late summer approaching, now is a vital time to watch your vegetable garden closely. In late summer, vegetable gardens are at their most prime time to fall prey to pests and disease. And while common garden diseases can often be avoided with regular preventive tactics, such as making use of cured composts and seaweed sprays, sometimes viral diseases get the best of our gardens.
Fungal spores usually show up in a garden via the wind or insects. One of the most common are those which cause leaf spot diseases such as early blight. Tomatoes are highly prone to this type of fungal spore and can get infected without you even knowing it. Dark brown patches on the leaves of your tomato plants means they have early blight, which spreads fast on damp leaves.
At the first sign of early blight, it is advised to clip off infected leaves, but only if the foliage is dry. Messing around with damp, infected foliage will only serve to spread millions of fungal spores throughout the garden and infect other tomato plants. After infected foliage is removed (if possible) it is advised to spray down the tomato plants with a mixture of one part milk to four parts water, along with 1 teaspoon of baking soda for every quart of water used. A few drops of liquid soap will help to make the spray stick. The reason this spray is effective is that dried milk when exposed to the Sun's ray's temporarily changes into a disinfectant, while the bicarbonate component of baking soda kills new fungal colonies. Although copper and sulfur are commonly used to treat fungal outbreaks, copper does not break down in the soil readily and is toxic to earthworms and many beneficial microorganisms. As for Sulfur, it can burn foliage and make the soil too acidic.
If your tomato plants happen to be unlucky enough to get a soilborne fungal disease, such as that of Fusarium or Phytopthora, you need to act quick. Soilborne fungal spores will attack the roots of tomato plants, resulting in slow growth, gradual yellowing and a steady wilting (at which point it is too late to save the plant). Immediately removing plants taken down by soilborne fungi is imperative to keeping future crops from contracting fungi left behind in the soil. To catch a fungal spore outbreak early on, pay attention to how thirsty the tomato plants are in proportion to their rate of growth. If they are drinking up a flood but show slow growth, they likely have a soilborne fungal spore infection.
Organic and natural fungicides are the best remedy for fungal infections with organic tomatoes. Four good products widely used by organic nurseries for treating soilborne fungi are SoilGard, MycoStop, RootShield and Contans. If you need a strong but effective fungicide for treating leaf spot and blight, consider using Serenade. It contains a naturally occurring bacterium called Bacillus subtilis, which is effective at destroying many types of fungi.
A great selection of 100% natural fungicides and organic tomato kits are available at Arbico Organics.
Author: Ryan the Hawaiian Lion