In the Garden: Keeping tomato blight at bay

Published: Jul. 12, 2019 at 1:25 PM EDT
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Fresh tomatoes are a favorite from the garden, but if you don't take a few steps now to protect them, you could lose them to disease. Gardening expert Charlie Nardozzi shows us how.

Sharon Meyer: Well, once again Charlie, your tomatoes are looking better than mine.

Charlie Nardozzi: So far, but this time of year they all look great. But you know what's going to be coming soon, and that's the blight on the leaves. So you get early blight and septoria leaf spot and a lot of different foliar diseases on tomatoes that can make them look like a mess come August. So there are a few things you can do to take care of that. First of all, start with disease resistant varieties like Iron Lady, Mountain Magic and Defiant. These are all varieties that have been tested and they don't get as many of these blight diseases. The other thing is to elevate your tomatoes.

Sharon Meyer: Yes, you don't want them on the ground.

Charlie Nardozzi: You don't want them on the ground. So you can use stakes, you can use round cages, square cages.

Sharon Meyer: That's a new one.

Charlie Nardozzi: This is a new one called Vertex.

Sharon Meyer: It's very space-agey.

Charlie Nardozzi: It's very space agey. It's made out of aluminum, so it doesn't rust. It's lightweight and it has these clips on them too, so if you forget to put the cage on, instead of trying squeeze it over the top of a big plant, you can open it up and wrap it around.

Sharon Meyer: I have done that.

Charlie Nardozzi: We all have. This is really nice. And you can get extensions too, if you want to go a little bit higher. So, you can try the varieties, you can cage them to bring them up, and you also want to protect the soil. You want to put some sort of organic matter down. It could be hay, straw, chopped leaves, grass clippings -- because that’s where the disease spores are and they’ll splash up onto the lower leaves and you start seeing those yellowing leaves with the little spots on them, and then it just proceeds from there. If you see those leaves, you always want to snip those off. And then the final things you can use as a preventative is, you can spray them with Serenade. It’s a bacteria that fights the fungus. It’s kind of nice -- it’s safe for the environment, and you want to spray it as a preventative spray so it doesn’t spread through the plant. It won’t kill the leaves that already have it, but it will stop it from spreading around to other ones.