Early Blight on Tomatoes – Some strategies that have worked for me

In July of 2006 my wife and I returned from a week long vacation and discovered that all of our

tomato plants were suffering from some disease.  Needless to say, we were devastated.  Mother
Nature can be such a bitch.  As I always do, I got over it and went looking for some answers.
The following is a summary of my blight control program.
Early blight on San Marzano Plum Tomatoes

 

Spraying:
In the Fall I spray every bed in which I grew tomatoes with copper sulfide fungicide as well as next
year’s tomato beds.
In the early Spring I spray the same beds once again.
Two weeks after the plants go into the ground I begin spraying once a week, alternating between
copper sulfide and Oxidate (an oxidizing fungicide).
Pruning:
When the plants go into the ground I immediately prune off any branches or leaves touching the
ground and continue this practice throughout the growing season.  In addition, I pinch out any
and all suckers on determinate tomato plants.
Regarding indeterminate tomatoes, I employ a little different strategy.  First of all, I prune and train
the plants to be more two dimensional.  It’s so much easier to do a thorough spraying.  As with the
determinate tomatoes I prune anything that touches the ground.  In addition, I only allow the main
leader and two suckers to grow (one on each side of the main leader).  I use a trellis system consisting
of heavy duty steel fence posts driven into the ground.  I attach horizontal bars made up of fir or cedar
1 x 4’s attached to the fence posts with nuts and bolts or bolts with cotter pins (my favorite).
I attach stainless steel screws to the 1 x 4’s every 6 inches.  They are driven in part way.
YOUNG TOMATO PLANTS PRUNED AND TRAINED TO A TOMATO TRELLIS
YOUNG TOMATO PLANTS PRUNED AND TRAINED TO A TOMATO TRELLIS
I then zigzag tomato twine (available for Johnny’s Selected Seeds) top to bottom.  I can then attach
the tomato plants to the twine using tomato clips.  I love this system because it allows me to easily
keep track of each plant’s growth and to find and eliminate suckers as they emerge.  A neater, more
well groomed tomato plant is much easier to cope with if it should get the blight.  I will cut off the
diseased branches before spraying.   See my earlier post “Tomatoes, the First Pruning”.

Plant Selection:
I have observed that some of my tomato plants seem to be more resistant to Early Blight than
others.  This year I tried growing “Nebraska Wedding” tomatoes for the first time.  They are
remarkably blight resistant.  In addition, BHN-624, a hybrid cherry tomato has shown above
average blight tolerance.

One final thought:
My mindset is one of managing the problem.  I expect to get Early Blight so I’m ready when
it occurs.

All the best,
Greg

 
 

2 Replies to “Early Blight on Tomatoes – Some strategies that have worked for me”

  1. Hi Greg – Nina from Knapps sent me your way.

    I had a disaster with tomato seedlings – long story. One of my favorite tomatoes, the Amish Paste Tomato, died in the transplanting. Nina suggested that you might either be growing them or know where I can get seedlings. I really appreciate your help.

    The other seedling I lost is the
    Jimmy Nardello pepper. Any ideas about them?

    Thanks, Marlys Edwards

    1. Hi Mzarlys:
      Sorry that it has taken so long to get back to you. However, my mother passed away recently and that took my attention away from everything else. Also, I usually get a heads up email letting me know that there is a comment that needs replay. For some reason, that did not happen.

      So, reading your email leads me to believe that your seedling may have actually been suffering from damping off disease. This typically happens to tomato seedlings that don’t get enough air movement and/or have to much of a lip in the pot (soil not up to top of pot) that creates this little ecosystem that encourages damping off. Having suffered this setback myself, I now use a fan to blow across my seedlings, especially when I have moved them to 4″ pots.

      Oh yes, the 4″ pots. One thing that leads to poor seedling health is being pot bound. Once my seedlings emerge from the starting tray, I move them to 2″ cell containers. When the seedlings are 6″ tall, I move them to 4″ pots until ready to go into the ground. If there is going to be a long delay (crappy
      weather for 4 days or more) I will move them into 6″ pots.

      Thanks for reaching out. Again, I apologize for not getting back to you sooner. I recently quit my part time job, so I can devote more time to the things I love, like gardening and talking about gardening.

      If you live in or near West Newbury, feel free to drop by my garden at 444 Main St. I always welcome fellow gardeners.
      All the best,
      Greg Garnache

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