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Creating a better environment for growing Tomatoes and potatoes  RSS feed

 
Posts: 353
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I'm creating a forum for gardeners, farmers, and other interested parties to discuss problems caused by fungus, molds or diseases. I grow heirloom tomatoes and a few other vegatables and of course a small number of fruits and berries. I'd like to enlarge my garden for next year and include potatoes. I think a forum is needed to discuss the crops effected by fungus and similar problems. Namely early and late blight.

So let me show what my personal goal is with some pictures.

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This is my first tomato from this years crop, a Mortgage Lifter, which was also my first tomato in 2017.
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And, how we enjoyed the first tomato!
 
John Indaburgh
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And I'd like to show the plant that tomato grew on. One reason for doing so is to show that the plant suffers quite a bit from what I think is late blight. Also I think it's important to see that a good tomato is possible from a plant with the problem. I intend to also show plants growing near this plant.

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John Indaburgh
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Ooops, a slip of the finger, I was trying to add another image. Actually I have three, the first in the same small (12x16' feet), a few feet away. The next two are in my small plot next to a peach tree. I started this small plot as a test plot 3 seasons ago. This test plot hasn't had late blight for each of those 3 seasons. I do see a few questionable leaves in amongst these 3 plants.

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On the south side of the same plot, much less late blight.
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Very little to no late blight
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Another view of the same plot.
 
John Indaburgh
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So what I'm trying to suggest is that placement of the tomato plant has a bearing on how well your plant may do. The tomato plants you're looking at above are all heirlooms, mostly beefsteaks with a Kellogg's Breakfast yellow tomato and a yellow pear tomato. But all are heirlooms. Next year I'm hoping to enlarge my garden to 34x64 feet. Which will encompass both of these plots and a few more fruit trees inside that fenced garden. I'm doing this as I've calculated that if I add 63 feet of additional fencing I can do this using the fencing and posts that is now there. I don't think I'm capable of making this garden plantable by next year, but I plan to add gates large enough to get my mower in there.

So, what's relevant about this garden to the discussion is that I plan to plant tomatoes along only the southerly 64 feet of that garden. I'm hoping that this will replicate this modicum of success I seem to see on these two small plots. My plans are to space the plants 5 or 6 feet apart and allow 6 feet before any other plantings to the north.

I don't know if what I'm seeing is because of more sunlight or more wind exposure but I want to explore this anecdotal evidence?

And also a quote from the book Complete Guide to Vegatables, Fruits & Herbs by Miracle Grow, pg107: "Tolerance of a disease means the variety may show disease symptoms but will still be able to produce a good crop." That seems to mean to me that my beefsteaks are tolerant of Late Blight??

 
master steward
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Hi John, those pictures look like early blight to me.  I think late blight kills the whole plant in a couple of weeks.  Here's a guide to diagnosing:
Bruce Company Guide
 
John Indaburgh
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Mike Jay wrote:Hi John, those pictures look like early blight to me.  I think late blight kills the whole plant in a couple of weeks.  Here's a guide to diagnosing:
Bruce Company Guide



Interesting observation. I'll have to reconsider.

 
John Indaburgh
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Mike Jay

Looking at your link neither early or late blight seem to be my problem. Elsewhere with late blight I see quotes similar to: may lose entire plant to late blight.

Still needs some research.
 
pollinator
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Yeah, I think people I know in Wisconsin have more of a problem with late blight than we do in northern Minnesota, but I'm pretty sure it's been found in both areas.  Our biggest disease problem on tomatoes.....and something that may be evident in one of your photos, John D., is septoria leaf spot.  Interestingly, our septoria blow-throughs are coincident with the ripening of our paste tomato crop that we've kept seeds from for over 20 years.  So for the most part we aren't concerned with the level of disease....it's not really killing the crop since it comes through well past the fruit filling stage.   After that point, the septoria creeps in, the fruits start ripening, the vines eventually die, and we mostly have good sized red fruit for the picking.  As of this writing, the paste tomatoes are ripening with the septoria doing its thing, and the other 'eating' tomatoes (3-4 other varieties) are just starting to ripe and just starting to show a bit of septoria leaf spot.  But none of those other varieties will get as diseased as the paste tomatoes.  For comparison between early blight (Alternaria solani) and Septoria leaf spot (Septoria lycopersici), I'm adding the photo below.... (the septoria in that photo is pretty early stage....more yellowing is typically found on our paste tomato leaves than shown in that photo.)

