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Tomato Blight Can Be Controlled

Updated on April 17, 2012
Tomato blight attacks the leaves as well as both green and ripe tomatoes.
Tomato blight attacks the leaves as well as both green and ripe tomatoes.

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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    • teaches12345 profile image

      Dianna Mendez 5 years ago

      One of my favorite fruits/vegetables is the tomato. I love the taste when it is earth grown. I didn't know that the mold could stay on your hands, good to know. Thanks for the information.

    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for commenting Teaches 12345 - the early blight hit our area badly, which caused me to do some investigating - hoping to do better this year - B.

    • kashmir56 profile image

      Thomas Silvia 5 years ago from Massachusetts

      Hi billips,great hub i do grow tomatoes every year and have not had this blight happen to my tomatoes . But i sure for those who do this information is valuable to them.

      Vote up and more !!!

    • always exploring profile image

      Ruby Jean Fuller 5 years ago from Southern Illinois

      I always have a garden every year. This is a real problem some years..Thank you for the info.

    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Hi Kashmir56 - I guess you are one of the lucky ones - so far I have no blight, but in exchange I have a nice invasion of tomato fruitworm - the battle rages on - B.

    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for reading and commenting Always Exploring - gardening is certainly a pleasure irregardless of all those bugs and blights - regards - B.

    • sheilanewton profile image

      sheilanewton 5 years ago from North Shields, UK

      Thank you. hopefully this will stop the blight I keep getting my tomatoes year after year.

    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      I hope so too Sheila - I have taken all precautions this year and so far, so good - I'd really hate to have to resort to pesticides - B.

    • Minnetonka Twin profile image

      Linda Rogers 5 years ago from Minnesota

      Thanks for the great information. I grow tomatoes in my vegetable garden and thankfully, haven't had this problem. I can't wait to pick the first tomato of the season. Great job on this Billips.

    • billips profile image

      billips 5 years ago from Central Texas

      I wish I had your tomato garden - just when I thought I was home free, the blight hit me again - next year, I am going to plant only the late maturing kind - thanks for reading and commenting - nice to hear from you again - B.

    • Randy M. profile image

      Randy McLaughlin 5 years ago from Liberia, Costa Rica

      It is true that blight is hard to control once it has become established, but using preventative sprays that stop its progress is not harmful to beneficial insects or birds. These chemicals are fungicides, which affect fungus metabolism and not animal metabolism. I am saying this based on my experience and education as a plant pathologist.

      From my point of view, it is best to use varieties that are resistant to both types of blight, that way you don't have to worry about spraying, making it easier to grow organic tomatoes. That may be a problem if you like to grow heirloom varieties.

    • billips profile image

      billips 4 years ago from Central Texas

      Thanks for reading and commenting Randy - I know there are excellent sprays available, but personally I am not a big fan of spraying - I tried two of the organic ones, that were praised by others, but with limited success - I think it is just an ongoing battle - regards - B.

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