Tomato blight: any suggestions?

Discussion in 'Planting, growing, nurturing Plants' started by Brian Knight, Jul 8, 2015.

  1. Brian Knight

    Brian Knight Junior Member

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    Our humid climate is such a challenge for these diseases. Iam growing mine in smart pots, away from the garden, and have pruned them to keep vegetation as far as possible from ground splashback. I have also started spraying with serenade.

    This year has been better, but could be the weather more than anything. A few varieties are in quick decline right as they are beginning to bear fruit. Is there anything else I should be trying?
     
  2. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    we have sometimes had late blight on our tomatoes and since most of the fruits come through ok and eventually ripen i've never bothered to spray (i'd much rather not use any sprays if i can help it).

    last season we had buckeye rot which took about 90% of the crop. i'll take late blight any time in comparison...

    i've tried taking off leaves, i've tried mulching to prevent soil splashing on the plants during the rains and both of these didn't seem to make any difference as the plants still ended up losing their leaves.

    i cannot trial resistant varieties here (the management will not allow me to grow anything other than what we have been putting in), but i would seek those out if i could. also i would see if i could find a bacterial or fungal tonic or tea which might be sprayed to help give the leaves more protection. some folks have used dilute milk to help against powdery mildew, might it work against blight? i dunno, but it wouldn't hurt to try.

    the problem with any spray is that it is so hard to get every surface and it only takes a little to get the blight going and once it is going it seems to spread faster than i can ever find and remove all the affected leaves and stems. that's pretty much why i've stopped bothering to try to control or eliminate it.

    the other aspect to consider is that it could also be a sign of the natural life cycle of the plant as it has put on fruit so it is past the natural early stage of growth. some varieties may be affected differently than others (determinant moreso than nondeterminant). to me it seems quite natural for a plant which has done the thing to get the seeds set for the next generation has decided it is done for the season...

    oh, and as a postscript for the record, we usually grow beefsteak tomatoes and our average yeild is between 20-30 lbs per plant per season. even averaging in last year's poor results... this while still having late blight affect the plants.
     
  3. Brian Knight

    Brian Knight Junior Member

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    Thanks songbird. Serenade is OMRI approved for same day harvest but its $$ and doesnt seem to be working much like you said. Ive considered teas, but read they can make things worse.

    The timing is similar to last year and is not allowing a full life cycle. The affected plants die in a matter of days, just as they are beginning to ripen. I never used to have these problems. Iam about to go rip out two, rapidly declining, 6' tall plants in hopes they dont effect the others. Booo!
     
  4. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    We grow our tomatoes in straw bales, this puts them at a 3' height from the soil, they do very well growing strong and blight free using this method. We are in Arkansas, where it is hot and humidity is always high, no matter the time of year. To use bales you need to first get them to start decomposing. This is done by watering them to saturation then adding a nitrogen supply (we use spent coffee grounds). Once the bales are soaked, just pour enough coffee grounds on to cover the bales 1" thick then water them into the bales. Do this every day for two weeks. The third week substitute compost for the coffee grounds. It takes the bales about 6 weeks to heat up and cool down, once they have cooled internally you can dig your holes, add potting soil and plant your vegetables. Things that seem to love growing straw bales include: Tomatoes, Strawberries, Peppers (all varieties), Squashes, Broccoli, Brussels sprouts, Beans, Peas.

    The second year, the bales will have composted enough that the strings will be useless so just remove them and plant in the left over straw hill. The third year you will use the composted bales as compost or stack new bales on top of the old bales and start from the beginning with them, if you do this method, the third set of bales will need to be placed elsewhere or you will want to remove the bottom compost elsewhere so you can begin the next batch of bales lower to the ground.
     
  5. Flatland

    Flatland Member

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    Boy Bryant you must drink a lot of coffee! Would dusting sulphur work?
     
  6. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Not really, while sulphur will move the pH down it doesn't work to add nitrogen.
    (I gather coffee grounds from several sources; work, a local Star Bucks and a couple of filling stations, our 4 cups per morning at home would take forever to gather up enough for all the uses we have for coffee grounds.)
    You have to add Nitrogen to the bales to get them to heat up, if you have green grass clippings you could probably stuff them down into the center of the bales but it would take a long time to poke that much green material into the bales.
    The coffee grounds move in nicely with just a water spray nozzle.
    You could use a high nitrogen fertilizer such as miracle grow but we try hard to not use any commercial fertilizer products on Asnikiye Heca.
     
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  7. cin

    cin New Member

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    What about urinating on the bales to get the compostingproces started ?

