This year was SUPPOSED to be different! But then, . . . THIS! It's blight, alright, and it looks like I'm not the only one at the garden with some awfully sick-looking tomatoes! Those ugly brown blotches on your tomato leaves and green tomatoes that turn brown instead of red are sure signs of tomato blight. It's caused by a fungus that can live as spores in the soil that can then infect your plants if they get splashed up onto the leaves. It's certainly been present at our community garden since tomatoes are grown there year after year, but this year is particularly bad. One major reason is the cool, wet weather we've been having, which tomatoes don't appreciate but is ideal for blight. Another reason may be that tomato seedlings purchased from some of the "big box" stores (Wal-Mart, Lowes, KMart and Home Depot) were already infected with blight right at the start, according to this New York Times article. Whatever the cause, it's pretty heart-breaking for us tomato lovers!
Is there anything we can do to save our tomato crop? That depends on how far along the disease is on the plant. If you have enough healthy growth you can remove the diseased leaves and fruit (don't compost these--get rid of them or you'll just spread the fungus.) There are organic fungicides that can help, but they may be a bit pricey. I found a recipe for a home-made solution here. This site suggests spraying the plants and soil with compost tea. The organisms in the compost will help fight the fungus, and the compost will fertilize the plants at the same time. I'm going to try some of my worm tea since I have this on hand. The best overall way to fight blight is prevention: make sure your plants are healthy from the start, make sure your soil is healthy, and don't plant tomatoes for at least 3 years where there has been blight in the past. That last bit is pretty tricky for those of us with small gardens here in a community of gardens. I'm guessing a three-year moratorium on tomato-growing at our garden wouldn't go down very well!! I'm not quite ready to yank out my plants just yet, and we are forecast to be getting some hotter weather, so I still have a little bit of optimism, for now anyway. Though I must say, I was glad to see heirloom tomatoes at the farmers' market this morning, just-in-case!