Answer: It does sound like Early Blight, and it's nearly impossible to get rid of it. But you can manage to reduce the damage done by knowing how the blight fungus works. It lives from year to year on plant material, so be sure to remove all vines and fruit from the garden at the end of the season. If you can compost them in a "hot pile", which kills a lot of the fungal spores, that's the way to go. Otherwise, bury them where they won't be disturbed. Look for varieties listed as "resistant to early blight" or "alternaria resistant" (Burpee's Northern Exposure, Big Beef and Celebrity are resistant varieties). Pay close attention, and as soon as you see spots forming on the lower leaves, remove them. Also, separate plantings of tomatoes from potatoes. Potatoes can pass the disease on to tomatoes (follow the same practices for getting rid of potato vines as you do with tomatoes). Some gardeners have good luck protecting their crops by spraying or dousing the leaves with compost tea. There are beneficial fungi in the tea that compete with the blight and keep it from developing. Gardens Alive offers a product called Soap Sheild that can be applied as a preventive measure (contact them at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 812/537-8650). Good luck with your tomato crop this year!
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