    I like the idea of planting tomatoes in strawbales. It seems like the perfect solution to improve the soil in my green house for next season. In my cold temperate climate tomatoes are best grown in greenhouses. When I moved here tree years ago, the greenhouse was already in place, but the soil was in poor shape. I ' ve added compost, mulched, put tons of snow inside to try to leach out salt build up but i don' t seem to get the same results as in the outside garden. I decided to replace the topsoil entirely next spring, but I still had to figure out where to get that amount of topsoil. (One option was using the soil of molehils) Strawbales will be a lot more freindly for my back and the extra heat from the composting bales will be great to get my early seedlings started. Thanks for this great tip !
     
  8. songbird

    songbird Senior Member

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    for a good green nitrogen source grow a plots of alfalfa and birdsfoot trefoil (the trefoil puts out a tremendous amount of seeds so don't plant it where you don't want it to spread).

    i've never heard of growing tomatoes in bales like that before, around here the moisture problem in mid-summer does make it almost certain that there will be late blight. i am reactive to tomatoes now, so i don't grow them like before and don't depend upon them to make such an effort, but it's good to know to pass along.

    we have high heat and high humidity, but the issue is more that we are in a low area so fogs collect here. found out i couldn't grow grapes well here either because of the late summer fogs.

    if you have hay bales around like that can you build walls to extra insulate and protect the house for the winter and then take them down as needed in the early spring? :)
     
  9. Rylan Zimny

    Rylan Zimny New Member

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    I am not sure if this would apply to your climate, but here goes... For the past few years, when people in my area put ot their tomatoes after the last weekend in May, I have held mine back a month. Last year, this little tidbit saved all my tomatoes from blight. Now this may just be chance, but it seems that in North America, the blight reproduces quickly at first and travels on the prevailing winds. I may be avoiding the initial concentrated spore wave by doing this technique.
    I will also second the idea of resistant varieties. I know that heirlooms usually have more desirable flavour profiles, but it would be interesting to try a resistant hybrid (one with hybrid vigor AND proven resistance) to trial in your location. I have heard good things of the variety "Iron Lady". see https://www.growveg.com/guides/blight-resistant-tomato-varieties-worth-growing/ for more ideas.
    Best of luck,

    Rylan
     
  10. Liz Showniruk

    Liz Showniruk New Member

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    Hi there - I live in the wet tropics and grow tomatoes very successfully. I grow mine in a structure made from star pickets and poly pipe and is completely covered in a mozzie netting - this keep away moths (caterpillars), fruitfly and all the other little bugs that spread disease. I use fresh soil and grow them in planter bags - I grew the varieties hillbilly, aussie red, Cherokee and sanmonzano. You need to prune out the laterals and prune off any foliage that is closer than 40cm to the soil surface. Keep the plants healthy and load on the poo - any you can get. Strong healthy plants resist disease. Do not let them suffer any water stress - ever. This is what will really weaken them. Encourage spiders to build webs in the enclosure to catch any small bugs that get through the system. Mulch the soil with leaves of cassia alata which is a natural fungicide. If you have nemotaodes then mix 6 week old marigold into your soil (harvested before it flowers) Anyway, we had much more than 200 kilos from 10 plants and eventually I pulled out all the plants as I was so sick of then! Also, plant in the dry season. Cherry tomatoes are indistructable - nothing kills them but the chooks.
     
  11. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    Yes urine will help but it takes a lot of it to get the concentrations of nitrogen needed to heat a bale (tried one with just urine and it wasn't a fail but it was slow to heat). I now also add minerals to the bales via a product called Sea-90 it contains over 90 minerals and really improves the taste of vegetables and fruits grown, also helps heaps with plant health which means disease resistance, pest resistance goes up.

    Indeed the bales, as they rot into compost will improve your soil, they will also draw in worms to that space and they will inoculate your soil with beneficial fungi and bacteria. Because of these factors, along with them being higher so less steep stooping, we are expanding our bale gardens to be two bales wide and six bales long.
    Don't replace topsoil, just keep on improving it, much easier on pocket book and back. If you don't have one, see if you can get a broadfork they are marvelous tools and very easy on the body, just step and pull. I'm planning on welding up one with 2' long tines for some of our garden spaces.
     
  12. Brian Knight

    Brian Knight Junior Member

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    Thanks for all the suggestions guys. I think this is a regional problem that is getting worse. I have talked to many organic growers who have similar experiences. Healthy, well tended plants in healthy soils that experience devastating blight with wet weather. People seem to think that the past two or three years weather has been mainly to blame but I wonder if the blight spores are becoming more numerous too. Our area and region is more urban than some of the posters here, and wonder how the surrounding gardens and gardeners are affecting each other with perpetuating these diseases. A possible related problem is that I gather leafs throughout the neighborhood for my composting and could be bringing in more varieties of these nasty blights.

