The Great Late Blight of 2009

This year I planted 19 tomato plants in our garden. Six of them were from the local nursery and the other 13 I started from seed. I’ve been looking forward to a huge harvest for months now, and was really excited when the fruit started ripening a couple of weeks ago.

Then we went to Maine for a long weekend. When we came back, I found that about half the plants had the late blight. And so I had to pull all of them out of the ground and put them in a trash bag. I’m not quite sure what to do to the soil to make it okay for tomatoes again next year – it’s still a little too raw for that.

Not sure what the late blight is? Well, it’s the disease that caused the Irish Potato Famine. It’s a bugger to get rid of, particularly if you want to use organic methods. It can take out the entire crop in a few days, which is why I pulled mine out. It’s a fungal disease, and it’s airborne. I pulled all mine out also because I don’t want to infect my neighbors (although it’s likely too late for that).

The late blight has been a horrible problem in the northeast this year. The trifecta of lots of rain, cool temperatures, and a whole slew of infected plants that got shipped from southern growers to big-box stores (and sold) made ideal conditions for this to thrive. Not only did I lose my 19 plants (sob!) but my CSA lost their entire crop of tomatoes. As in, none of the 300+ CSA shares get tomatoes this year. This is the same CSA that gave out 10+ pounds to each shareholder multiple times last summer. Devastating.

Not sure if you have the blight? Check out these great resources, and if you DO have it, bite the bullet, pull up the plants, and trash them. Don’t compost them. Trash them. It sucks, but better to get rid of it now than continue to infect your neighbors and farmers.

Our Garden upon finding the Late Blight

Our tomato plants – all 19 of them (plus 2 sunflowers).

Evidence of the Late Blight

Dying stalks and leaves.

More Evidence of the Late Blight

Telltale browning/blackening of the stems.

Tomato Harvest

About 2/3 of the harvest (at least the tomatoes didn’t succumb, but now HOLY CRAP we have a lot of green tomatoes.)

Bagged the Diseased Plants for the Trash

Bagged, ready to be tied and trashed.

Pulled the Plants Out

So sad….

The hand that planted, the hand that pulled

This is the hand that planted the tomatoes, and it’s the hand that pulled them up.