By now, most home gardeners are well aware of the tomato blight that has just about wiped out all tomato and even potato production in the northeast. Our garden has been similarly affected. If you have a garden or think that one day you just might plant one, reading these two articles is a must:
As in many large-scale disasters (e.g. hurricane Katrina, airlines disaster, etc.), the scale of the destruction here can be attributed to a series of mistakes or weaknesses in a large system. In this case, we have the following:
- a combination of many new home gardeners (who want to eat locally-produced food)
- large chain stores such as Wal-Mart, Lowes and Home Depot that sell plants but don’t adequately inspect for disease
- an unusually cool, wet summer
Put all these elements together and you have a blight that got out of control. It’s very important that we learn from this. I’m sure I’m not the only one who doesn’t want to lose the tomato crop next year.
So these are the lessons I’m taking from this:
- Buy from small, local nurseries where you know the grower and you know him or her to be picky about selling only healthy plants
- Or start your own tomatoes from seed. Why not look for seeds locally, or from a group of seed-savers? (Make sure they’re not GMO-contaminated seeds! Monsanto will sue you!)
- Start tomatoes under some kind of protection so they’re strong early in the season
- Talk with other gardeners and keep up with the news
- At the first sign of disease, deal with it! I believe I could have saved my heirlooms, which were doing great (I bought them from Harris Seeds in Rochester) if I’d torn out my Romas (which I bought at a hardware store) when I first noticed something was going wrong.
About.com says this is what to do with your infected plants:
“DO NOT COMPOST INFECTED PLANTS!
“To best prevent the spreading of spores, put a black plastic garbage bag over the infected tomato plant, then pull tomato plant out by the roots. Make sure entire plant is in the bag and seal it. To kill the pathogen, so it can’t spread, leave the bag in the sun. Then dispose of the bag, preferably directly into landfill.”
Following are pictures of the fungus among us. Hold the mouse over the picture to see descriptions of what you’re looking at. Click to see bigger versions. Hit your browser’s back button to return to this page.
How are you coping with the lack of tomatoes this year?