It’s a nasty disease that got all the organic tomato growers in our area last summer. It gets every last plant.
A few readers were worried about blight on their tomato plants when Rene discussed tomato and mint salad recipe.
First, here was her answer:
If it is only one plant that has blight I would pull it up. Blight spreads really easily through touch. This could be your hands, or insects going from one plant to another. After touching the plant that is affected, make sure to wash your hands really well with soap and water so that it does not spread further. If it is on several plants, you will want to remove all of the leaves and branches that are affected making sure to not touch any other areas of the plant or drop the pieces that you remove. Really the best way to prevent it is before you plant, with powdered milk or crushed eggshells.
You can try to place powdered milk into the soil around the plant, just make sure not to disturb the roots. Also when you water those plants, just water the soil not the plant if possible. (I know that it rains, so this won’t be a real fix.) You can also try spraying your plant with compost water. What this is is really good compost that is in non-chlorinated water. (Just leave your water out for at least 24 hours to remove the chlorine.) The compost will have good microbes in it to help fight the blight naturally. Blight is difficult to get rid of though.
Next year, you will want to plant your tomatoes in a different location since there will still be blight in your soil in that area. You can just prepare the soil next year the way that I described in the post above to prevent blight from forming.
I also came across a couple of sources to help solve the problem, although I admit I haven’t had to use any of them myself.
The first is from one of Jerry Baker’s books that I mentioned checking out at the library when I first started gardening. It’s a preventative tip (so bookmark it for next year!):
Mix 1 part skim milk and 9 parts water and apply with a hand-held squirt bottle to the point of run-off in the early part of the summer to discourage diseases from getting started.
You can also use the Tomato Blight Buster recipe when planting your tomatoes.
Our contributor Haley has an awesome post on the many varieties of tomatoes available, plus a tomato and mint salad recipe!
Prevent Blight for Next Year’s Tomatoes!
If you’ve already got blight, here’s how Baker would get rid of it for next year’s tomatoes:
Spray the garden in late fall and early spring with: 2 Tbs bleach + 2 Tbs baby shampoo in a gallon of water. This covers 100 sq. ft. During the growing season, spray plants every two weeks with an all-purpose liquid fruit tree spray following package instructions.
I don’t know if one can find organic fruit tree spray though, but this sounds like a serious problem!
Here’s another way to fix your soil for next year from Backyard Living Magazine, March/April 2007:
“Once infected, tomatoes can’t be helped. The key is solarizing the soil to kill the bacteria before they get to the plants. As soon as you can work the soil, turn the entire bed to a depth of 6″, then level and smooth it out. Dig a 4-6″ deep trench around the whole bed and thoroughly soak the soil by slowly running a sprinkler over it for several hours. Cover the bed with a clear, heavy plastic painter’s drop cloth. Lay the edges of it in the trench and cover with soil to keep heat from escaping. The sun should heat the area for at least 6 weeks. The longer you leave the cover in place, the better.”
I have that page because I keep a gardening binder. I tear out anything of interest, and in the winter, I organize all the pages into sections like “vegetables” “starting seeds” “flowering plants” and “houseplants.” Tomatoes have their own section! Complicated little buggers.
If you’ve missed the rest of the organic gardening series from Rene of Budget Saving Mom, click here to catch up. Come on back for canning, preserving, and some planting tips for next year or second plantings.