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Organic Gardening: How to Get Rid of Tomato Blight

How to Get Rid of Tomato Blight 1

It’s a nasty disease that got all the organic tomato growers in our area last summer. It gets every last plant.

The topic of tomato blight came up in the comments of this post about natural pest control.

Rene, the author of that post, had this to say:

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 take steps to prevent blight when planting your tomatoes.

Our contributor Haley has an awesome post on the many varieties of tomatoes available, plus a simple tomato and mint salad recipe!

Did you know that essential oils have a shelf life?

Katie here, popping in to tell you that those essential oils that have been sitting in your cabinet for a couple years and are still half full may have expired. Read more about what I learned when researching this topic, and you can even have the handy printable I made to help me remember how long which oils last.

How to Get Rid of Tomato Blight and Prevent it Next Year

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.”
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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.

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Ready to get your hands dirty? Here are some more Gardening Posts from KS: 

Unless otherwise credited, photos are owned by the author or used with a license from Canva or Deposit Photos.

26 thoughts on “Organic Gardening: How to Get Rid of Tomato Blight”

  1. I found a suggestion to keep blight under control …..bicarbonate of soda mixed with vegetable Oil and washing up liquid ! Pour into a gallon of water and either spray or water as often as possible. So far I’m still getting cherry tomatoes albeit they are smaller and not so prolific as usual. And I pull off any leaves with the blight on them. It seems to be helping as there are still quite a lot of flowers and green tomatoes ….its probably a question of time …will the blight win ??

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      We did that with my sister’s tomatoes this year and it worked well. She lost a lot of leaves, but her plants are producing really well!

  2. I just planted my new tomato plant in soil from my last year’s tomato plant, which had blight. I just realized my mistake. Is it now contaminated?

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Oh no! From everything I’ve read, it probably is. Blight stays in the soil for a few years. I don’t know if you can remove it and save the plant if it’s only been planted for a day or two. I’d try to save it by removing the plant, shaking off as much soil as possible, and replanting in a pot so as to not spread blight to another garden bed and then see what happens.

    1. Carolyn @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Hi Jessica, I’m no expert on this, but I did some looking online and it looks like tomato blight can spread to some other non-nightshade plants as well. The general consensus that I found on gardening sites was to take steps to treat the soil and plant your nightshades somewhere else and non-nightshades in the blighted spot. So yes you can plant non-nightshades, but you’ll still want to treat the soil thoroughly first. I hope that helps!

  3. The article said to use bleach and baby shampoo at bed of year to kill the “bacteria”. I just want to point out to the author that blight is caused by fungus NOT bacteria!

  4. I have the late blight and I did plant the small tomato plants in eggshell in there dug holes. I bought small plants already started. When I dug the hole I put in some eggshells. I used to put in compost as well but thought I would not do it this year just in case the blight was carried in the compost. I laid black heavy plastic on the ground and made small holes in it to plant the small plants. Didn’t help other than having no weeds. I have had this problem for many years and have tried everything but the powdered milk treatment. Our season (Northern Ontario, Canada) is too short to solarize the ground for close to 2 months as our growing season is only about 4 months long.

  5. Jessica via Facebook

    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! 😀

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

  6. 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…

    1. Nitrogen is in the air which is 80% Nitrogen, not in lightning. Lightning causes the Nitrogen to mix with the rain water.

  7. Caitlin via Facebook

    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!

  8. Tanya via Facebook

    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!

    1. i mix composted manure (well aged ,really black,no smell,)in a 50 gal drum ,i put about three heaping large pitch fork full of manure in the drum,i filll it with water,(and let set a couple days to get chlorine out i have city water).then i mix well. water in a circle in close to stem ,but not right into root area stay back a little in a circle around plant,i have had great success and have never hurt anything yet.

  9. 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.

      1. 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.

  10. 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.

  11. 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?

    1. Katie Kimball @ Kitchen Stewardship

      Chris,
      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

  12. If you or any of your readers are interested, there will be a free webinar about Late Blight Control in Organic Gardens on July 21st.

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