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Tomato Blight


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Bad news in the New York Times.

It's already looking to be a particularly sucky summer for tomatoes, but suddenly a sucky summer looks better than no tomatoes at all.

A highly contagious fungus that destroys tomato plants has quickly spread to nearly every state in the Northeast and the mid-Atlantic, and the weather over the next week may determine whether the outbreak abates or whether tomato crops are ruined, according to federal and state agriculture officials.

Anybody seen signs of its approach?

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Although I am a novice tomato grower, something appears to be getting my tomatoes from the bottom up as well. I dont believe it is blight. After some internet sleuthing I think it might be blossom end rot.

I had that one year - it's a calcium deficiency. Now I crush eggshells and put them in the soil where I'm going to grow the plants. I think gypsum works too.

So far mine are OK in Alexandria. (Knocking on wood.)

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I don't know if its blight but I've been growing tomoatoes fairly succesfully for the last 5 or so years and this year is more or less a disaster. 60% of my plants are dead and the rest don't look too good (with the exception of a few tomatillo plants).

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I had that one year - it's a calcium deficiency. Now I crush eggshells and put them in the soil where I'm going to grow the plants. I think gypsum works too.

So far mine are OK in Alexandria. (Knocking on wood.)

I do not seem to be having blight, but possibly this calcium deficiency. 4 of my plants seem fine (knock on wood), but the last one is dying one branch at a time. I am cutting off the branches as soon as they are yellowing, but I fear that plant is toast before any fruit comes off.

Is it too late to add any calcium to the soil now? Eggshells? Gypsum? Something else?

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Lime is probably a better instant hit for blossom end rot than eggshells or anything else; you should be able to pick up a small bag at any garden center, and just sprinkle a good handful on the soil and water it in. It should help with the small fruit that's already set but hasn't started turning brown, and anything else that sets from here on out.

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Y'all check out this for a pretty thorough description of tomato problems.

Blossom end rot affects the fruit only, not the leaves or stem. Once you have fruit set, additional calcium will not help.

Tomato plant diseases can be very tricky to identify. If it's crucial that you do, contact your local cooperative extension service for advice. However, you can do a lot to help your plants without knowing which particular disease is affecting them.

First, practice good garden sanitation. Use a light mulch and keep the surface of it free of any tomato debris. Water the plants at the base only; don't wet the leaves. Water deeply no more than twice a week. Cut off any diseased stems, and try to cut them as far back into the plant as you can; if you look at a cross section of diseased stem you'll often see dark streaks on the inside. The goal is to remove enough stem to keep the disease from travelling further into the plant. Remove diseased fruit. If you're growing indeterminate heirloom types, remove large suckers and don't let the plant set too much fruit. Pick a few green fruits out of large clusters to give the remaining fruits room and air to develop. Prune the plant so that air circulates freely throughout it.

Don't fertilize a diseased plant!

At the end of the season remove the mulch carefully and dispose of it, but don't compost it! Don't compost any part of the tomato plant, either. It's highly unlikely that your backyard compost pile will get hot enough to kill the disease organisms. Remove as much root as you can, too.

The best ways to keep next year's plants healthy:

Don't plant in the same place as any other plant in the same family (tomato, eggplant, pepper, potato).

Prepare the soil in advance of planting with whatever you're using, preferably compost or something like LeafGro and a big handful of horticultural lime.

Choose disease-resistant plants. You know how the labels often have all these letters on them after the variety name? (VFNT etc.) They indicate resistance to specific diseases (kinda like the name of the multi-vaccine your dog gets). The more letters, the better. Sadly, that eliminates most heirlooms. But a few baskets of beautiful Early Girls is better than a constant struggle for one perfect Brandywine.

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PS the "dying from the bottom up" is indicative of several different and very common diseases. Prune out the affected foliage and dispose of it. Truly serious crazy gardeners will dip the pruner in 10% bleach solution after each cut.

This year has been horrible; we got too much rain in a very cool spring, allowing diseases to get established, and now we have a drought that's further stressing the plants.

