Further thoughts on blight

Posted on | August 30, 2009 | 25 Comments

I haven’t had time to get out to the garden to pull and bag the blighted plants yet, and we’ve had several days of rain again, so I’m sure it’s spreading through the neighborhood. But school started on Wednesday for my first grader, and on our morning walk I noticed dozens of small gardens or potted tomatoes also in collapse. At the market yesterday tomatoes sold faster than the farmers could load up their boxes and I overheard many conversations about home gardeners losing their entire crop.

Marcy reminded me in her comment on my last post that it’s late blight, not early blight. We are about to step into September, after all. She also mentioned spacing and pruning, which I meant to talk about in my post, but obviously got all caught up in the drama of oh, my tomatoes! So yeah. These tomatoes got planted directly into a new lasagna bed with something like a 12″ spacing give or take an inch or five. In other words, all wrong. I pruned the heck out of them when I first did the runner strings from the bamboo trellis, then I went away for three weeks. During that time, it rained every two days and the sun blazed in between. By the time I returned, my tomato plants had grown into an unruly hedge that crept across the grass in every direction. I did my best to trim out the most offending runners, but good gracious, those branches were heavy with fruit and who wants to sacrifice fruit?

Silly me.

I doubt I would have survived the blight even with better spacing and pruning this year, but I know I’ll manage my crop with a little more precision and care next year, and will consider covering the soil with black plastic to keep the spores down. My sister and brother in-law do that with their blight-prone crops and I swear their garden was the only one in New England that didn’t succumb.

I did pick a big bowl of almost ripe tomatoes but didn’t have time to process them that day and overnight they rotted in the bowl. That was disturbing. I keep thinking of what would happen if I’d blanched and frozen them. Would they rot in the freezer? Or instantly when thawed? Ugh.

Also in the comments, in case you missed it, Farmgirl Susan pointed me to her green tomato relish recipe, which sounds super easy and delish. So, I’m going to get out there today in the 65 degree sunshine to pick the rest of the green ones. Thanks so much, Susan.

I hate to waste so many tomatoes, and we do like relish.


25 Responses to “Further thoughts on blight”

  1. Flowers
    September 1st, 2009 @ 11:26 pm

    Your blog is interesting. it was nice going through your blog. keep it up the good work.


  2. Kathy
    September 2nd, 2009 @ 3:57 pm

    Well, I was thinking the same thing in regards to spacing and I didn’t have blight to contend with. But I do have a large number of tomatoes that won’t ripen and its all due to me squeezing them in too closely to each other. But, I think as a gardener we are continually evolving and learning from each other…here’s to a job well done this year and an more productive crop next year!


  3. Kathy
    September 2nd, 2009 @ 4:00 pm

    yes, I can speak proper English-sigh. What that should say above is here’s to a job well done(because you gave so much of yourself to the gardens)this year and to a more productive crop next year!


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  23. Dalton C. Swanson
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    If you want to prune all the suckers — leaving only the main stem — 18″ spacing should be fine. I was raised to remove all suckers, and used to plant tomatoes that close before I realized I’d get much more fruit if I kept a sucker or two. (Now I leave all the suckers I have room for: which is usually everything except the ones right at the ground.) Another reason not to prune so heavily is to have more leaves to shade the fruit and prevent sun-scald.


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