it’s here

August 17, 2009 at 3:11 am 3 comments

blight1

blight // (blt)n: Something that impairs growth, withers hopes and ambitions, or impedes progress and prosperity.

I don’t know why I thought I I was secretly immune to it but I did. I imagined my beautiful heirloom tomatoes, lovingly grown from seed (most of ’em) through sheer will and hope and compost tea and milk, would somehow be the ones to elude the dreaded disease decimating tomatoes across the country. As everyone else was spraying nasty chemicals and the price of tomatoes skyrocketed to 8$ for a Brandywine, I was doin’ ok.I had Sungolds and Black Krims and my Cherokee Purples were just starting to turn.

Then today, I saw it—the dreaded late blight—on a Juliet Roman. In denial, I quickly removed the scabby, just ripening tomato, and frantically demolished it to the garbage inside the house.  When I went to check out the rest, i noticed a few of the Black Cherries, Delicious and the Striped Roman had the cancerous looking symptoms as well, just a few tomatoes on each plant.

Sigh.

blight2

I made quick work to remove all of the affected tomatoes, mostly just turning red and doomed to be thrown in the trash, and noticed one unusual thing. I didn’t have those dark, oily black spots on the stems that are the surefire sign of late blight, that death sentence of a disease. The fruit had the look of late blight, but the plant looked exactly like early blight. This small detail gave me hope that there was a chance to save these guys.

James Weaver, an heirloom tomato farmer in Bowers, PA, has developed a technique that uses simple pruning to combat early and late blight, and I’m actually testing it out and writing a small piece for Organic Gardening Magazine. James says that cutting the top 20% or so encourages it to put more energy into the base, and the plant actually regenerates. We’re doing some trials for the homegardener, and this is one heck of a year to test it out. So, I’m giving it a go, and keeping my fingers crossed. Will keep you posted.

To distract me from obsessing over the health of my tomatoes, I’m excited to be attending a chef potluck tomorrow night/ photo shoot for Organic Gardening. Chef Alex Lee of Iron Chef/ Bar Boulud fame will be cooking up Tim Stark’s heirloom tomatoes and I will do my best to be happy that at least someone is making Gazpacho. Pictures to come…

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Entry filed under: heirloom vegetables, Uncategorized. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

Fighting Late Blight Without Chemicals Chef Night at Tim Stark’s

3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. fartygirl  |  August 18, 2009 at 10:09 pm

    Man, I am sorry to hear that the blight got you. This really communicates how widespread this problem is. Good luck saving everything. And thanks for “eggin'” me on! 😉

  • […] 7, 2009 This was the weekend of tomatoes. Not mine, unfortunately, since the blight still did a number on my garden (although they are hanging in there). But, luckily, there were […]

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