In the Garden: First tomato plant disease of the season 2010

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The past several years, early blight, late blight. Verticillium Wilt, and other diseases have been wiping out entire farms worth of tomatoes, even in New England, where the problems were minimal in the past.

Our little garden may be no exception this year. One plant showed signs of sickness and we had to pull this one out to hopefully prevent spread of the disease. We immediately treated the area with a relatively strong, but organic, fungicide, Neem.  And we may continue to treat our plants weekly now that disease has reared its ugly head.  These diseases can spread rapidly and within two to four weeks, every plant could be showing signs.

Ripping out the entire plant may seem a bit draconian, but one plant is small pickings relative to our entire crop.  It is extremely disturbing seeing this type of disease this early.  We are usually well into July or early August before we see any signs.  Perhaps we are just more alert to the dangers after the past few years and are considerably more aware of what we see.

This one is looking like either early blight or septoria leaf spot. Both are fungal diseases, and we will be doing our best to nip this problem in the bud.  Unfortunately, we did notice one neighbor that plants his tomatoes annually in the shade, with signs of the disease on several plants already.  He unfortunately plants his tomatoes much too close, thinking more is  better, and also plants them in an area with no light.  Lack of sunlight helps the disease spread as does overcrowding.

When you let it happen to your plants, you could end up impacting your entire neighborhood or even local growers.  Often, novice gardeners are not aware of the trouble they cause and disease they spread.  If you are going to grow a garden, limit it to the few plants you can grow well.  Planting 4 plants that all remain healthy and have a nice yield is vastly preferable to 16 sickly plants with substandard yield and with the potential to spread disease to everyone else’s gardens after all their hard work.

Don’t be greedy.  If you want more plants, dedicate more space to your garden.

Taken June 27th 2010. Planted in early May 2010.

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