The Battle of the Blight

There is a moment in every garden season where I feel downright discouraged and defeated in my efforts.  That moment is when I realize that Early Blight has taken hold of my tomato plants.  Every year, I try so hard to be diligent in my watering, staking, and pruning, and every year those hopes sink when I see those tell-tale spots and yellowing leaves at the bottoms of my tomato plants.
Early Blight is a fungal condition, and here in Minnesota, it is almost inevitable due to our warm and humid growing conditions. The spores reside primarily in the soil, and most often it is spread to tomato plants when soil particles splash up onto the low-hanging leaves during rain or watering.  Once the spores settle in on the leaves, they spread up the plant, leaving behind leaves covered in dark spots that will eventually yellow, and then turn brown and dry up completely.  The spores spread by contact (soil to leaf, leaf to leaf, leaf to human hand to leaf, etc.), and high humidity or persistent wet conditions will speed up the progression of Early Blight.

Of course preventing Early Blight in the first place is the most ideal scenario, but if it does show up, it can be controlled rather easily with a little work and diligence.
Here's a run down of some strategies I'm using for battling Early Blight in my garden this year (all of these strategies can be used both as preventative measures and as control measures if Early Blight is already present):

The above strategies are your best bet to prevent and control Early Blight, but if the blight is already present and making quick progress through the tomato plants, there are also a number of options for treatment:

It has been my experience that, as long as a good effort is made to control it, the presence of Early Blight does not have a significant impact on the tomatoes themselves. Plants that have been severely pruned to control the spread of blight will look a little sad at first (here's where that disheartened feeling will creep in), but indeterminate varieties will almost certainly out-pace the blight and go on to produce a good crop of tomatoes if you make every effort to keep them healthy.  Constant control of the blight will likely be necessary (unless you are lucky enough to stop it completely), but unlike Late Blight (which is what more commonly comes to mind when someone talks about Tomato Blight or Potato Blight), Early Blight is not typically a fatal condition.  And that should leave you feeling triumphant, when all is said and done! 

As long as we're on the topic, there are also a few things to keep in mind for the end of the season: 

It's also worth noting that out of the eleven varieties I'm growing, two appear to be much less susceptible to Early Blight than the rest.  While all the other plants around them have a good number of leaves with signs of blight, the San Marzano and Yellow Pear tomatoes had little to no signs of Early Blight.  That is certainly something I will be taking into consideration when planning next year's garden! And maybe by then I'll have mastered the art of prevention and have no Early Blight at all! (a gardener can dream, right?)

I'd love to hear from you on this subject!  What are your best strategies for battling Early Blight?  Have you tried any of the homemade treatments? 

Labels: , ,