I wish you didn't have to write it. We first heard about the late blight on a radio gardening show out of Youngstown, Ohio. And then there was a front page article in the local paper, The Beaver County Times. I have gardening friends in the area and have heard stories about people who were infected by this blight. Many of these people depend on their tomato crop to make their sauce for the year, and now won't be able do that. And, not being able to replant tomato plants in the same area for two years is an awful inconvenience to the avid veggie gardner. So far, our garden is fine, and the plants are finishing their productive life for this year. Our plants, by the way, were purchased at a "Mom and Pop" green house north of Sharon and not a box store.
I have never liked to buy plants in a big box store because they get the cheapest possible plants for a grower who grows them to be cheap. They usually look awful and I am not surprised that it was plants from a big box store that started all that. Cheapest is not always best.
Ms. Linda, I'm not sure if you realize it but late blight fungus doesn't overwinter in soil. My research indicated that unless you neglect to remove all bad fruit and/or potatoes that happen to be covered and missed, you don't have to worry about the disease being in the soil. Of course It's always good to practice crop rotation. Northeast winters are cold enough to kill the pathogen that brings on late blight. However, mild winters can occur and if you've composted infected fruit or tubers, the disease might survive in a warm compost heap. That's why it's important to discard infected plants in the trash.
Pagaritomt - I discovered during my research that employees of big box stores did not recognize the disease. I think employees that work in the garden centers of such stores need to be better educated. Had they been able to recognize the symptoms of late blight, they could've rejected the plants, keeping them out of the hands of unsuspecting consumers.
I agree that employees of big box stores need to be educated about plants in many ways -- but the nature of big box stores is that they don't spend much time and energy -- or money for that matter, --on their employees, including in educating them. They just take people off the street and tell them they are in charge of gardening and to water the plants and move them around. We all suffer from this negligence.
We also have a problem with a very well intentioned small seedling grower in our area. His greenhouse is too hot and the tomatoes develop many diseases, but he sells them anyhow. And since he sells many unique tomato varieties people buy them, not realizing they are contaminated.
Tomatoes catch diseases easily and everyone should be alert for diseased plants.
tcfromkentucky, I got the info that you can't plant for two years after being infected with late blight from somewhere - radio gardening show? newspaper article? friend that gardens and grew plants for sale??? I'm not sure where but I will look around to see where it was. If I had had late blight, I'd not want to take a chance on getting it again, so I'd want to be very sure it doesn't stay in the soil.
Ms. Linda and pajaritomt: I'm not a plant pathologist so I can't give you definitive feedback about the specifics of the disease. From what I've read, and you can click the links in my article http://davesgarden.com/guides/articles/view/2613/ and read about it too, winters here in the northeast are normally cold enough to kill pathogens in the soil. But if there's a relatively mild winter, and we've had some, all bets are off. Especially if infected tubers or tomatoes are missed during fall cleanup, and you've accidentally discarded infected plants or fruit or tubers into the compost bin. Enough warmth can be generated in a compost pile during winter for some bad bacteria to survive into spring. I don't think soil tests reveal pathogens.
After reading about the "late blight" around here, I was pleased with my plants survivability until two weeks ago. Then it hit! I only have four tomato plants, all four different heirlooms. Two plants have been pulled. One, a plum tomato, seems to be very mildly affected.
In over 50 years of gardening I have never seen this. As my neighbor says, "it is always something new".
I too have heard reports that the blight is supposed to be killed in Pennsylvania by winter temperatures, but as TC suggests the compost pile may prevent the fungus from being destroyed. Burning, garbage disposal or burying two feet deep are reported to be safe ways of plant disposal
Thanks for the article TC and keep up the good work.
I also live in SW PA. and my tomato plants all succumbed to the blight despite my best efforts to save them. I think the culprit must have been 2 plants that I bought from a box store. The rest were mail order. I did manage to harvest some different varieties of cherry tomatoes that ripened early. But all the tomatoes for sauce, salsa and slicing were lost. It has been a very big disappointment, to say the least.
It's disheartening to hear y'all talk about the losses. There for a while, I was getting six or eight phone calls daily from folks who had tomatoes infected with late blight. Some, like wldrnss, had never seen late blight in all their years of gardening. This is the first time I've seen it in my garden. I'm also hearing from folks, like you shihtzu5, who had good luck with their cherry tomatoes, we had good luck with ours too ('Sun Gold').
I think I'll do a little more research about its ability to overwinter in the garden.
I had potatoes too and they didn't seem to be badly affected. We're harvesting as needed and tubers look healthy. 'Yukon Gold' and 'Red Pontiac' were grown.
So that was one of the problems with my tomato plants this year. The gray color was very prominent on the edge of the leaves on my plants. Between that and the bugs I had this season, I pulled all of them up. I have a raised bed and wondered if planting my plants on the opposite side of the bed next season would be rotation enough. I was also told I need to pull everything up from the bed and cover it with black plastic and cover that with rocks until next Spring to kill the bugs that I was plagued with this season (squash bugs, etc) . Does this sound helpful to anyone or a means of giving the blight the proper conditions of growing through our usually pretty mild southern winters,
I just had to pull all of my tomato plants today because of late blight. I could have cried. We got one ripe tomato this year. I started most of my toamtoes from seed but did buy one tray of plants from Walmart. :(
Howell49, I've not heard of having to sterilize soil for squash bugs. But I'm in a much colder growing zone than you, zone 6, some still say we're zone 5. Have you checked your local extension office about that?
Brutusmother, sorry to hear about you losing your tomatoes. It's sad, I know the pain. Luckily, there's always next season!