This weekend we pulled 20 tomato plants showing signs of Late Blight from the gardens. Most of these were over five-feet tall and had hundreds of green tomatoes on them.
It is difficult to come to terms with how fast Late Blight takes down a plant. Only two days ago, these tomatoes were perfectly fine….lush and green…and still growing to the point that I was thinking of trying to provide more support for them than the flimsy tomato cages I used as these were supposed to only grow 20-inches high.
This is what it looked like just before we put it out of its misery:
K was there with me showing his support and stuffed the diseased tomato limbs that I passed to him into trash bags. Helping me speed things along and get it over with. He knew how difficult this was for me. We were mostly silent except for me mumbling, “look” every now and then as I pointed out leaves and stems with the telltale dark splotches that I have studied online over the past few days. “It’s got to go.” he would reply while lifting the trash bag slightly, encouraging me to place it inside.
The news of Late Blight spreading along the Northeast was announced at the end of June. It is believed that the spread was accelerated by shipments of plants from a commercial grower to the garden departments at many “Big Box” stores.
I poured over the news and pictures at various websites. I gained knowledge and knew what to look for… just in case. I also knew that once your plants show signs of Late Blight, it’s over and you need to pull the plants (Cornell's Late Blight factsheet).
Our plants didn’t come from any of the “Big Box” stores. If they had been infected from the beginning, they would have shown signs much earlier. Instead, the disease probably blew in from another nearby source and attacked just when the plants were finally making progress after the rainy summer we have experienced.
I keep a pretty good watch over the garden. I inspect it at least once a day for pests, diseases, and vegetables ready for harvest. I spotted telltale water soaked lesions characteristic of Late Blight on one of the tomato plants on Thursday evening. Although I knew from my previous research what this was, I jumped on the internet again to see if there was a small possibility that it may be something else…something treatable.
By Friday evening, the other tomato plants were also showing signs of Late Blight and the disease had progressed quickly. There was no further uncertainty. Sadly, the realization sunk in that I had no options but to pull these plants and remove them...leaving gaping holes in the garden and my heart.