I still haven’t lost any more tomato plants. I have been spraying them after each rain and I guess that has been working. It hasn’t rained for a whole week up until today, and there is some nice lush green new growth on top – not marred by the phototoxic “burn” of the phosphorous acid.
I have never applied regular chemical sprays in my vegetable garden in all my 40+ years of gardening. My crops are normally 99+% organically grown, not because I have any fanatical fear of modern crop protection chemicals or synthetic nitrogen but because I just don’t normally need them. The soil is fertile because I till in cover crops and lots of composted wood chips. And this year I made my own fish emulsion fertilizer out of all the filleted carcasses of the bluefish I caught this spring. If I were to use pesticides the decision to do so would be based on the same IPM/plant health care principles I use when caring for a client’s trees. First watch plants for potentially damaging pests, then intervene only when those pests reach a threshold population. For me the threshold is losing the crop – I’m not trying to please any fussy supermarket shoppers that would freak if they found a caterpillar on their broccoli. When I do nothing, natural predators usually keep the pests under control.
Pardon the digression, back to the tomatoes. I actually feel kind of lucky that I detected the late blight in time. Apparently the disease is still rampant in our area. Just last Saturday I was at a client’s property and she showed me her sick tomato plants. I advised her to take a sample to the Montgomery County Cooperative Extension office in Creamery. When I came back to do the tree work on Friday the plants were gone. She lost them all! And these were established plants from a reputable source pretty far from the nearest neighbor.
And in Harleysville there is a huge community garden I can’t help gawking at every time I drive by. Beautiful vegetable plants of all kinds immaculately maintained. But driving by on Friday it appeared they were about to lose the tomatoes – hundreds of plants that appeared perfect up until now.
So this story is not over.