Monday, July 27, 2009

Tomatoes Devestated Early by Late Blight - Phytophthora infestans

Tomorrow morning I will have to perform the most difficult act I've ever been required to do: I will have to go out and pull up all twenty four of my tomato plants, place them in plastic bags, and set them on the curb for pickup. Yesterday I showed my friend Jen Gordy the tomatoes, which were looking very good - there was maybe an odd spot on a leaf here or there. Today, they are dead up to three feet from the base of the plant on the most vulnerable plants, and clearly infected on even the most resistant varieties. I don't think I can undersell just how quickly this hit. I reported the event here. I hope it helps them track the problem.

I had read about the problem back on the 4th of July, so I wasn't caught completely off guard. I won't deny that I felt a certain sense of imperiousness since I didn't understand that the spores can travel for miles on the wind. I always thought of it as a "might blow a few doors down the way", not across town.

These leaves literally looked healthy yesterday. To see the change in just twenty-four hours unnerves me. There is a part of my monkey brain that wants to let my plants stay up out of some slim hope that some of the fruits might mature. But I know that this is a lost cause; the plants will be dead within a week, and leaving them up will only give the late blight contagion a stronger chance of taking up permanent residence in my garden.

I just can't believe how sick the plants are.

These tell-tale cankers are present on most of the plant stems.

I'll take further stock tomorrow and may try and save some of the bunches of tomatoes that are close to blushing, but I'm not even sure I want to try at this point. I can only hope some local farmer has avoided this so I can buy some tomatoes at a farmers market.

One of the varieties of potato that I'm growing doesn't seem to be suffering from the late blight yet, but all the others are. I will be pulling them tomorrow as well.

I don't know when I'll get a chance to grow potatoes or tomatoes again. It may take several seasons for the garden to become clear of this blight. The amount of work I've put into these over the past months is great, and to lose them all is a horrible blow.

I'm thankful that my family doesn't depend on the fruits of the garden to survive. I now have a small inkling of the despair the tenant farms of Ireland must have felt as they watched their crops wither overnight.

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