    I like the strawbale techniques but dont have the room to add any such beds. I use strawbales for terracing my hillside garden. Ive raised concerns here before about the accumulating effects of the broadleaf herbicides used on these grain crops. Got no reason to believe its a problem, just a concern.
    [​IMG]

    Ive decided not to plant tomatoes and peppers (my favorite) here for 3 years. I grew corn here this year and would have done great but the dratted rats got every kernel! Iam also using winter rye for a cover crop. It's frustrating having built the red clay into a wonderful black loam throughout years of hard work and not being able to plant my preferred vegetables.

    I have very limited area to keep trying my peppers and tomatoes in smart pots. Iam concerned about this area being uphill of the garden with runoff or just being close enough to the garden, keeping the blights in my soil, ready to pop up in any favorable weather. I got enough cherry tomatoes off a super sweet 100 to keep trying but my success was dismal compared to my two decades of past experiences.

    One of the best resources in our region for identifying and "controlling" these blights is this Clemson extension resource. They have a good list of resistant cultivars for our area and I will put more effort into tracking some of them down this coming season.

    Another thing someone recently pointed out are these new IPM apps linked to on this Clemson page. They were created collectively by 7 universities for zones 4-9 and look to be pretty helpful for managing pests and disease. Update alerts warn when disease or pests are eminent. Stone fruits are another big challenge in our region and getting a jump on the borer hatches could be worth the price of admission. I wonder if any readers here have invested and I'm curious about results.
     
  13. Brian Knight

    Brian Knight Junior Member

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    To Rylan's comment about planting very late, I think this could be a good strategy. My neighbor planted a cherry tom in early July and had lush growth at about the same time my six footers got nailed by disease. Unfortunately, the neighbor's plant didn't fruit for very long before rapid decline of some type of disease though he could have cultivated it better for resisting splash back, though his plot was on lawn that had probably never seen tomatoes before. It's just in the air around here.

    I think it could be a good strategy though, to plant very early, regularly and very late as you might time it right with the weather. Still, these blight diseases seem to care less and less about how humid or rainy the weather is. This could also be a lesson to those that don't have blight, be very careful about bringing in any new sources to their areas or gardens.
     
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  14. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    I have had success controlling blight with a dilute chlorine solution with 4 drips of dishwashing soap mixed in as a wetting agent. just use a washcloth and gently wipe each leaf, dip cloth between treating each leaf, you may have to do this three times to get it all under control but it's better than loosing everything.

    Brian, you have it right, on the later planting to disrupt the cycle, good strategy!

    There are two ways to disrupt spores of blight, one is fire the other is alternate plantings both will work to slow or stop blight from recurring.
     
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  15. Bryant RedHawk

    Bryant RedHawk Junior Member

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    One other thing I thought of for you Brian, why not plant in the straw bales you use for terracing? that way they do more than just hold soil in place. In your photo, I can see strawberries growing nicely in those bale tops and front walls.

    Cin, Yes urine is a great nitrogen source ( we use it for just about everything we grow ). The one thing to remember when using urine is to dilute it some before pouring onto your growing veggies. This helps it get deeper and around the roots, where you want that nitrogen boost.

    This year I am going to use a dibbler ( like a marlin spike but with a T handle) to poke holes in the new bales before I start them decomposing. I think this will turn out to be a much easier and faster method to inject the nitrogen substances into the center of the bales.
     
  16. Flatland

    Flatland Member

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    as tomato blight is a fungal problem my thought would be dusting sulphur. It is cheap each to use and doesn't have any with holding period. Only down side is it seems exactly like sulphur. I would think it would be best if used before there are any signs of the blight so that it can work on the spores before they take hold
     
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  17. Brian Knight

    Brian Knight Junior Member

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    Thanks guys, Ive never tried sulphur but think its time. My neighbor didn't have much success with sulphur but she only applied it after the blight was well on its way. So I think I will try to dust early and often this coming season. Seems like a conflict with the wet serenade spray but considering the serenade is expensive and didnt work, I might just skip it this year.

    With my strawbale retainage, I like to think the roots are free to inhabit the bales if they want, being planted right next to them. I can usually get two years out of the bales but this year the rats obliterated most of them soon after I installed them. They probably made for great tunneling and short commute to the sweet corn above. I would really like to find an alternative to the strawbales because they cost $. I expanded my terraced beds this year and used logs and branches as a sort of hugel mound retainage. Will try to create a new post with pics of that soon.
     

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