I don’t know where Mary, Mary came from and what those silver bells or cockle shells had to do with ensuring a plentiful garden, but here in the United States crops have been facing the plight of late blight since the early 1990’s and this year in particular it has become extremely disconcerting to north eastern, mid western and central east coast farmers.
This disease is a water mold which is transmitted through the spreading of spores via any possible means (wind, rain, contact with mechanical equipment, etc) and it tends to thrive in moist conditions. The areas of concern have faces exceptionally soggy late spring and early summer so farmers and home gardeners alike are watching their potatos (the Irish famine in the mid 1800’s was due to late blight) and tomatos.
If late blight is spotted on either potato or tomato leaves (light green spots that resemble drops of water and are frequently found nearer to the tip of the leaf), it is advisable to completely dispose of the entire plant and not compost it as the spores can remain viable for some time after the plant has been uprooted and then can spread on to still healthy plants.
In order to prevent the spread of blight it is important to use a fungicide that will discourage growth and spread of the mold spores. Thankfully, there are organic, pent and human friendly ways to accomplish this. Copper and sulfur are organic fungicides (although still pose some risks so always follow package instructions and proceed with caution) and can be used to inhibit the mold. In addition to health concerns of a sulfur based fungicide (can irritate skin and/or lungs), there are restrictions on weather and time of season that it is applied.
While researching this article I found only one company who creates a totally organic product which provides mold prevention but is not sulfur or copper based, Serenade Garden Disease Control. Available since 2005, Serenade is made up of cultivated microorganisms (Bacillus subtilis) which safely battle the mold spores. The product is safe to be used around children and pets and will not harm the surrounding plants or waterways. It is harmful if inhaled however so, again, precautions should always be followed explicitly to ensure safety.
Staying on top of gardening, maintaining a healthy balance between wet and dry and properly treating plants with organic and natural based disease prevention methods will mean eating fresh and yummy, healthy fruits and veggies as well as the beauty of thriving plants and flowers all season long.
What do you use to ensure your garden stays healthy? Do you compost?
Photo Courtesy Hawaii College of Tropical Agriculture and Human Resources