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Vermont Garden Journal: Tomato Blight

Daniel Hulshizer

We've all seen it happen. Your tomatoes are growing great with vigorous growth, flowers and even small fruits. Then it starts on the bottom leaves with some spots or browning. Slowly it spreads. Then more quickly to engulf the plant until by mid summer your prized tomatoes are nothing but stems with a few fruits. Welcome to the world of blight.

The main foliar diseases of tomatoes are early blight, late blight and septoria leaf spot. Although, they look a little different from each other, the results are the same. And they are more severe during cool, wet weather.

Luckily, now there are a number of resistant varieties. 'Iron Lady' is the latest from Cornell with resistance to all three fungal diseases. 'Defiant' is another red, medium-sized determinate variety. 'Jasper' and 'Mountain Magic' are red cherry tomatoes with good disease resistance. Even some heirlooms, such as 'Matt's Wild Cherry' and 'Lemon Drop', have shown some resistance to these diseases.

So starting with resistant varieties is key, but what about your other favorite hybrids or heirlooms. Here's what to do. Grow your own seedlings or buy disease free seedlings from local growers. Plant in well-drained soil in full sun on a raised bed covered with red or black plastic mulch. Space plants at least 2 to 3 feet apart for good air circulation and cage or trellis your plants to keep them off the ground. Bottom water to avoid wetting the leaves. Pick off any leaves that show signs of the disease. Spray with Serenade or copper fungicide to prevent the disease spread. With some diligence you can still enjoy some luscious tomatoes on this summer's Caprese salad.

And now for this week's tip, while all our attention is on gardens outside, now is a good time to rejuvenate your houseplants indoors. Cut back and repot overgrown houseplants into a container one size larger. Replenish the potting soil on all houseplants every few years and add some organic time release fertilize.

Next week on the Vermont Garden Journal, I'll be talking about unusual shade loving annual flowers. Until then, I'll be seeing you in the garden.

Broadcast on Friday, March 21, 2014 at 5:57 p.m. and Sunday, March 23, 2014 at 9:35 a.m.

The Vermont Garden Journal with Charlie Nardozzi is made possible by Gardener's Supply, offering environmental solutions for gardens and landscapes. In Burlington, Williston and

Preventing Late Blight
Blight Resistant Tomatoes
Diagnosing Tomato Diseases

Charlie Nardozzi is a nationally recognized garden writer, radio and TV show host, consultant, and speaker. Charlie is the host of All Things Gardening on Sunday mornings at 9:35 during Weekend Edition on Vermont Public. Charlie is a guest on Vermont Public's Vermont Edition during the growing season. He also offers garden tips on local television and is a frequent guest on national programs.
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