The race is on. It’s the time of year when you encourage (plead) with tomatoes to ripen before they succumb to the horrors of Late Blight.
It first starts with a few yellowing leaves. Yikes. Remove these right away!
Then a few brown leaves and whitish-grey powder (spores) can be seen. Ack! Remove these immediately! At this point you could also top the plants by cutting the main runnier to prevent more flowering and send the plants energy into fruiting.
Sadly, there will start to be grey-brown spots on the stems which means the race has heated up. Cut off the stems that you can, and if the blight is widespread, begin defoliating the plants to allow all the plants energy into ripening the tomatoes.
It all happens so fast. You can go from lush green plants with many hidden tomatoes (August 2011), to sad looking sticks with ripening fruits (September 2011) in no time as seen in these photos of our raised bed tomato garden and self-watering container tomato garden.
Generally, we win the race and see late blight as a reality of growing tomatoes. Taking the proper precautions in the beginning of the growing season will greatly improve your odds.
- Rotate tomatoes to different parts of the garden each year. It takes 3 years for the fungus to leave the soil.
- Grow healthy plants: start plants off strong as seedlings, and feed and water them well through the season. Healthy plants are the best defence to disease and pests.
- Keep the leaves dry by watering the soil below as opposed to top watering.
- Grow plants undercover such as under a greenhouse, plastic dome, or roof overhang.
- Wash tools every time you use them, particularly when snipping off the blighty bits.