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[quote name='porcupine' date='21 July 2009 - 03:41 PM' timestamp='1248205316' post='141136'

This year has been horrible; we got too much rain in a very cool spring, allowing diseases to get established, and now we have a drought that's further stressing the plants.

This thread has been great in terms of info on how to better care for tomato plants. I had ascribed my problems mainly to Porcupines theory above.....I planted my tomatoes literally the day before the 6 week monsoon began and just figured that they drowned

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Y'all check out this for a pretty thorough description of tomato problems.

This is a decent resource, especially the pictures. I could not find discussion of the treatments themselves, though. for example...is a sulphur spray/powder a 'green' or 'organic' thing to use, or is that really more or less a pesticide?

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Actually, not that I'm not concerned about everyone's gardens, but I originally posed the question to see if anyone had heard anything from the market farmers who grow the tomatoes I actually eat, about widespread blight.

It's all about me (and my BLT).

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This is a decent resource, especially the pictures. I could not find discussion of the treatments themselves, though. for example...is a sulphur spray/powder a 'green' or 'organic' thing to use, or is that really more or less a pesticide?

Sulfur is a mineral that can be used as a pesticide, to acidify soil, and/or to make reference to W if you are president of a South American country.

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Actually, not that I'm not concerned about everyone's gardens, but I originally posed the question to see if anyone had heard anything from the market farmers who grow the tomatoes I actually eat, about widespread blight.

It's all about me (and my BLT).

No. Major problem of tomato growers I know is impatience given the lateness of this year's season. (Not this week, but a couple of weeks ago when the first big ones came out in very small increments, I had a couple of mealy ones that I was told is a result of too much rain, and sometimes a quality of the earlier varieties.)

P.S. All you home gardeners? I care!

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The blight is becomming a bigger and bogger problem every day. It is moving North to South according to some farmers I talked with and a lot of Pensylvania fields are being torno out and plowed under. Add tot his the fact that the season is late adn the weather is not conducive and prices are going up as quality goes down.

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Actually, not that I'm not concerned about everyone's gardens, but I originally posed the question to see if anyone had heard anything from the market farmers who grow the tomatoes I actually eat, about widespread blight.

It's all about me (and my BLT).

"Tomatoes?" (to paraphrase Dr. Freud). Parts of you needing to be relaxed, stiff? Other parts more, um. relaxed than desired? Fruits not up to standard? Sounds more like the results of a crapulent lifestyle. Really, I don't think you have blight. Could be, but highly unlikely.
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See, I thought I was the only one with a problem this year. I grew two determinates in pots on my balcony on the 7th floor. One has had no problems, but has been pretty low in yield. The roma tomatoes were going great guns, but I had to dispose of all the fruits until about a week ago when i was able to harvest my first. The rest had the end rot that starts as a blemish on the fruit that turned into rot on the vine within days. An old lady gardner friend said to use powdered milk for the calcium (um, okay), and to back off on the watering since her theory is that the massive amounts of rain we had in the spring doomed the plants (I'm not sure how much of this I believe or not). I ended up doing the milk thing, and all of the new blossoms turned into successful tomatoes. I may not have a huge yield this year, but what I do have is very good and not getting tossed before they ripen.

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Update: Cross your fingers, wear an evil-eye bead or do whatever you do to ward off evil. In any respect, the tragedy that Dean Gold reports is common knowledge among other local farmers in the area who are friends and fans of the farm(s) affected by the blight. I've spoken to more farmers from Virginia and Maryland who have been lucky so far.

Me, I bought bacon at the market yesterday to keep hope alive and given the humidity, I plan to buy some Monsanto-soybean-free mayo at Whole Foods this evening.

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I'm lucky (she typed, knocking on wood). All my plants are doing beautifully, and I picked a large handful of cherry tomatoes this morning. This year, I got my plants from a local grower at the King Street Farmer's Market, and they were already about a foot tall when I brought them home. I've bought from Home Depot in the past, and I'm relieved I didn't get anything there this year. Future purchases also seem less likely, even in the "locally grown" section.

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