You have worked hard on growing your tomatoes this season – you prepared the prefect soil, carefully tending the tomato seedlings, and planted them with supreme care.
Now it’s time to start thinking about all the different uses for those delicious tomatoes from your garden. Then one day you go out to the garden and notice that some brown spots are forming on the bottom leaves of a particular tomato plant.
Crikey! It’s early blight!
What do I do now?
Here are some tips to help prevent early and late blight in tomatoes:
Preventing Early and Late Blights
- Inspect transplants and purchase healthy plants. Select wilt and nematode resistant varieties. Look for the capital letters V, F, and N following the cultivar name.
- Choose a range of varieties that mature at different times. The earlier the tomato variety matures, the more susceptible it is to early blight.
- Practice crop rotation by planting tomatoes and related vegetables in a different spot in the garden every year. Do not plant tomatoes and potatoes next to each other since they both are susceptible to early and late blight.
- Allow adequate spacing between plants.
- Water only at the base of the plant and early in the day. Long periods of moisture on foliage encourage blight.
- Use a tomato staking system and remove suckers to increase air movement through the plant and to reduce moisture on the foliage. Staking also improves fruit quality and helps prevent root rot.
- Mulch to keep plants evenly moist and to reduce watering, weeding, cultivation and blossom end rot.
- Remove the bottom branches of the tomato plant, especially if they come in contact with the soil. Cut the bottom branches with a pair of scissors or garden shears. Trim the branches right at the plant stem, but do not cut into the stem.
- Monitor the leaves, especially lower ones, for the first symptoms of tomato early blight and Septoria leaf spot. Remove infected leaves and begin application of a labeled fungicide. Tomato late blight can strike suddenly, often attacking the upper stems and foliage first, and then rapidly cause fruit infection. New, more aggressive fungus strains now exist, so early warning and prevention is critical. It is essential that vegetable gardeners monitor information from cooperative extension offices to know if late blight has been found in their region on either tomato or potato.
- Remove all plant debris from the garden in the fall. Many tomato blight organisms overwinter on dried plant tissues.
If you discover blights in your vegetable garden (whether it’s found on tomatoes, potatoes, eggplant, or other plants) ALWAYS remove the infected plant and dispose of it. You can either burn the plant, or place it in a garbage bag and throw it in the trash.
NEVER place plants that are infected with blight in a compost pile.
This is a very important step in preventing the blight from spreading to other plants in the garden.
Also, make sure to thoroughly wash your hands after touching blight-infected plants. You could accidentally spread the disease to other plants if the blight spores are on your hands.
Treating Early and Late Blights
You have done everything you possibly can to try and prevent blight from forming on your tomatoes. You go out to the garden and Drat! It has begun to form regardless of your measures. Now what? Here are some ways to treat tomato blights:
- Use a copper or sulphur based fungicidal spray to treat the tomato plants. Spray the leaves until they are dripping wet. It is best to use this spray when it is cloudy or first thing in the morning. Avoid using it in full sun when it’s very hot outside. You could inadvertently burn the leaves when any fungicide is applied in full sun.
- Use a baking soda spray. These sprays are good for killing fungi such as blight and are a bit more environment-friendly.
Grow Fantastic Tomatoes