Tomato plant withering from blight.
If it is not caught early and treated appropriately, Tomato blight, whether early or late, can destroy your whole tomato crop. The first symptoms of blight are tiny spots, brownish or yellow, initially confined to the lower leaves. If these are not dealt with promptly, they will spread and damage will begin to appear on the fruit itself. Stems will also become infected and the whole plant will slowly wither and die.
Early tomato blight on leaf. Early blight on fruit.
Late tomato blight on leaf. Late blight on fruit
Both early and late tomato blight look somewhat similar. It matter little what they look like as both can can quickly devastate a garden.
Blight is caused by a fungus-like mold, the same fungus that caused the Irish potato famine of the late eighteen hundreds. Fortunately we now understand plant diseases better and have better methods for dealing with them.
These simple steps will help you control tomato blight:
1. When buying tomato plants, check them carefully for any sign of disease.
2. Choose blight-resistant varieties. These are available for all types of tomatoes.
3. Stake your tomatoes on planting, and immediately remove any lower branches that touch the soil.
4. Space all your plants well apart to ensure good air flow and avoid moisture buildup. Removing the suckers also helps with air circulation.
5. Mulch well around the base of your plants.
6. Water in the early morning so that the leaves will dry well during the day. It is preferable to water only around the base of the plant, using a soaker hose or the pop bottle method. Both these methods avoid water on the foliage.
7. Remove, and dispose of, any leaves at the first sign of blight. Either burn these or seal them in a plastic bag. Do not put diseased vegetation in your compost. Wash your hands and garden implements well if they come in contact with diseased plants.
8. The first sign of blight indicates that you need to use a good quality of fungicide spray. Try to use the least toxic as you do not want to destroy any beneficial insects. Some gardeners choose to spray as a preventative. This would not be my choice as toxic sprays, used indiscriminately, do more harm than good. Choose an organic spray.
9. At the end of each growing season, clean up the garden area well, removing any dead or dying foliage, as this may provide over-wintering for the blight organisms.
10. Next year plant your tomatoes in a different location. Do not plant them near potatoes as both can suffer from the same blight.