The Naked Tomato ~ My Battle with Early Blight

Although I think the naked tomato would be a great restaurant name unfortunately it describes my tomato plants this year.

For the third year in a row my plants have suffered damage from early blight. Last year was a terrible year for tomatoes all across the state and it's not that bad this summer. But I'm fairly certain the spores are now a permanent part of my soil and will affect plants in years to come also. And unfortunately, my sunflowers also appear to be stricken with this fungal disease.

Good news is that I'm still getting fruit. I have a teensy infatuation with photographing tomatoes and tomato plants, as the photos in the post attest to. But I wanted to show the progression of the season so far and the measures taken (in vain) to eradicate this disease.

Baby tomato plants, planted and mulched in late May

By early August I had already taken the following measures:

  1. Mulched twice, one time even covering the ground with newspaper and mulching over top that.
  2. Staked the plants (late June but probably too late as the leaves were already touching the ground).
  3. Removed blighted leaves once.

But as the photos show it hadn't gone away (yellowed leaves are blighted)

This is a blighted leaf up close. The potential exists for this to happen to the whole plant. Brown, withered and dead leaves and spotted fruit - yuck.

Following a friend's advice I once again cut off the blighted leaves, being very careful not to touch healthy leaves. I had a bucket of soapy water with tea tree oil for washing my hands so I wouldn't spread the spores. After I cut all the affected leaves I sprayed the plants with a tea tree oil and water solution as a natural fungicide. 

No luck. The blight came back (or at least the symptoms showed up again on the unaffected leaves). But... the plants are still producing fruit. For this I am thankful.

Juliet tomatoes - these are producing well, some fruits have small spots

My naked but fruiting tomatoes

Jet Star tomatoes. So far these fruits are unaffected and ripening well.

Sun Sugar, Juliet and Amish Paste (they seem to be worst affected by the blight) with a couple late fruiting strawberries. We are picking about this much each day.

Has anyone else had success dealing with early blight on tomatoes?

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  • Alisha

    Alisha on Aug. 12, 2010, 6:33 p.m.

    Wow, Renee! I'm jealous of your tomatoes. I love homegrown tomatoes. It's a good thing we didn't plant any this year, though, due to grasshoppers. We are absolutely overrun with the things. I'm glad yours are doing better though.


  • Wendy

    Wendy on Aug. 12, 2010, 6:55 p.m.

    So glad you're still getting tomatoes. We lost all of our last year to blight. Planted in a completely different area this year--so far so good!


  • Francesca

    Francesca on Aug. 12, 2010, 7:48 p.m.

    Blight (potato blight) is something I only ever read in history books. I had no idea it was such a huge problem, affecting tomatoes and sunflowers in your part of the world!


  • Jennifer

    Jennifer on Aug. 16, 2010, 3:57 p.m.

    I am having the same problem with my tomato plants! We're getting a few good ones but it's starting to feel like it's not worth the work. Especially, when we have such an amazing farmer's market at Deering Oaks. This is the third year I've had a garden and I'm thinking about giving up or just doing less next year. I may just try my tomato plants in containers on the deck.


  • Doug

    Doug on Aug. 21, 2010, 12:19 a.m.

    I'm going through the same thing. I just spent two hours picking off all of the dead leaves. My tomatoes are not spotted though. I went through the same thing about a month ago, then added Miracle Grow for tomatoes and they went wild with new leaves and branches. I may do it again just to get through to the end of the growing season.


  • Aaron

    Aaron on Aug. 21, 2010, 1:53 p.m.

    Yikes! My plants look like yours...worse, actually. As a first-year gardener, I was hoping it was something limited in scope but early blight looks to be a hanger-on. There's no garden room to effectively rotate, at least not without shading the rest of the garden into uselessness, and something very similar is happening to our massive squash plant. (I know blight also affects tomatoes...does it hit squash?) This is Not Good.

    Like you, I'm still getting tomatoes. I suppose that's what I'm after, but there won't be as large a crop because it looks like two of my six pants have given up the ghost and I doubt there will be much new growth on the other four.

    Next year I'll be trying your newspaper plus mulch idea, staking as soon as the branches are long enough and praying like mad. Meanwhile, I'm adding you to my blog reader, if for no other reason than the assurance that it's not because I'm a crap gardener that my tomatoes are dying!


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