Treating tomato blight

“Better late than never” is an adage that could often be applied to my gardening technique.

I had all but given up on the cherry, brandywine and roma tomatoes in my garden. After I made the blunder of placing last year’s tomato cages around them without cleaning the cages first, the plants immediately showed signs of the blight that wiped out my plants last year across town in a community garden.

Early blight

Early blight wiping out tomato foliage

This just confirmed my growing suspicion that tomatoes are NOT, in fact, the beginner’s crop they’re often touted to be, and instead are the moody, difficult-to-please teenagers of the garden world.

Just as I was writing off the whole batch of them, I heard from a coworker about an organic product called Serenade. It’s basically a spray made with Bacillus subtilis bacteria, which controls several different tomato diseases (luckily, since I hadn’t identified with 100% positivity that my tomatoes were suffering from early blight, as opposed to leaf spot or other similar problems. I went to a local garden supply store, where a knowledgeable agent told me about the product and the procedure to attempt to cure diseased plants (though he agreed with me that it might be a little too late for this year’s crop).

The procedure follows these basic steps:

  1. Gather some big trash bags.
  2. Carefully remove ALL the yellow, brown, or spotty foliage from the tomato plants and put it in the garbage bag to be sealed and thrown into the trash. Also collect any brown diseased foliage that’s fallen down under the plants. I learned that you don’t want to leave any of the stuff behind – it’s contagious!
  3. Be really careful not to touch the foliage that isn’t diseased, because you can spread the disease.
  4. Wash your hands. Twice, preferably.
  5. Once all the bad stuff is removed, spray the Serenade spray onto the healthy leaves and stem. It forms a sort of barrier against infection. If it doesn’t rain for 24 hours after you spray, you can spray once a week. If it’s been raining a lot, spray every 4-5 days.
Treated cherokee purples

The Cherokee purples are in the other raised bed and only had very preliminary signs of disease. Here they are once sprayed and with bad vegetation removed.

Treated tomatoes

Brandywine, cherry and roma plants treated. The cherry tomatoes may be goners, as there was very little healthy foliage left once the bad stuff was removed. I have high hopes for the romas, though.

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