The Q&A Archives: Controlling Tomato Blight

Question: We were at your 1996 spring garden party in Ambler (it was great!). We noticed that some of your tomato plants had brown spotted leaves and were dying - just like ours. A Burpee rep. told us it was a blight and there was nothing to stop it. Are we understanding correctly that it is in our soil? What can we do to help prevent the same problem from recurring? How did it start? What can we plant in the place where the tomato plants were? Help!! This has been happening for the last three summers and we'd like to cure it! Ray and Barb Moyer Telford, PA

Answer: Yes, blight is caused by a soil-borne fungus. Here are some steps you can take to help control this problem. The first step in combatting any fungal or bacterial disease is to practice good sanitation in your garden. Promptly remove and destroy any diseased plant material, keep weeds down, and rotate crops. (When you rotate crops, rotate by family--for example, potatoes and eggplant are related to tomatoes, so don't follow your tomato crop with eggplant the next year.) Keep plants well-spaced topromote good air circulation. And if you do any pruning, sterilize tools with rubbing alcohol between cuts. You might try some of the "Mountain" varieties, developed by Dr. Randy Gardner at North Carolina State Univ., including Mountain Delight VFFAand Mountain Supreme VF. These varieties have shown some resistence to blight, and are available from Tomato Growers Supply Co., PO Box 2237, Fort Meyers, FL 33902, (914) 768-1119.

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