Tomato Blight - Knowledgebase Question

N.Canton, OH
Avatar for fbrookin
Question by fbrookin
July 15, 1998
I have been plagued with the tomato blight for years Done all the things they say to do, and I still have blight problems. I have been buying more plants and getting as much magnesium as possible to them. My question: When volunteer tomato plants come up from the wastes of the blighted tomatos that are buried in the compost pile, Why do they not have blight? I use and like the old ox heart and German beefsteak brands Is there a lesson here I should take notice and learn from?

Answer from NGA
July 15, 1998
I can't explain why the volunteers don't have blight. If you're letting them grow to maturity, and getting good tomatoes, then maybe you're onto something! If you're not letting them mature, why not give a few of those volunteers a try--especially if you think they might be from your tomatoes (rather than store-bought ones.) It is unusual that you are getting tomato plants coming out of your compost heap because heaps usually heat up to such a temperature that seeds are destroyed. This is the reason why it is OK to compost weeds, the pile gets so hot the weed seeds can't survive. As a matter of fact, it really isn't a good idea to ever add diseased plants to your compost heap. Perhaps your heap is not getting heated to the proper temperature and this is the problem. If the heap never gets hot enough, and you are putting blighted plant scraps in, the microorganisms are never being destroyed, and then when you apply your compost to the garden you are reintroducing disease all over again, thus, a never ending cycle. I would suggest you first of all, check the internal temperature of your compost heap. To be efficient and work as it should, the reading from the center of the pile should be 90-140F . For a compost heap to work efficiently you need the correct ratio of carbon to nitrogen (approx. 30 parts carbon to 1 part nitrogen). Don't worry--it doesn't have to be exact! We commonly refer to this as "green stuff" (nitrogen) and "brown stuff" (carbon). During late summer/fall we have an abundance of grass clippings, weeds, vegetable waste (green stuff) and fallen leaves, straw, cornstalks (brown stuff). Just remember, it's best to layer a bit of "green stuff" in between larger layers of "brown stuff"! Second, don't compost diseased plant material. Third, try planting your tomatoes in a new spot next season. Fourth, and probably most important, look for disease resistant tomatoes, Burpee offers several highly resistant varieties. You can reach Burpee at 1-800-888-1447. Try 'Better Boy', 'Celebrity', 'Burpee's Supersteak Hybrid', or 'Sweet Tangerine'.

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