So, I just found out that the sudden death of my tomatoes, peppers and eggplants is due to either Fusarium type fungi or Verticillium. They stay in the soil for 4 years, they say, in which you can't plant any nightshades. Now that sucks. My interim solution is to make hanging gardens with balcony-type containers hanging on the fence posts or wherever I can, both under the greenhouse roof (not really a greenhouse anymore, just posts with a plastic roof) and outdoors. The containers will be filled with pure worm castings and/or any other sterilized medium.
Meanwhile in the beds where I used to grow and see my nightshades die I was thinking of planting tons of mint, sage, ginger, all sorts of antifungal plants, plus other stuff that's not susceptible to those bad fungi, in order to both take advantage of that soil and fortify it year after year, hoping that next time I plant in there I won't have to worry about any pathogens like that because my soil will be super vibrant. I'm in the process of converting all those beds into hillbeds anyway.
Am I right so far? I know I am in theory, but do you guys have any more input or feedback about all this?
Your plan to strengthen the soil lin as many ways as possible looks like the only real option to me; I'd be planting as wide a variety of wilt resistant things as possible, especially plants that have strong mycorrhizial relationships.
I'm kind up making it up as I go along, but it makes sense to me that building the most complex soil life web you can would be a good idea.
I couldn't find any info about any particular soil organisms that eat fusarium and verticillium, but those guys are all pretty hungry!
Brassicas are supposed to be good for soil-cleansing duties. I don't know whether plants with medicinal antifungal properties would be what you need; it may be more complex.
One thing I would definitely recommend is that you keep the mint family (which includes oregano, lemon balm and all sorts) out of the garden. They are really invasive and once you've got rid of the wilt, you could spend the rest of your life trying to get rid of the mint!
Catnip seeds freely, but does not seem to runner like other mint family plants, so I can tolerate that. If it's dug up ad moved (or dug up and composted) it does not come back.
Spearmint and peppermint are a mistake from 15 years ago that just won't go away, despite extensive weeding.
...and - a touch of google searching shows that fusarium (at least) affect mints. So don't go there.
Cereal (grain) crops are mentioned as a good rotation crop for managing an infestation - as is keeping weeds out of them as there are many weeds that host the nasties. You could either try growing some to the point of harvest on a garden scale to get some food use from the plots, or grow and turn under successive green manure crops. Or one, then the other.
Here in Costa Rica mint is not invasive at all. In fact, this is the first year that it's finally thriving. Plus I love cooking with it. Isn't the point with permaculture that you mulch with weeds, and if they come back more power to you?
Anyway, for now we are kind of looking into fusarium resistant varieties, which are all genetically modified and hybrids, so not too sustainable. Meanwhile I'll work on the soil. Anything else I can do besides raised beds and worm compost?
Sergio Santoro wrote:Isn't the point with permaculture that you mulch with weeds, and if they come back more power to you?
As far as I'm concerned, it depends...I mulch with weeds that aren't determined to take over the world
In my climate mint isn't just a weed, it would own my gardens, creating an impenetrable mat and sucking up loads of water.
If it's not a problem for you, that's great!
Here's a link to some open-pollinated, wilt resistant tomatoes. (No such thing as immune, apparently)
my tomato and peppers are in the greenhouse and have soaker hoses, there is no overhead watering at all..
also heavy mulches are a big help, as they keep the rain from splashing soil up onto the plant leaves.
1. It could be a natural part of this environment and the plants that we grow are not intended to grow here - so we may always have to fight that battle.
2. I have mixed in tons of mint, it is invasive but not as mat forming as clover so I am using both the mint and the clover intermingled with everything else. Then I chop and drop. My clover actually has mildew on it right now but I am ignoring it and will wait to see what, if any, effect it has on my food crops.
3. Chammomile tea! I wish I could grow it here as it is the one thing that I buy lots of and spray on all of my plants. A spray of chammomile tea is the only thing that has allowed the cukes and other squash plants to produce fruit before fungus takes over - every year - and every property I have lived in - in the South Carolina midlands. It will be interesting to see if permaculture techniques change that in any way.
4. No supplemental water. I haven't tried that yet but am going to. I will have to buy (since I'm out of seedlings) some squash plants and a tomato for my hugel bed. This bed is never watered and I want to see if that makes a difference. I'm picking up plants today for that purpose.
5. And here is a last interesting note: I did the three sisters thing last year. The zuchinni that was growing at the base of the corn was shaded somewhat by the corn, had virtually no circulation, and it was just packed in so tight at the base of the beans and corn that I could barely get to it to harvest fruit. I don't recall if that plant EVER showed signs of wilt or fungus - it was just so hard to get to that I gave up with it but it did last a much longer time than in previous years.
I have this tank of 50% concentration Hydrogen Peroxide. I am thinking of digging the soil out of the beds, drench it in 3% solution. Fill the beds with rotten wood that has also been drenched, cover it with finer stuff and put the soil back on top, mulch it with some fermented bokashi type stuff, and plant nightshades in there, maybe with mint and chamomile all around.
