Early blight tomatoes and compost. What a combination! This year I was much more successful combating early blight on my tomatoes. I used a lot of compost in the holes at planting time and as mulch around the tomatoes. Here is a picture of one of my tomato plants. You can see that it has been attacked by early blight near the bottom but then the top of the plant grew strong without any disease. This happened to several of my plants. One plant was almost dead from early blight and then it had a rebirth with lots of new growth and green leaves and now there are tomatoes on it. This plant in the picture is from a disease resistant heirloom called Mortgage Lifter which you can order from Burpee seed company.
Even the Brandywine Tomatoes Grew
I had quite a few volunteer Sudduth Brandywine tomato volunteers. Usually I pull out volunteer plants for 2 reasons:
- they might have disease from the soil
- they might be a hybrid and not produce a good product
I recognized the very distinctive leaves of the heirloom Brandywine. Since I hadn’t planted any I nursed these volunteers and have harvested lots of Brandywine tomatoes with still more coming. One plant did succumb to early blight, though I still got several tomatoes from it. My other 2 volunteer plants are beautiful–healthy and strong with some early blight at the bottom of the plants.
Early Blight Tomatoes and Compost-Great Success
So based on my experiences this year, I would say that the compost had a very good effect on my soil. I bought some of the compost from Veterans Compost in Maryland and some I made myself in my Compostumbler and in my wire bin composter. Read more about Tomato Blight and Compost for a possible scientific explantion.
Early Blight Has Attacked My Tomatoes
Alas, my tomatoes have been infected with early blight caused by the fungus Alternaria solani (or tomatophila). I had it last year but had it controlled. It is quickly moving up my Sungold tomatoes. I am spending a lot of time in the garden cutting off infected leaves and stems. In this picture taken a week ago, you can’t really see it but it has gotten worse.
So Far The Brandywines Are Not So Affected
The Sungolds, which are a hybrid have the blight quite badly. It is amazing how many leaves you can cut off and still have nice tomato plants. The picture to the left is only one batch of dead leaves that I have removed. It has only just started to affect the Brandywine tomatoes which are heirloom tomatoes. I have been using lots of compost as mulch, seaweed and milk foliar spray, Ocean Solution foliar spray and worm tea. Though I have just discovered that my worm tea might be too old and the microorganisms might have died. I let it sit too long.
Today I Carefully Brewed Some Worm Tea
So today I made up some new worm tea from my worm compost. I filled a bucket with water and let it sit overnight so the chlorine would dissipate. Then I added some sugar for food for the micro-organisms and stirred it throughout the day to incorporate more oxygen. I am really winging it because you need a bubbler for the oxygen which I don’t have. I will spray and water my plants with this and hope it helps. I am one very frustrated organic gardener right now! Any suggestions or magic organic cures would be much appreciated!
Early Blight Confirmed in my Tomato Plants
This year it was confirmed by a master gardener that my tomatoes were infected by the tomato disease early blight. The leaves start turning brown and dying along with the stems. In previous years everything kept on dying until the whole plant was dead. This year most plants continued to grow, some better than others. You can see the dead parts on the right mixed with healthy growth also.
This year I tried to fight it but without any fungicides. Early blight is caused by the fungus Alternaria solani.
Techniques to Prevent Early Blight
There are several prevention techniques that I used which were recommended by the master gardener:
- Mulch the plant well. The fungus can be splashed from the soil onto the lower leaves from the rain or watering.
- Provide good airflow around the plants by not crowding them.
- Pick off the lower leaves so that they are not near the soil with a chance of being infected.
- Don’t use any volunteer plants because they might be infected. (This was hard for me because I like to see what a volunteer might turn out to be.)
- Water in the morning so the plants aren’t wet as night approaches. And don’t splash the plants–just water the ground.
- If your plant has early blight pick off the dead leaves and stems to prevent it spreading.
- Dispose of all diseased leaves and stems, don’t let them go back into the soil and only compost if your pile is very hot.
- Buy resistant tomato plants, though I didn’t see any that were resistant to early blight. The resistant varieties that I used didn’t do as well as the ones that I planted myself.
Organic Approaches to Fight Early Blight in my Tomatoes
The picture on the right shows the early blight just beginning. I used a shot-gun approach so I don’t know what really worked. Maybe a combination of everything. I continually cut off diseased leaves and stems. I used different foliar sprays that I created myself and different fertilizers. I was hoping to strengthen the tomatoes so they could fight the disease themselves.
Early blight did not kill my tomatoes, some were very harmed and some just kept growing and producing. I used foliar sprays of seaweed, Ocean Solution, worm tea, and milk. I fertilized the plants with fish emulsion, Ocean Solution and worm tea. I used each product separately. I didn’t combine them. I had cherry tomatoes right up until frost. In fact I harvested so many green cherries that I had two large aluminum pans of them in the basement ripening. So something I did was working.