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Discussion Starter #1
Well, the early blight has hit some of my tomato plants. I have four groupings of plants scattered out in a wide area, so I won't lose all of them, but I'm going to probably lose my best producers. I'll share with you my research (and my shame) so that it might help some others.

Early Blight is a fungus. The spores can travel on the wind, come from purchased seeds or transplants, or be present in the soil. Once the spores are in your soil, then you'll face the blight every year that you grow tomatoes in that same spot. Crop rotation helps but is no complete cure.

Affected leaves turn yellow with ringed spots and then die. The stems turn yellow, and it generally goes from the bottom of the plant upwards. Where the leaves touch dirt they come into contact with the spores, usually when watering and this is yet another method of disease transmission. Eventually you'll lose the whole plant and it will spread to other nearby plants.

Here's a handful of things I did wrong that helped cause/propagate the damage:

1. I put indeterminate plants in cages. They get bunched up too tight and it reduces the airflow and sunlight to the center and base of the plants, creating a perfect environment (dark and moist) for fungus to thrive.

2. I watered over the top of the plants instead of the base. This allowed water to drip down inside the plant and caused drooping leaves to come into contact with the soil. One should always water early in the morning so that the sun can dry out the plants thoroughly as quickly as possible, and always apply water only to the base of the plants so it soaks into the soil instead of laying on top of the leaves.

3. I didn't remove the infected leaves and branches as soon as I saw this. In my defense, I didn't know what was wrong, but by the time I figured it out I'd already lost one plant and it had spread to all the other neighboring ones. Removing the infected area helps increase air flow to the center of the plant and reduces the number of spores. It can slow the spread, but perhaps not stop it completely.

4. I did not wash my tools and hands as I moved from plant to plant picking ripe fruit and pruning suckers. The spores were carried on my hands from plant to plant and area to area. (I've got to quickly act to save the other isolated areas where I had tomato plants now.) Again, early disease identification is crucial. If you don't know you're infected, you'll do everything else wrong as well.

5. My plants are too close together. I planted the transplants two foot apart thinking since they'd be caged it wouldn't be an issue. These were in some raised beds where space is critical and I was trying to maximize it. A poor decision overall. The close proximity helped the fungus to spread.

So now I'm playing catch-up with a permanent affliction in my garden area. I'm removing all dead/infected foliage and putting a heavy mulch underneath the survivors. I'm burning the pruned foliage instead of putting it into the compost. The ash will go into the compost, but I don't trust that my pile will heat up enough to kill the spores. I'm also applying a heavy dose of copper hydroxide (an organic-approved fungicide) to all the remaining plants and the contaminated soil.

I hope this helps. I have 68 tomato plants in the ground (5 varieties) and I'm going to lose 4 of them for certain and up to 12. Worse, those were the ones in the raised beds which I have designed to be covered with plastic in order to extend the growing season, so if I lose everything there then I'll have no tomato plants surviving past the first frost. The total investment in the transplants is only about $12, but the lost income is estimated to be $80+. An expensive lesson to learn, but one that I figured I should share.
 

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Master Of My Domain
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you are not alone. every single one of my plants are affected. one is dead and the others are at various stages of disease. some plants are doing better with it than others, but i think it will spread through them all eventually. my jung wayaheads took it the worst. the rutgers is next. the amish yellows, wis 55 and abe lincoln plants are about tied for health...moderately affected so far. i have one gardener's delight plant that is barely phased and a sweet 100 plant that is doing good with it. my purchased romas are moderately affected, but my volunteer roma in another bed is doing fine, but is showing some signs of the disease this past week.

much like squash and squash vine borers, i guess i will take what i can early on and be happy with it.
 

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me too -
I've lost just 1 of 9 plants but I'm sure the others will be lost in time.

my tomatoes are yellow/orange, so I'm hoping they can hang on a bit more -
I will probably be eating fried green tomatoes & pick the orange ones & let them ripen in the sun
 

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Master Of My Domain
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just wanted to add...i doubt with fungus spread as far as i have it that any amount of fungicides or even hygiene will help get it from my soil. i suppose i will role with it and try to get resistent stock next year and save seed from my best plants and hope for natural resistence.
 

