Freakin’ Fungi

Show of hands, please. Who here has watched with horror as the leaves of their formerly healthy tomato plants suddenly turn yellow, cankerous, and then wither up and die? Well, join the club.

Arrgggh!!! (stock photo, not 2009 POD toms)

Here’s a primer on what POD’s tried and trying.

Supposedly these fungi (early tomato blight, fusarium wilt, and verticillium wilt) spread through contaminated soil or seeds.  So conceivably POD’s initial years of  infections could well have come with the well-started plants. Since new soil is purchased each year,  it’s unlikely contamination comes from the soil. Last year’s disaster is a mystery since the plants were started from seed in fresh soil. Unless, of course, the seeds themselves were contaminated. Hmmmm. The containers weren’t scrubbed clean this year, so perhaps there’s still some cause for concern. Something to remember for next year. We shall see.

Shop Wisely: Look for the following information on your plant’s tag or seed description (it means the variety is resistant to that particular evil disease)A – Alternaria leaf spot, F – Fusarium wilt, FF – Race 1 & Race 2 Fusarium, L – Septoria leaf spot, N – Nematodes, T – Tobacco mosaic virus, V – Verticilium wilt

An apple a day: Keeping plants well fed and happy will increase their resistance to fungus. A little calcium, and a fertilizer solution that’s not too heavy on the nitrogen. Next year we’ll try fish meal and more seaweed but for now, I guiltily confess, very diluted Miracle-Gro Tomato food is doing the job. (The nitrogen seems a little high, so this year I’m diluting it to half the strength they recommend.)

Patience, young Skywalker, patience: Wait until temperatures have stabilized and your seedlings have been properly hardened-off before planting. This increases immunity.

Thirsty Suckers: Tomatoes are 90-95% water and therefore, need water. Containers dry out quickly. Fun times. Don’t be afraid to get dirty. Stick your finger into the soil. Is it dry an inch or two below the surface? Water. Is it wet? Don’t.

Rise and Shine: Watering at night is like sticking a big “Fungus Welcome Here” sign on your tomato. Do it in the morning. Avoid getting water on the leaves. Mulch to avoid splash back. Do not touch the plant when it’s wet. Step away from the tomato.

Fumigate: Okay, POD can’t bear to use industrial fungicides and has been using Neem. Perhaps we’ll brave a baking soda, dish soap, and milk solution this year.

Give ‘em a Buzz Cut: So you’ve practiced your due diligence but suddenly, leaves are turning yellow. Nip ‘em off as soon as they begin to turn yellow. Avoid touching adjacent leaves with the diseased cast-offs. Hope for the best.

No Smoking: Tomatoes don’t like tobacco. Don’t smoke and don’t plant those pretty tobacco flowers anywhere near a tomato.


4 thoughts on “Freakin’ Fungi

  1. Yeah, I hear ya. And I send my sympathy. I should have noted, though, that the tomatoes pictured here are stock photo tomatoes. Mine are still going strong — for now. I removed the drainage trays so they could drain freely through all this darn rain (1 1/2 inches, according to my rain guage.) I guess it’s time to start carefully removing the affected leaves and keeping your fingers crossed.

  2. Are you containers gettting enough drainage? I am experiencing the same problem with my tomato plants (in soil), and I’d I’m starting to think it’s because of the the heavy and frequent rains we’ve been having lately… not a fan.

  3. Thank you for all of the great information. Site was very helpful. (also entertaining)
    I am growing tomatoes, herbs…ie basil, rosemary, ect. on a flat roof commercial building in containers. Is there such a thing as too much sun? Any tips would be greatly appreciated! Thanks in advance,

    1. Cornelia, thanks so much! When it comes to well-established tomatoes, I’m not sure there’s such a thing as too much sun (unless you have to mercilessly trim fungi-ridden leaves, leaving the fruits exposed); however, there is certainly such a thing as too much heat. Make sure your plants have been properly hardened off before submitting them to full sun and if you get wicked hot days like we do in Philly (95 and over) make sure they’re well watered and provide a little shade for them if you possibly can. Basil is super resilient (it’ll look wilty, get watered, and perk up in an hour or two) and loves the sunshine.

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