Avoiding Tomato Blight In Your Organic Garden

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In 2009, Pennsylvania experienced a terrible problem with Late Blight on tomatoes. Many gardeners and farmers lost their entire crop to this disease. Some blamed blighted plants bought at big box stores, but most likely it was simply due to a very rainy and cool growing season.

Now that it's about time to plant this year's tomatoes, how can you guard against blighted plants again?

The fungus that causes blight can overwinter on foliage, so you must destroy any leftover infected plants from last season. By destroyed, I mean burned or put out with the garbage, not composted. If you let any diseased plants lay in your garden bed, do not plant your tomatoes in that area this year. Plant them at the opposite side of your yard, however big it may be. One blighted garden tomato plant can spread the fungus spores for miles and ultimately infect entire communities.

Additional preventive steps you can take:

Plant a number of heirloom varieties. Heirloom plants have survived for generations, sometimes hundreds of years, so they may have natural resistance to many diseases. Additionally, planting a number of different varieties reduces the likelihood that your entire crop will become contaminated.

Change the way you water your plants. This is the most important step. Most blight fungus starts on the leaves and stem of the tomato plant. Keep these parts of the plant dry - water the root areas only and only when necessary. You're always better off giving your plants a good soaking once per week instead of watering them lightly a number of times during the week. You might want to consider switching to drip irrigation or soaker hoses for your watering. These methods also conserve water.

Lastly, be aware of early signs of blight and other diseases and take the appropriate steps to alleviate the symptoms if they appear. Check with your local extension service for any early reports of blight and if you're not familiar with the symptoms, there are many excellent resources online, such as Penn State University's College Of Agricultural Science.

Gardening Articles: http://organicgardenarticles.com/

Author: Todd Heft
Todd Heft is a self-taught organic gardener who lives in Northeast Pennsylvania (Lehigh Valley). He is happiest when he has dirt under his fingernails, mud on his boots and an aching back. Read more of his articles at Big Blog Of Gardening: www.bigblogofgardening.com

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