in the evening, the leaves will remain wet for a long period of time, making them more susceptible to tomato blight, as well as other molds.
Check your plants periodically for any signs of disease, but handle them as little as possible. If you see signs of blight, remove the diseased leaves or fruit, and seal them in plastic bags for disposal. Never put diseased leaves or fruit in your compost.
Be fastidious in your gardening habits. Disease molds can adhere to your hands and any implements you use. Wash both well in warm soapy water. Rise and leave to dry in the open air - implements that is.
If you find that you crop has blight, act immediately by spraying with an organic fungicide. There are several on the market that are strong enough to do the job, without harming the environment.
At the end of the growing season, or if your crop is a total loss, clean up the area immediately. Remove and burn any diseased plants. Rake clean and leave no areas where fungus can winter.
If you do not have a large garden, and your garden gets lots of sun, you can sterilize the soil to kill any fungus. This involves cleaning up the area, watering it well, covering it with a layer of heavy plastic, weighing down the plastic, and then leaving the area to bake in direct sun for at least four weeks. You then remove the plastic, turn the soil, and repeat the process. Do this repeatedly as many times as winter will allow.
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