Edited to add that yes, while 'tolerance' to disease typically means reproduction of the disease organism without inducing ANY disease symptoms on the plant, tolerance also includes milder infections where the plant *productivity* is not adversely affected.
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Mike Jay
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While I think they get late blight in southern WI, we normally don't get it up here unless the weather conditions are just wrong and it blows up on a storm.  Based on you pictures John, I see early blight all the time here.

Further evidence is that there are a bunch of certified seed potato farms in the area.  I'm guessing they put them up here on purpose.
 
John Indaburgh
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The book quote includes this: "but will still be able to produce a good crop". The way I'm reading that is that you'll get some tomatoes but not necessarily what you'd get without the issue. In my case I think I'm losing the big October tomatoes like we used to get. We used to see a decent production of tomatoes and flowers till the first frost. Nowadays production tapers way off even in September. Maybe because of the colder weather, I doubt it.

I purposely planted out 4 plants in mid July, 2 or 3 weeks later than our traditional safe planting date (Labor Day). I'm hoping these plants will give me a later main crop. What will probably happen is they'll miss the main crop. They're all beefsteaks, grown from seed I saved from last years tomatoes, and all different varieties. They're crowded as I planted them after my black Seeded Simpson leaf lettuce finally produced. I always plant that lettuce on St Patrick's day, March 17. It came up about a quarter inch and just never grew till after the late spring sprung. So I wanted to save seed from these plants which gives the tomato plants a lot of company. But these plants are also on the south facing deer fence and are also doing very well. One plant is showing a touch of the shrivels.

Just for reference, I planted all my tomatoes deep in an oversize hole to which I added a spade full of mushroom manure. The late planted tomatoes are planted in my best soil, clay based black loam.

 
master pollinator
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So you're growing them in a polyculture, and probably in soil that's at least half fungal in population, I'm guessing, by the proximity to the trees.

I think you're obviously having some success, but I will just add some things I like to do.

While this year the tomato plants in my tiny urban gardens have been decidedly lacklustre (as in, massive losses due to severe thunderstorms), I find I have had the most success in plant health and yield if I tweak the specific polycultures involved.

For tomatoes, I like dark opal basil, but any variety basil will do, planted within ten inches of each tomato plant, and while any ground-growing mint will do, I prefer oreganos to cover the ground in between. I have also experimented with sacrificial carrot seeding amongst the tomatoes. I noticed quicker and thicker stem growth and more rapid flowering than the carrotless plots. The basil, incidentally, has been found to increase the yield of tomato crops when interplanted. There was some suggestion that the interplanting had an effect on the flavour of the tomatoes grown, but I could see how that could be difficult to test for. Anyways, the basil was suggested be responsible for a twenty percent increase in tomato plant productivity.

For potatoes, I like to interplant with horseradish, which does a number on quite a few potato predators.

For both, I like to plant alliums. I like garlic specifically, because garlic, but garlic chives work (or regular, boring chives if you insist), walking onions, or any onion of choice, really, to distract pests that track by scent. For similar reasons, as well as the insecticidal properties of their living roots, I like to plant borders of marigolds. Also, I tend to use strategic border plantings of cucumber to guard against squirrels and raccoons, as they dislike the spines.

I have also found that borders or strips of organised, useable culinary and medicinal herbs planted almost anywhere can dramatically increase the number of pollinators and predatory insects, cutting down on infestation-related issues.

