Psst... We're working on the next generation of Chowhound! View >
HOME > Chowhound > Gardening >
Jul 10, 2009 05:43 AM

Tomato Troubles in New England

Per a front-page article in today's Hartford Courant, "The state and most of New England are teetering on the edge of losing every tomato plant to a fungus that is flourishing in the wet weather the region has endured for weeks, state experts said Thursday."

Highlights from the article here:
<<For home gardeners, it's minor right now, but late blight spreads rapidly, said Dawn Pettinelli, a pathologist at the University of Connecticut Soil Nutrient Analysis Laboratory.

"The late blight hasn't really been widespread and damaging in people's gardens at this point," Pettinelli said. She said it would affect only tomatoes and potatoes, so other vegetables are safe.

But gardeners should be checking their tomato and potato plants daily for a dark green spot that may look like a wet area or grease stain in the leaves, and a white mold on the underside of the foliage, Pettinelli said. There may also be pale yellow borders around the spots.

Infected fruit may have brown spots, and potatoes can look fine on the outside but be brown on the inside, Pettinelli said. In most cases, though, the fungus will kill the plant before the fruit is ripe.

Wind can spread the fungus spores up to 40 miles, which puts locally grown plants at risk, Pettinelli said.>>

So, please keep an eye on yer 'matos, New England hounds! I will cry real tears if I lose the beautiful plants on our back porch. I'm thrilled to say none of my plants came from Home Depot or any other big box store and that my little garden is sheltered by other condos on both sides, which I'm hoping will keep our plants extra safe. Fingers crossed for all of us!

  1. Click to Upload a photo (10 MB limit)
  1. It is scary to think what could happen and how many thousands of acres could be affected. My tomatoes were raised from seed by a small, local grower ... but who knows where other people in my area got theirs.

    1. Sending good tomato vibes throughout the Northeast! At the risk of jinxing myself, our tomatoes are lookin' GREAT. I'm posting them here to thumb my nose at this blight! May it stay away from all our healthy plants!

      Note Limona Lemon Tree hanging out with the tomatoes. She's doing fabulously as well. Knock wood.

      1. Dateline - Derby, CT - Two of our tomato plants (we have about 18 total) had a blighty leaf each. Hubby carefully whacked the leaves off the plants, being careful that they didn't come into contact with aything else. Depending on the forecast, will spray the tomatoes and potatoes tomorrow or Tuesday with Fungonil in an effort to stave off any further encroachment. It's worked in past years, when late blight actually came, you know, late like in September.

        Our tomatoes were all sprouted by small, local people too -- well, not by Oompah-Loompahs, but by mom-and-pop nurseries. We're in a community garden so it could have come from any or none of our neighbors (or even farther afield); but most of the people I know at the garden are also big on the locals, down on the mega-stores. So we're spraying the Fungonil and crossing our fingers.

        5 Replies
        1. re: harrie

          Our tomato plant (the one that's an actual plant, rather than a laggard seedling with its first tiny permanet leaf like practically all of our other plants) is begging to look a little sickly too. I'm so frustrated! next year, I'm going to keep my ears to the whether early, if there is even a CHANCE of a reapeat of this years season I'm planting no tomatoes but Nagaraclangs (a black fruited Phillipine heirloom, famous for being adapted to grow and thrive in pretty much rainforest monsoon conditions)

          1. re: jumpingmonk

            jumpingmonk, where are you located? I use fish emulsion when I transplant vegetables and give more once a week. Follow directions to mix with water and I probably give each plant 2-4 cups. This year one plant looked like it was about to die. Not sure if it was a touch of frost or what. It's now doing fine although not as large as my other plants. I'm near Concord NH so I chose some plants from a local grower that were extra hardy for northern climates.
            I have two tomato patches. The cherry tomatoes are planted along our kitchen porch. The regular and a few paste varieties are planted in the open in a lasagna garden. This is the second year of trying this method. I haven't seen any slugs yet but I spaced my plants further apart this year. Last fall two of the lasagna gardens got a 6" layer of fresh steer manure. (we can usually find free manure on Craigslist) but a lasagna garden is built up like a compost pile starting with a layer of wet newspapers right on top of sod. These gardens are full of organic matter and are not muddy like some of my gardening neighbors report. Yet, parts of our yard are almost swampy from all this cold, rain. The porch garden didn't get this treatment so the soil seems a bit dense. I wasn't thrilled with the fresh steer manure but it was free and I would never have used it in the spring. We were able to find someone on Craigslist who does a good job of composting their horse manure (adds wood ashes, kitchen scraps, etc) and it's beautiful. Plants in containers get a mix of garden soil, lime, wood ashes, composted manure. BTW my zucchini plants started indoors looked horrible (lost some melon plants) because of all the cold and rain. I finally decided to treat them with fish emulsion and they recovered. Still don't look as healthy as the seeds directly sowed when weather was warmer. Darn but this was a really cold May compared to last year and the years before.

            1. re: dfrostnh

              I'm in the Lower Hudson Valley, and to be fair the seedling sized tomatoes aren't due to the rain, they're due to the fact that I have to wait for the late spring and direct seed my tomatoes, rather than start them inside in Feb. (No matter how long and carfully I give them to harden off they die within a week of permanet planting. Plus we have a "something" around in early spring that likes to chop off any and all seedlings at the ground (it doesn't eat them just chops them off, and they really are cut overnight , not rotted so it isn't pythium) The big tomato was bought as a fairly mature plant, that's why it's big.

              1. re: jumpingmonk

                sounds like some sort of cutworm. I lost parsley plants last year to cutworms. The plant would start to wilt and then I realized it had been cut through at the soil line. Have you tried calling your county extension office? There should be a master gardener available to answer questions, maybe look at pictures of the problem.
                I get excited during the winter so decide to start some seeds but I haven't been very happy with the results. This year's basils just sat there stunted. If I don't rig up some lights next winter, I shouldn't try to start seeds indoors.
                I hope you can find some solutions. I would hate to give up gardening completely but where we used to live we didn't have much sun so I started giving up.

                1. re: dfrostnh

                  Actually I'm fairly sure its some sort of bird or maybe a squirrel, on the ground that 1. the soil is somtimes dug up and the roots eaten 2. the lack of any sign of any worm (caterpillars don't move very fast so the odds of them always being able to hide or run away every time. and 3. it also happen to seedlings put in planters hung suspended on chains 5 or 6 feet off the ground which seems to indcate wahtever is doing it can either fly or is very agile.