The Q&A Archives: Possible soil issue

Question: Husband started a garden about 2 months ago. All seems well except for the tomato plants. About 2 weeks ago, the thriving plants appear to begin dying. My husband thinks that something in the soil may be attacking the plants and that lime may help. If lime is not the solution, could using it escalate an existing problem?

Answer: If only your tomato plants are dying, I suspect early blight. Early blight produces a wide range of symptoms at all stages of plant growth. It can cause damping-off, collar rot, stem cankers, leaf blight, and fruit rot. The classic symptoms occur on the leaves where circular lesions up to 1/2" in diameter are produced. Within these lesions dark, concentric circles can be seen. The leaf blight phase usually begins on the lower, older leaves and progresses up the plant. Infected leaves eventually wither, die, and fall from the plant.

The fungus spends the winter in infected plant debris in or on the soil where it can survive at least one and perhaps several years. It can also be seed borne. New spores are produced the following season. The spores are transported by water, wind, insects, other animals including man, and machinery. Once the initial infections have occurred, they become the most important source of new spore production and are responsible for rapid disease spread.

Remove the affected plants and be careful to rotate your crops next year so soil borne pathogens won't attack next year's crops.

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