I like to use potatoes in newly dug beds or new hugelbeets. I find they never grow better than in the first couple of years of a hugelbeet's life, after which point, I find the bed is usually ready for a rest from nightshades before it gets the full tomato treatment.

I have also read that some of those who opt to use fabric or plastic sheet mulch have discovered that red mulch during the flowering stage increases overall crop yield by twenty percent. That got me wondering if there was a tiny, hardy groundcover that bloomed red blossoms or had red leaves that could be employed with or instead of the oregano.

I find that, no matter what I do, the third year of growing in the same place requires added attentions and sees decreased yield. I haven't yet had the opportunity to try oxygenated compost extract applications to rejuvenate depleted tomato plots, but in lieu of that, I have in the past simply rotated my beds, or shifted my rows, depending on the configuration.

I think tailoring the polycultural environment for the benefit of the target crop in that location is probably the best way to create that better environment. List of Companion plants has been of great use to me.

Thanks for sharing, John. Keep us posted, and good luck.

-CK
 
John Indaburgh
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Chris

Funny thing about my oldest plot, the one I planted Caliente Mustard in the last two years, no nightshades.

Next to the tomatoes on the south fence is a double row of carrots. And amongst those tomatoes is an occasional green onion. My wife grows basil on the porch in pots. I'll have to borrow some. She'll be proud of me!, well maybe later.

You noticed the trees, I don't know if you're referring to the peach trees or the huge Norway Spruce you can see the trunk of in the background picture of the Mortgage Lifter tomato. There are three rows of spruces on this property, big spruces maybe 60 feet tall. Maybe 45 feet between two rows on the north and south of the garden. The only reason I could pick this spot out is that the neighbor built a new house on the lot to the south. They bulldozed the roots of the trees near the property line, which blew over. Then the wind blew through what was woods on his property and blew over some of the trees in the second row. The good news I now get enough sun to grow there, not full sun, but enough. There's one near the peach tree you see all the peaches on. I use it for my break shade. I have to take lots of breaks.

 
John Indaburgh
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John Weiland:

I notice your mention of my possibly having septoria leaf spot. I need to follow up on this and other suggestions. What I'm going to do is take some closeups, later.

I read and reread your discussion of the paste tomatoes. I'm impressed that you've saved seeds from your crops for twenty years, and two, that you obviously raise your own seedlings from those seeds. So I looked up paste tomatoes, you obviously have heirlooms, I doubt you're saving seeds from hybrids. And I was thinking they're not determinates if they're heirlooms. But then I found the Roma VF. It's an heirloom, it's a determinate, and it's disease-resistant. IS that what you're growing?

But the thought occurred to me that it'd be easier to develop disease-resistance on a determinate than on a variety that may produce a crop for... maybe 3 more months. Maybe that tolerance mostly takes advantage of the fact that the plants no longer there. I'm just thinking. Getting a handle on the big picture.

 
John Indaburgh
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I took some photos of the issues with my tomatoes. This first group is from a plant that's just beginning to show problems. It's on a Tennessee Heirloom according to my notes. I'm showing images and then closeup crops of the same photos.



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leaf top
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leaf bottom
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a Closeup of the top, notice the white spots
 
John Indaburgh
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The last photo in the beginning development group. Should have been in the last post, but I hadn't saved the crop and the file uploader wouldn't resample the files available after I did save it. Another Oopps, on me.
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Closeup of the bottom of the leaf...Beginning of issue. I'm trying not to use early or late.
 
John Indaburgh
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This group appears to be later in the development of the problem. Looks like the same Tennessee Heirloom tomato.



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Top of leaf.
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Bottom of leaf.
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Close up top
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Closeup leaf bottom
 
John Indaburgh
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Finally, my problem at its worst. This one on the Mortgage Lifter plant that produced the tomato in the first image above.

