tomato blight

Asked September 7, 2016, 10:16 AM EDT

I am home gardener and have had same 30x40 plot for over 13 yrs I do rotate crops within the area but cannot move the garden due to lack of sun in other areas. Over last 2-3 yrs the tomato blight has been killing me. I rotated to tomatoes as much as possible but have lost the battle this year I used some 'organic spray'and was very diligant weekly and cut off the lower dying leaves etc . watered from below but it is impossible So my only recourse is to not plant next year.To leave garden dormant. Questions can I grow other crops such as cucumbers or my herbs basil / nisturtium/ or some flowers or do I have to leave it completly dormant. ? is there a good cover crop that may help. ? Also I have sturdy tomato cages I use every year , can they transfer this fungus and can my tiller also hold on to them. I may till new area that gets some sun and try the tomatoes but want to be sure i dont transfer. Also if I leave all to dry in the garden and then burn it will that help kill the blight spores. ? help I will miss my tomatoes. thank you Claudio Levin

Baltimore County Maryland

1 Response

We are sorry to hear of your frustration, and truly hope that you will continue growing next year. There are varied ways to manage difficulties with tomato crops and while most of us struggle with blight regularly, it is possible to continue growing a decent crop.
The very first thing we'd suggest is to contact us DURING the growing season so we can assess what is going on and help you as early as possible. We can accept digital photos through these messages, and that often helps.
Right now, sanitation is your first chore. Clean up all plant residues completely and get them out of the yard. (no composting).
As for your questions: yes, you can grow whatever you want there next year.
As far as your tomato cages go, the real problems come with the heavy growth of the plant within the cage. If the plant is not pruned or pinched, the leaves don't get good airflow to dry off, so disease pathogens are more likely to take hold. As you know, in all disease situations, it's best to keep the leaves as dry as possible. You may consider using stakes to hold/tie up the plants, and pinch out excess suckers and growth. You should also consider spacing your plants further apart for the same reasons. We are finding that keeping much of the lower plant denuded of leaves is a very useful practice as well. We are not sure which 'organic spray' you used, but a copper fungicide is what is most helpful, and be sure to follow label instructions, paying special attention to temperature and humidity ranges suggested.
As far as cover crops go, they are a great idea, and now is the time to plant them.
Here is our page about them: http://extension.umd.edu/growit/beyond-basics/cover-crops-protect-and-improve-your-soil

cm