The Q&A Archives: Controlling Verticulum Wilt

Question: Our community collects leaves from parks, yards, etc. and makes them available to people in the area. I suspect I introduced verticulum wilt into my garden via these partially composted leaves. My tomatoes suffered last year. However, the soil thisyear is great, many earth worms and crumbly. But I know the wilt is still there. Is there a safer mulch or compost that will have the soil improving qualities without the danger of disease? Brian Nichols New Harmony, IN

Answer: There is a chance that any outside source of plant residue will contain pathogens or pests. The best thing to do is make "hot" compost with whatever you collect. "Hot" compost reaches 160 degrees F, which kills most pests and diseases. There still is no guarantee, however, unless the compost or soil is sterilized with heat or chemicals, but this kills everything, good and bad. Verticillium is best controlled through growing resistant varieties. When purchasing plants or seed, look for varieties rated with the initials "V" or "VF", etc. This indicates disease resisitance, (V = verticillium, F = fusarium, etc.) Also, if you can reduce the concentration of the fungi in the soil by starving it out - growing those resistant varieties, or not growingstrawberries or tomato family (including eggplant, pepper and potato) species in that plot for three years. Your description of your soil sounds good, too. Diverse biological activity in the soil, through the addition of compost and other organic matter, balances the effects of all members of the community through competition. Keep up the good work!

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