Tomato Troubles (aka Mid-August Update - Part 3)
So lastly in my mid (to late) August update are the tomatoes. Back in April I described each of the varieties that I am growing this year. I planted them in two different areas. The first area gets a bit more sun than the second area. The tomatoes in both sections have done very well with those in the shadier bed predictably producing less and taking longer to ripen than those in the sunnier beds.
|Tomato Beds in the Sunnier Area|
|Tomato Bed in the Shadier Area|
|Tomato Stems - Bare Bottoms|
Removing the leaves is one of the tactics that I am using in managing disease. And this year, the tomatoes have been graced with three different diseases - oh joy.
This was the first disease I noticed way back in early July. Our weather in June was warm and wet – prime conditions for early blight. It first showed up on the Aunt Ruby Yellow Cherry, Siberian and Bloody Butcher plants and now has spread to most every tomato plant in varying degrees.
|First Signs of Early Blight|
|As early blight lesions get older, they form concentric rings|
which you can see just starting to develop in the center of the top lesion
I am very impressed by the two hybrids I purchased - Mountain
Merit & Mountain Magic - both of which are supposed to be early AND late
blight resistant. Although they both
have had a yellowing leaf here and there (in fact Mountain Merit was one of the
first to have a yellow leaf which is why, earlier in the season, I was not certain whether or not
this was blight), they are doing very well with lots of lush growth
& tons of tomatoes. These pictures were taken just this morning:
|Bloody Butcher at the End of the Bed|
Barely hanging on
|Siberian Looking Equally Sad|
Lots of tomatoes but hardly any leaves left
|Mountain Magic F1 - Indeterminate (Salad Type)|
Early blight can also sometimes infect the stems and the fruits. So far, I have not found any stem or fruit affected by it, which is a good thing.
A few weeks ago I noticed a very different type of disease on the Gypsy tomato and as soon as I saw it my first thought was late blight, which I had never encountered before. Oddly enough, Gypsy is the one heirloom that shows no signs of early blight.
Further confirmation that we were dealing with late blight came in the last couple of weeks
when I started seeing dark blotches on the Gypsy stems (stem lesions).
|Late blight just getting hold of this leaf|
|Severely Infected Leaf|
|The fact that late blight is a fungus is very apparent on these leaves.|
|Late Blight Stem Lesions|
|More Advanced Late Blight Stem Lesion on Gypsy Main Stem|
Gypsy is the only variety that is significantly impacted so far but I have noticed some stem lesions on a couple of the Ildi trusses, Ildi being right next to Gypsy. I have 3 Gypsy plants, two in the sunnier area and one in the shadier area, and both are affected, roughly to the same extent. They each have quite a lot of fruit on them still so I am picking it as soon as I see the first hint of a blush as I know that late blight can also infect the fruit, especially now as it has progressed onto the stems.
Septoria Leaf Spot
The last disease in our lineup is Septoria leaf spot. Back in July, I saw some of the Yellow Pear leaves looking like this:
|Septoria Leaf Spot|
This photo was taken on July 29, around the time I first noticed it
|Septoria Leaf Spot on Yellow Pear Plant|
This photo was taken today
It looks similar to early blight, but the spots are small and more numerous and there is a lightish area in the center of each spot.
I recognized it right away. Why? Because I had the same disease last year – on that same variety. So I’m thinking that my seed is infected. Considering that the majority of my plants are heirlooms, I think that it is quite the coincidence that only this variety showed the initial signs of Septoria leaf spot two years in a row. That’s another packet of seed in the garbage.
The leaf spot has remained relatively local to the Yellow pear plant (of which I have only one), spreading only somewhat to the surrounding plants, primarily Bloody Butcher & Siberian. The fact that all of these plants were already struggling with early blight didn't help matters. On the bright side, Septoria does not impact the fruit at all and I have actually seen a significant slow-down of the disease on the Yellow Pear in the last week or so. It is a relatively vigorous plant so I'm hopeful that it will survive to the end of the season.
So to summarize – hot, wet June gave use early blight; cool,
wet July & August gave us late blight; infected seeds gave us Septoria leaf
spot. Just lovely.
|Yellow Pear Tomato|
Bare from a double whammy of early blight
& Septoria leaf spot but still producing
I think that I have been able to keep ahead of these diseases (so far anyway), even though 10 of the 12 varieties I am growing are heirlooms, for several reasons.
- Removing Low Lying Leaves/Branches, Lightly Mulching & Improving Air Circulation - Back in June, once the tomato plants had really started to grow well, I trimmed off all the leaves that were touching the ground and applied a light mulch of straw to the bed to minimize splash-back of the soil, which can contribute to the spreading of disease. My plants are fairly closely spaced – 24” apart in 2 staggered rows 12” apart – so I also thinned out a lot of the foliage a couple of times to improve air circulation.
- Removing Diseased Leaves - Every few days I go out there and pick off the diseased leaves. These go straight into the garbage, not the compost pile. I make sure to do this when the plants are dry so that I minimize the spread of the disease(s) and I do dip my pruners into alcohol to disinfect them two or three times during each trimming session. Technically, you should probably do this after each plant, but that would just be too time consuming as I let them air dry each time I dip them so that the alcohol has a bit of time to do it's job.
- Starting With & Encouraging Lush Growth - All of the plants grew very well early on and were strong and lush when the diseases struck. This gave them plenty of healthy leaves to fall back on when I started to remove the diseased leaves/branches and allowed them to continue to photosynthesize at a good rate, producing more new growth and setting more tomatoes. I have also been applying a liquid fertilizer every couple of weeks (more or less) during the season in an effort to maintain a good rate of growth. The Aunt Ruby Yellow Cherry was the first to be affected by early blight back in June but it is also one of the most vigorous growers, so it has been more than able to outpace the disease.
|Aunt Ruby Yellow Cherry|
This vigorous grower still has abundant leaves even though it was one of the first
infected with early blight.
And now for a peak at the ripening tomatoes.
|Aunt Ruby's Yellow Cherry|
|J's Mystery Tomato|
This one was brought home from a school field trip
|Mountain Magic F1|
|Mountain Merit F1|
Our first fall frost date is on October 3rd & tomato season will likely be over in another 3 weeks or so. I have my fingers crossed that my plants (well, most of them anyway) keep chugging along & providing us with lots of gorgeous tomatoes until then.
This post was shared on Green Thumb Thursdays.
Till next time…