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Ernie, I had early blight last year (and late blight) and it took me until THIS year to figure out what was going on. So you're a fast learner :D

Neem Oil.... although touted as a fungicide, has NOT helped my tomato plants combat early blight. :eek:

I have read that if you dilute 1 part milk to 4 parts water, the milk turns into a fungicide when first hit by sunlight. It works on powdery mildew and is supposed to "help" with early blight. Spray every three days.

After last years devastating losses, I tried Neem at first sign of blight (no good). Then I tried milk (may have slowed the progress, hard to tell) then I resorted to an evil chemical non-organic application.

I consulted with DH on the evil chemicals and we agreed that it can't be worse than what we'd get commercially. I got a kind that says there's no waiting period required between treating and harvesting. We figure it's the least lethal to humans. :grump:

Other things that are supposed to help:
Mulch to avoid dirt splash-up
Trim bottom branches so no leaves or fruit touches the ground
 

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Master Of My Domain
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so turtlehead, how effective was the non-organic treatment?
 

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Ernie said:
2. I watered over the top of the plants instead of the base. This allowed water to drip down inside the plant and caused drooping leaves to come into contact with the soil. One should always water early in the morning so that the sun can dry out the plants thoroughly as quickly as possible, and always apply water only to the base of the plants so it soaks into the soil instead of laying on top of the leaves.

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ernie,
I agree with #2 the most as the causing factor for more blight problems that can be avoided by watering methods.
My tomato plants so far look gorgeous for this time of year. We haven't hand any rain to speak of for a month, and I mulch heavily to retain even ground moisture. For watering, I give each plant a weakly manure tea application of about a gallon carefully poured at ground level and avoid any soil splashing. Also, I applied a couple inch layer of finished compost around the plants. I think that's better as a buffer against direct soil microbes that might cause blight. Saying all that, some years blight (and other problems) just can't be avoided if it's a very wet rainy year. I believe mulch does help against some of the 'splashing', and never water from the top of the plant. It's also, as you say, better to water in the morning so that a good portion of a sunny day can help dry the surface. I also avoid using very cold water (that's what's in my well' directly at the plant surface. Bottom line is moisture to the ground and avoid wetting the plants too much.
 

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Discussion Starter #8
I used a heavy dose of copper hydroxide to the plants and I'm watching them now to see how it spreads. I'll post an update later on. Incidentally, copper hydroxide is approved for organic use, so if you're eating organic tomatoes from the grocery store then they were pre-treated with the solution. It's more of a prevention than cure, but I'm hoping it will at least stop the spread.

I'm curious as to how to make the manure tea, Moonwolf. If you've got time, maybe point us to some resources or do a post regarding that? I got plenty of manure. :)
 

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Ernie said:
I'm curious as to how to make the manure tea, Moonwolf. If you've got time, maybe point us to some resources or do a post regarding that? I got plenty of manure. :)
There are variations to making manure or compost tea. The way I do it is put a few shovelfulls of composted chicken manure and 'regular' composted, or half done compost and let the bag hang in a 55 gallon plastic drum to brew for a week or so, Then simply use a watering can to water individual plants.
Just to clarify, the use of manure or compost tea, or compost, isn't really to combat against blight. It is more of a fertilizer and soil amendment addition, but it can't hurt the overall useful microbial flora to do it's natural action in the soil that may help prevent any particular harmful overgrowth of microorganism such as those causing blight.
 

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Enjoying Four Seasons
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Thank you for posting this...I have the same problem. :(

I did as some advised and ripped out all of the infected parts and trimmed up all of the bottom leaves. I already had straw down, but I add more to the plants that were already infected. I always watered from the bottom. I guess I'll try the milk spray tomorrow morning if its sunny and hope for the best. Two of my plants are pretty gone.
 

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All good info Ernie! For me it is only a matter of when it starts here. Getting the plants as healthy as possible before it starts seems to help, any plant under stress doesn't have a chance. I also look for resistant varieties and select for resistance with seed saving. Good fall garden hygiene also seems to help, all affected vegatation and anything that may be affected is burned.
KB
 

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Those nasty blights. The copper rosins just might be some assistance to you. A few years back, I got a bad blight on my green bean crop. Big, beautiful plants with small beans starting that seemed to start dying within just a day or two. I ended up yankin out several plants and sprayed the remaining plants with Dragon Copper Fungicide. Yes, I did lose several plants of green beans that year, but the copper fung. really helped. I didn't get to can as many as normal, but at least the crop wasn't a total bust. I'm not sure if there was, if any withdrawal time, I still have that bottle but it is at the shed right now. I can't remember off the top of head. I'd have to read the label.

