The three words that sound the most like summer to me are tomatoes, sweet corn, and sunflowers. Sweet summer goodness.  Long days, humid weather, good food, and pretty flowers: summer.  My sunflower heads are starting to nod over these days, but my kitchen table is just now filling up with tomatoes and sweet corn. Welcome August!

Tomatoes. There are all different sizes of Grow Appalachia gardens, with very different vegetables planted in them, but every garden includes some tomato plants. I EVEN PLANTED SOME TOMATOES, and let me tell you a secret-I do not like tomatoes. I love the way tomato plants smell, I think that they are beautiful plants, and I am entranced by the many tomato varieties that exist, I just don’t like the taste of those big, juicy fruits. (This is especially weird considering I grew up on a farm where we grew 900+ tomato plants each summer…). But I digress, despite my apathy toward eating tomatoes; my heart still aches to see the plants afflicted with fungal diseases – “the blight”.

 Anytime we see tomato plants with yellowing leaves and brown spots we automatically diagnose our tomatoes with blight. However, there are several fungal diseases that may have infected our plants. The Grow Appalachia coordinator at Berea College, David Cooke, sent all site coordinators a link to a wonderful online resource about tomato diseases. This website, Tomato Dirt, includes information on how to distinguish between the different diseases, prevention and treatment options, and pictures. I have noticed that some gardeners do not even recognize that their plants have a disease since it afflicts their plants EVERY YEAR. These gardeners see the early death of their plants as the normal life cycle of the tomato plant, and it most gardens it is. We would do well in the future years of Grow Appalachia to educate about tomato blight, with good visual aids, early in the season.

This post is long overdue, as “the blight” has already overtaken most of the gardens I have seen, but it is not too late to learn and plan prevention techniques for next year. There are a few gardeners out there who still have beautiful plants and may still be able to hold off these diseases by using an organic fungicide and keeping their plants pruned.
Look at these beauties! No blight as of August 2nd!

Here are some pictures from Pine Mountain Grow Appalachia gardens.  Half of the gardens we have been working in seem to have spot patterns that look like Septoria while the other half have Early Blight. Both diseases attack during humid weather (summer in Kentucky anyone?) and the treatment plan is the same. Some of the tomatoes I have seen this summer have been completely killed by these diseases, but the majority of plants can survive early blight and septoria for a little while, they will just not produce as much. In my experience, early blight will make your tomatoes ripen all at once, in a last ditch effort to reproduce before the plants die. So bust out the canners and preserve those tomatoes!
          Septoria in a PMSS Grow Appalachia garden                                                       Early blight in a PMSS Grow Appalachia garden

A note on cleaning off your tomato patch: I always try to burn my diseased tomato vines. Do not put diseased plants in the compost. Fungal diseases are soil born, and are probably already in your garden soil. I try  not to perpetuate the disease by creating blight infected compost.