Organic Gardening Series: How to Get Rid of Tomato Blight

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Tomato blight disease fighters: how to solarize soil; how to sanitize garden to get rid of blight; avoid blight next year; keep blight away from garden next season; kill blight for tomatoes

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. Since we haven’t discussed diseases in the garden yet, I’m interrupting Rene’s schedule and putting off the everything-canning-post for a week to tackle the problem for everyone.

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!

Tomato blight disease fighters: how to solarize soil; how to sanitize garden to get rid of blight; avoid blight next year; keep blight away from garden next season; kill blight for 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.”

Craftsy has FREE Gardening Classes
Check out these FREE gardening classes from Craftsy – pause and replay to catch all the tips. Once you sign up you can “attend” at any time!

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.

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12 Bites of Conversation So Far

  1. chris says

    So I do that mixture spraying on the soil itself in the fall and early spring? what if I usually cover the garden over with a layer of leaves and add in new dirt the following year?

    • Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship says

      I haven’t personally done all this stuff, but yes, spray the mixture on the soil if you’re trying to get rid of blight, which can stay in your garden from year to year. :) Katie

  2. says

    Blight got me late last year. I just rolled with it — I’d gotten lots of tomatoes already, so I picked all the green ones and made salsa verde. This year I haven’t seen any YET, probably because 1. I removed all old vines and rotting tomatoes at the end of the growing season, 2. I rotated the garden, so tomatoes aren’t growing in the same spot, and 3. I planted only the varieties that survived the best last year. I didn’t save seed, though, because I heard blight can be carried in seed — I used seed saved the previous year.

  3. Bryan says

    I have a terrible blight problem in my garden. there are woods in the common area in my neighborhood and i see spots on many of the leaves so it seems it will be an ongoing problem. I cut the leaves of where it is apparent but will not the the leaves from the trees falling in my garden. Will repeated sprays of the skim milk solution combat this or do you have any other ideas? Thanks. I eat tomatoes like apples and wouldnt last a year of resting the ground anyway.

      • Bryan says

        Well, I know the trees have blight and/or septuria. I can see it on the leaves that fall in my garden. Was just wondering if you had any ideas on the best way to combat an ongoing blight/septuria problem that will always be present. Thanks for the reply and yes it is very sad.

  4. Tanya via Facebook says

    My tomatoes are NOT thriving. I think I might have used too much cattle manure…although it was beautiful and black and odorless!
    I’m going to read this and maybe I can save my tomatoes! Thanks!

  5. Caitlin via Facebook says

    no picking yet i actually just got my first 2 tiny little green balls. but the plants are almost as tall as me for sure! They are insanely covered in flowers ive never had good tomato results so im hopeful!

  6. says

    Good luck Caitlin Wright-Villasenor – if you’ve had thunderstorms, the lightning actually helps tomatoes to grow huge like that! So interesting – they grab nitrogen from the lightning…

  7. Jessica via Facebook says

    Kitchen Stewardship that’s amazing about the lightening!!! We’ve been having some really awesome thriving tomato plants AND a ton of storms! 😀 my plants always perk up after a good rain storm too, even though I have been watering them anyway (well water not city)
    We alternate the use of fast acting lime w/ fertilizer. one week we lime, then 3 weeks later we fertilize. Back and forth. It works out very very well! 😀

    • Sherry says

      hey wondering do you put the fast acting lime at the roots of your tomato plants? I want to try this.

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