Archive for June, 2010

10 Natural Ways to Protect Your Tomatoes from Blight

The late blight epidemic that decimated tomatoes fields across the country last year has already been spotted in Maryland, Pennsylvania and Kentucky. Let’s not all freak out just yet though.

There are things you can do to strengthen your plants and give them better protection this year against the blight, without resorting to toxic pesticides and unsafe copper sprays.

Here are a few ways to give your tomatoes a fighting chance:

Act Now

The best time to start protecting your plants from late blight is 2 to 4 weeks before they show signs.

Apply Compost Tea

Making compost tea is so simple—-just put a gallon of organic compost in a five gallon bucket, and fill with water. Let sit for 5 days and stir often (it’ll look you’re brewing a big cup of coffee for your garden). Then dilute, and put in a sprayer and apply. You can also buy compost tea online.

Apply to your plants several times each week and after every rainfall. The beneficial microorganisms in compost tea act as a fungicide that one German Study showed to be almost as effective as metalaxyl in treating blight.

Use A Milk Spray

Milk is a natural fungicide, and although I only found one study supporting the use of milk for fighting fungal diseases, there are tons of messages in newsgroups and forums talking about how great milk is for killing spores and helping tomatoes build up an immunity to fungal diseases.  So, give it a try—mix one part milk to two parts water and spray directly on your plants every week.

Water Carefully

Blight spreads through dampness, so water your plants only at the base, and in the morning.

Apply Your Milk/Compost Spray Frequently, and Every Time it Rains

The synthetic sprays used by commercial farmers are translaminars, meaning they don’t wash off the plant, and only have to be reapplied every three weeks or so. While effective, these are seriously toxic chemical cocktails that are  absorbed by your tomato plants  (which to me kind of defeats the purpose of growing vegetables to be healthier if they are filled with chemicals).  So, every time it rains, re-treat your plants with compost tea and milk spray.

Check Your Plants

Late Blight starts at the stem, and spreads to the leaves of your plant. Check often to look for the first signs of blight.

late_blight_tomato_stem

Prune Blighted Leaves and Stems

If you catch it on your plant early enough, and prune off the late blight, you can help delay the spread. Make sure to throw any infected plant leaves and stems in a garbage bag, seal it up, and throw it out. Some people have also had luck by covering their plants up.

Remove Plants with Blight

If your plants get overtaken with the dreaded B, they gotta leave the garden immediately (I know, it’s so sad, but for the best). Spores spread quickly, so throw the plant in the trash bags—do not compost the plant or it will breed more blight. Then keep spraying with compost tea and/ or milk spray and hope the rest of the plants stay safe.

Don’t Purchase Plants from Big Box Stores

Although the weather conditions were oh-too-perfect for blight, infectious plants being sent to big box stores across the country didn’t help matters. Last year, an Alabama-based distributor called Bonnie Plants distributed diseased plants to chain garden centers across the Northeast, which were then sold to home gardeners, helping spread the disease quickly. Stick with your locally-owned nursery run by knowledgeable gardeners, and only purchase healthy looking plants with no signs of blight or leaf damage.

Keep the Faith

Now, let’s not all panic just yet—–late blight thrives on cold, rainy and damp weather, so let’s hope for sun!

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June 17, 2010 at 5:28 pm 2 comments


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