This is an amazing educational video that discusses all aspects of vermicomposting or worm composting with red wigglers. It also covers how worm composting suppresses disease. It is very interesting with excellent video shots about how wonderful red worms are and what they actually accomplish.
The video: Vermicomposting: a Living Soil Amendment from Cornell University covers:
Biology of Vermicomposting
Mating Cycle of Red Worms
Experiments in greenhouses with seedlings and synthetic growing mixes
Detailed explanations of experiments of how worm compost’s microbial activity suppresses disease in seedlings.
Creation of vermicompost at home and on a large scale.
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.