Early blight comes early

This photo illustrates three things:

1) Hurray, I did have a ripe tomato by the Fourth of July.  Okay, so it’s not a big slicer; it’s a Sun Gold cherry tomato (on a plant mysteriously labeled Black Cherry.  I didn’t grow the plant from seed, but I’m not going to throw stones at the person who did, because I’m frequently guilty of mislabeling myself).

2) No, those blue-green things aren’t tomato leaves; I’ve interplanted sweet potatoes with my tomatoes due to lack of space.  We’ll see how it goes.

3) I have early blight.  Well, my tomatoes have early blight, though on these hot humid intermittently-rainy days I sympathize.  There’s a lot of the fungal disease early blight around this year, due to the weather we’ve been having.  Some years early blight comes late (and late blight comes early; unfortunately it’s already been spotted in Maryland this year), but conditions for it are perfect this year and I know from talking to lots of you last weekend, as well as my own experience, that it’s out there.

Check out the HGIC page on early blight for photos and description, but here’s my summary of what to do if your tomatoes have this disease.  First, don’t panic.  Then, clip out the infected leaves and branches, remove them from your garden (along with any that have already fallen off), and throw them in the trash (only put them in the compost if you employ hot composting).  After that, give your plants a good pruning if you haven’t already done so (this post tells you about sucker pruning, and I’ll emphasize that any branches hanging on or close to the ground should be removed).  Pruning opens up the interior of the tomato plant so that more air can circulate and fungal diseases have a harder time taking hold.

All my plants had some blight on them – even the Iron Lady had a tiny bit – but poor Big Mama looked the worst; I hope she holds up!  I’ve done my trimming and pruning, and maybe the rain will stop soon…?

6 Comments on “Early blight comes early

  1. Erica,

    As you know, early blight spores can reside in the soil or be airborne. I minimize the soil problem by planting my tomatoes through four foot wide plastic mulch. The plastic prevents rain from hitting the soil at the base of the plant and splashing the spores onto the lower leaves. While the use of plastic mulch is not organic, it works for me in controlling early blight.

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  2. Excellent point, Kent. I'm not a fan of plastic mulch, mostly for aesthetic reasons, but it's also a good way to keep down weeds. Those of us with small gardens can experiment with ground cover plantings as I'm doing with the sweet potatoes.

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  3. I pulled out one of my tomato plants when a lot of the leaves had the black stuff and the fruit got black at the stem and fell off (all 2 of the Better Boys that were on it), and took it to UNH to be diagnosed. Early blight. The other plants have a touch, and thanks for the advice on what to do. The Sun Gold is the worst off, but I have had a couple ripe ones to snack on. Given that when it wasn't raining we were IN the clouds up here in NH on the mountain much of the time, I'm not surprised. While it's very hot and humid now, at least the sun is shining and drying things out.
    I put water in the EarthBox reservoirs when I planted the tomato plants just before Memorial Day, and haven't had to add water since.

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  4. Yes, our rainfall has been pretty constant too, though now it's settling into hot and sunny (and maybe not thunderstorms EVERY day). It's good that you have ripe tomatoes already, though!

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  5. I'm going to try these tips. Usually, I'm so discouraged by the rapid decline, that I tend to give up. Thanks for the links!

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