Early Blight fungal disease control on tomatoes

Now that it seems the monsoons are here, we need to protect our tomato plants from fungal diseases. Here in the southwest we don’t get the dreaded Late Blight that the Northeast has experienced (not yet at least) because we are drier than most parts of the US. We don’t seem to get as many fungal diseases but we do get some.

The one I see the most in everyone’s garden is Early Blight on tomatoes. It starts anytime but especially under these conditions: when you water your tomatoes from the top, the humidity is higher, and the rain comes.

Early Blight lives in the soil and is transmitted by water splashing soil up on the lower leaves. It starts on the lower branches and leaves where they start to turn blotchy yellow and start dying from the bottom up and will continue up your plant and eventually kill it.

To help prevent and control this disease, I do these things:

1. I water with a drip system, thereby keeping the soil from splashing up on the lower leaves.

2. I put straw all around the bottom of the plant to help keep the soil splashing up on the plant when it rains.

3. I trim any branch throughout the season that is going to touch the ground. In fact, I trim all the way up to the first flower or fruit set.

4. I trim ANY branch that shows signs of Early Blight no matter how high it is on the plant.

5. I dip my scissors or shears in rubbing alcohol or a 10% bleach solution between trimming plants to avoid spreading diseases. Bleach breaks down quickly (in a day or two), so don’t reuse it-make a new batch.

4. I spray ‘Serenade’, an organic fungicide which provides protection from a broad spectrum of common fungal and bacterial diseases. Early blight is one of the diseases it can control. Spray it on when the leaves are dry. It is rainproof and is non-toxic for bees and other beneficial insects. Respray every 7 days. Spray all parts of the plant-both on top and underneath.

Serenade is also good to spray on other vegetables. Spray for powdery mildew on squash, cucumbers and melons and leaf rust on beans. I use it for all my vegetables. Now that the rainy season is here, don’t wait till you get the disease—it works best as a preventative.

You can get Serenade from Agua Fria Nursery (call for availability) here in Santa Fe or at Amazon.com. I buy the concentrate, not the little bottle of pre-made spray—lasts a lot longer.

Here is a pdf of some of the common diseases and organic controls for tomatoes growing in the Southwest:   TOMATO DISEASES

Master Gardener Intern Class-Vegetables

I’ve been totally busy teaching classes lately and the last class I taught was the Santa Fe Master Gardener Intern Class on Vegetables. All I can say to the interns is hang in there. Yes there are some difficult classes to get through but there are some great instructional classes as well that are like a breath of fresh air. It wasn’t till I became a Master Gardener that I really blossomed as a gardener. And now I am a rabid gardener! The knowledge you will continue to gain afterwards, the contacts, camaraderie and friendships you will develop will help you grow as well as the plants you will be growing! Hopefully you enjoyed and learned a lot from the Vegetable class. (Yes it was my favorite class when I was an intern!) So for those of you who couldn’t come to class or aren’t in the program but are interested, here are the information sheets. I want to make them available to all.

VEGETABLE GARDENING IN SANTA FE  gives an overview of vegetable gardening in Santa Fe.

INFORMATION SHEET covers what the differences are  between an Heirloom, Hybrid and GMO plant and explains what mycorrhizae fungi is and how it helps plants grow.

HERBS is a list of perennial and annual herbs we can grow here in Santa Fe.

PLANTING TOMATOES and PLANTING SQUASH both address how to transplant them into the garden and some of the things I add to help grow these beautiful vegetables and also how to help thwart the dreaded squash vine borer and squash bugs.

SEED STARTING DATE CALCULATOR from Johnny’s Seeds is the same one from the previous post but if you didn’t read it, then here it is. A great tool for when to start seeds or transplant them into the garden.

And now if you will excuse me, I will continue starting my seeds inside! Perfect day-cold, windy and snowy!

Using Organic Fungicides-the Key to Success? Stay Ahead of Disease

 I think the key to preventing many diseases in the vegetable garden is using organic fungicides early-before the onset of visible problems. I am using ‘Companion’ (order online) as a drench around the roots and ‘Serenade’  (get at Agua Fria Nursery only) as a foliar spray on the leaves. I had today off so I used them again. I’ve been using them about every 2 weeks.  I’m looking for less tomato loss this year and hope by keeping up on my fungicide schedule, it will help. I use this combo also on the giant pumpkins and squash and they are looking good so far also. I will cut off any suspicious leaves or branches as well as use fungicides  (see mottled leaf on bottom of picture) Of course we haven’t had any rain yet to speak of to really test them (fungal diseases love moist enviroments) so we will see…