I apologize for the long winded display of pictures. I had other plans as to what to present.

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Top of leaf on a Mortgage Lifter.
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Bottom of leaf
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Close up of top.
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Close up of bottom. Finally
 
John Weiland
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John Duda wrote:..... you obviously raise your own seedlings from those seeds. So I looked up paste tomatoes, you obviously have heirlooms, I doubt you're saving seeds from hybrids. And I was thinking they're not determinates if they're heirlooms. But then I found the Roma VF. It's an heirloom, it's a determinate, and it's disease-resistant. IS that what you're growing?



Well......I really wish I could remember what it was that we started with back in the day.  On the one hand, 'San Marzano' rings a bell as to the roma-type that my wife decided as the paste tomato when we got started (or something like it purchased from 'Totally Tomatoes' located in ???)  Come to think of it, it may have been 'Amish Paste' as both it and San Marzano's are open pollinated and indeterminate.  But I'm leaning toward 'Amish Paste' now more as I'm typing this.....I think that was the founder seed. Certainly the fruit looks more like the Amish Paste than the San Marz, so it makes sense.  Snapped some photos this morning that are pasted below so you can see the growth habit and the Septoria symptoms.  Hope these help!
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John Indaburgh
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So what plants are affected by late blight. The crop plants are:

Tomatoes
Potatoes
Egg Plant
Tomatillo
pear melon

Flowers are also in this group:

Petunia
calibrachoa
morning glories

Something seldom discussed are the weeds affected:

bittersweet nightshade
hairy nightshade
bittersweet nightshade
eastern black nightshade
silver leaf nightshade
bindweed, which looks similar to morning glorygolden henbane
horse nettle (Carolina horse nettle)
jimson weed
sacred thorn-apple
yellow and purple nutsedges
morning glories
pigweeds

So you can walk thru your garden gate and brush past those morning glories or weed the petunias and then pick tomatoes or cut the lower branches on your tomato plants and introduce this problem into your garden. You can walk thru your lawn and pick up the beginnings of a huge problem. If you spray your tomatoes with say a copper spray; do you spray the petunias or the morning glories at your gate. Do you spray the lawn, what about just the lawn close to the garden. I guess I'm assuming you don't have a weed free lawn because you don't use a weed killer in the lawn. But if you do is that weed killer effective on the weeds on the above list.

There are, I'm sure, other plants not listed. I had trouble deciding whether to include tobacco and deadly nightshade (belladonna) but chose not to. I listed morning glories as both a weed and a flower, I've known people who planted it from seeds they bought, and maybe regretted the decision.

You may have additions you wish to make, please speak up.


 
John Indaburgh
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As for crops and other plants affected by Early Blight (Alternaria solani) I quote UMass: "A. solani survives between crops on infected plant debris, soil, other solanaceous host weeds and can be carried on tomato seed and infected tubers."

Solanaceous weeds are for the most part the same weeds on the above late blight list I posted earlier.

I have seen conflicting comments on whether freezing temperatures kill remnants of either blight. It's possible that, for instance spores can overwinter in potato cull piles that are deep enough to not be frozen but also not so deep as to be killed by high temperatures as the culls compost. For myself I'll stay on the safe side and assume they won't be eliminated by freezing or heat.

 
Chris Kott
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Wouldn't that suggest that not growing the same family in the same spot year after year is the most logical choice? It isn't necessary to never grow the same thing in the same spot, just to rotate something else in until the solanaceae pests are no longer viable.

-CK
 
John Indaburgh
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Chris:

I would say that not rotating crops is a mistake. I remember being told in the 1980's to always rotate crops. It seems to me though that recently they're increasing the recommended number of years before you again plant crops in the same family back into that first garden space.

 
John Weiland
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Just adding another tomato malady to this thread:  Rooster Rot or Rodent Rot, depending on what got into the garden! :-(
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John Indaburgh
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May be neighbor rot??

 
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