Tomato Update

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.


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