The Q&A Archives: Relocating Tomato Blight

Question: I spent the entire decade of the 80's growing as perfect tomatoes as I've seen; 20+ varieties in 80 cages with steel fence posts, always in the exact same spot. No diseases and especially no blights. I moved to my present location, started five gardens (there were none here before) but it gets me every year. I'm relocating again to an acreage (no garden there, either, and no neighbors) and would like to take the 2 dump truck loads of compost, leaves and everything else I've been accumulating as soil amendments. However, is there a chance that I may introduce the blight(s) if I move the materials with me? I hate to leave all this behind but I don't want to open a Pandora's box. Any suggestions?

Answer: Unfortunately, blight can survive in diseased foliage. The decaying/compost process alone isn't enough to kill it unless you can ensure that an extremely "hot" pile heats up ALL of the organic matter (so you'd have to turn it several times to get all material in the center) to a temperature of 140-160 degrees F for several days. I love a good pile of organic matter also, but I wouldn't want to take a chance. You're in a state with lots of leaves (many people are happy to have somebody haul them away) and barnyard animals (same thing with manure!) I'd start over. Also, be sure to clean off your tools, equipment, etc.

As you probably know, blight spores splash up from the soil onto the plant. Mulching with clean, dry straw can help prevent it, especially during warm, wet weather when it thrives. Good luck with your new location.

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