At the end of the season, I limed the area well. Then the following spring, I moved my green beans to a different area. I held my breath not sure what to expect, but thankfully the blight hasn't showned up again. Good for me because I am a green bean lover!

Just saying what helped me that year. I sure hope everyone can get a decent tomato harvest. Those tomatoes are sure precious. :) Take care all.
 

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We make a point to mulch the tomatoes as soon as possible after planting to avoid soil splashing up on the plant in a rain. We use old newspapers covered with straw, hay, grass clippings, leaves, etc.
If we have to water, we use drip irrigation (system not very complete yet) or water with 5 gallon buckets from a rain water barrel--lots of work hauling water for all those plants. Because of the mulch, we don't have to water most years. Actually, I think that 1988 was the last year we watered all the garden. It seems that the mulch makes a difference with blight and with watering, based on many years of observation. The years we didn't mulch before a rain we had much worse blight. This year I think only one plant has it, and it was planted very early (first tomatoes in June, in Western Wisconsin, about a month earlier than usual), and it wasn't mulched until the rest of the tomatoes were put in a month later.

I have friends that say the milk spray works, and also using a hydrogen peroxide spray is supposed to work, but you need a stronger solution of hydrogen peroxide than in sold in the drug stores.
 

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MELOC said:
so turtlehead, how effective was the non-organic treatment?
Well I sprayed 9 days ago and did NOT remove affected foliage (time was at a premium). I haven't really been in the garden this past week - VERY uncharacteristic of me, but I cut my thumb pretty badly and have been taking huge care to keep it clean.

ANYway, I went out there yesterday evening for a stroll and some good looking. The blight has progressed, certainly, but much more slowly than it was before I used the nasty stuff.

It's called "Daconil" and the jar label says it controls Leaf Spots, Rusts, Blights, Fruit Rots, Mildews. The active ingredient is Chlorothalonil clorotalonilo. Yeah, that's definitely healthy :grump:

But like I said, it was either spray the stuff myself or lose the crop and buy commercial. I'm still not sure I did the right thing. I'll probably spray this stuff once more and then try milk on three day intervals and see how that goes. I just want the plants to live until I can harvest the tomatoes. Is that too much to ask??? :shrug:
 

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Ernie said:
4. I did not wash my tools and hands as I moved from plant to plant picking ripe fruit and pruning suckers.
I've never done this either, and I KNOW that is bad of me.

I do wait until the plants are dry to work with them.
Then I prune visibly affected portions of the plant and discard in a burn pile, NOT in the compost heap.
Then I spray with something I hope will kill the blight spores.

The reason I haven't ever washed between plants/trimmings is because I don't know what to wash WITH. I wouldn't mind carrying a little gallon ice cream plastic bucket out there with me, and swishing knife/shears and hands thru it each time, but what to put in it? :shrug:
 

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I've never had this (and I cage my plants) so I will know now what to be on the look out if it should come my way!
 

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Same problem here, removed infected leaves and sprayed with soap shield from gardens alive, no luck. dissapponting, but i'm more concerned about future crops. Other than crop rotation any ideas on removing it from the soil?
 

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Don't think you can remove it, really. Just mulch right when you plant so the soil can't splash up onto the leaves.

I'll try weak bleach/water today. Thanks for that info, Debra.

I'm planning on spraying with milk solution when the sun hits the plants, then pruning when everything gets dried off, and spraying again - but may wait until the garden is in shadow for that second spraying. I don't want to put the tomatoes to bed wet tonight, but I don't want to spray them in direct sun on a 98F day either.

That non-organic stuff seemed to hold the blight in check and I felt all good and didn't treat again... they say treat every 7 days but I didn't. Now it looks like I need to pull two plants. It came on again, and it's going gangbusters :( I'm going to try the milk again and at three day intervals this time. THIS time I'll be diligent. Yeah. :rolleyes:
 
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