We have a budding colony of red wigglers, so for this year we'll inoculate all the goodies back into the hilllbeds with worm casting tea and that bokashi stuff (which is rice hulls and saw dust fermented with molasses and panchagavya).
Shouldn't be too bad. Does anyone know if hydrogen peroxide is acidic or basic?
PS Panchagavya is a concoction of cow dung, cow urine, milk, yogurt, and clarified butter fermented in sugar water.
I don't think it will be very practical to sterilize the soil this way. There will be so much in the soil that reacts with the hydrogen peroxide, including all the organic matter, that it will be difficult to reliably kill all the fusarium spores.
It seemed right to separate tomatoes from each other. So I put a cage in each bed
with a number of other plants not excluding other nightshades in there with them.
Then I have a rotation plan of moving the tomatoes to a new part of the bed the
following year. I am attempting to grow marigolds where the tomatoes will be
the following year. Then in the fall I am putting a good sized pile of compost in that
spot. In the spring I just plant.
Unless a garden is covered rainfall is coming from above. I am not going to go paranoid
about overhead watering. Any plan that excludes overhead watering seems unsustainable
if it is outside. I hope to remain dependent on the natural elements as much as possible.
So I say separate them, inter-plant them and rotate them to a new spot each year. If they
are in a number of different locations with things like basil, nasturtium, cilantro, onions and
garlic mixed in there with them I like their chances.
Sergio Santoro wrote:Yes, but if I drench the soil in it, it must also kill the fungi as it permeates everything. Or you are saying the fungi will take a certain amount of time to be killed and the peroxide will be neutralized much faster?
That's what I'm thinking, but I don't really know how tough the spores are.
Regarding the baking soda treatment, it's hard to imagine how that would treat fusarium, since, as you say, it lives in the soil, infects plants through the roots, and colonizes the vascular tissue (lymph vessels are in animals only).
fusarium and verticillium can be persistent in soil, but like many pathogens, it is likely all around your environment. Most pathogens are opportunistic and will take advantage of stressed or compromised hosts if they are available.
While I do believe crop rotation is a good practice, I don't think it would be necessary to hold off on planting any nightshades in an affected spot for 4 years. Especially if you have otherwise healthy soil with a high organic content.
I would bet that if you rotated through a leguminous crop for a season, you would be no more likely to get fusarium or verticillium in nightshades than if they were planted in "virgin" bed. Hedging your bet with VF resistant varieties would probably be prudent too, knowing that plants are vulnerable to the disease in your climate...
Leila Rich wrote:
Here's a link to some open-pollinated, wilt resistant tomatoes. (No such thing as immune, apparently)
Sergio Santoro wrote:What does that entail? I hope not spreading the soil of a bed thin under the sun, because the rainy season has just begun...
Nobody that knows is responding so what I have seen on it is covering the soil with clear plastic and no ventilation. You want the
soil to get so hot that it kills off the bad stuff and sacrifice the good. Trying to do it without sun is pointless as the name of the practice implies.
I don't remember how long it is supposed to be left on, but the rainy season is clearly not the time to do it.
Here's a link to what it entails: http://www.ipm.ucdavis.edu/PMG/PESTNOTES/pn74145.html
Incidentally, I used a bbq grill to cook some soil on a smaller scale- the amount is more than what can be done in the kitchen oven and without stinking up the house), but of course much less than solarizing on the ground. You can find my write up here.
John Polk wrote:Be forewarned: solar cooking your soil can also kill a lot of your worms and soil microbes.
If it gets hot enough to kill the weed seeds, a lot of beneficials will also die.
EDITED to add: 'Sterile' soil is lifeless. Lifeless soil is more commonly called dirt.
Sergio seems to think some type of drastic measures are required. If he is mono-cropping tomatoes and peppers
my post on May 1 is a start in the right direction. What I do is more inter-cropping with companion planting ideas in
mind. It seems to me for somebody to declare soil worthless for 4 years for night shades is strong medicine. I kind of
trust the soil to be able to grow things if it is treated well. What is your opinion on a solution for Sergio?
The more different types of plant families you can fit into an area, the better your chances of avoiding an imbalance in your system. I would try to grow a lot of legumes, brassicas, alliums, cucurbitas, etc in the infected space for the next few years.
In my opinion, crop rotation is not very practical in small gardens/spaces. If you move all of your nightshades to a new plot 20-30 feet away, every time you take your wheel barrow, shovel, hoe, boots or gloves from the old, infected bed to the new bed, you are transporting the old problem to the new location. With that little space, the winds and insects can also transport the problems between beds.
Raising the tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in containers is a very good solution for a year. Just be careful where you dump their soil at the end of the season. Most peppers do very well in containers. They have very small root systems for the size of the plant.
We have an open wall greenhouse with a garden all around, and then there is my own garden with polyculture, hillbeds, mulch, etc, but we are both experiencing sudden death. The soil is not optimal in either one, so we are focusing on that right now.