Life

The late blight plague

The late blight plague

The late blight plague

The late blight plague - the tomato farmer’s worst nightmare

by Ted Meseyton
Concerned about late blight in tomatoes? Read on and learn names of some resistant varieties. Some will be available for purchase as started tomato plants this spring. Seeds of others are available now for home gardeners who wish to start their own tomato seedlings.  
Early blight and late blight
Don’t confuse the two. There’s a difference. Let me briefly explain in four SG sentences.
1. Early blight is a soil-borne bacterial disease that splashes onto foliage during rain and watering.
2. Side leaves discolour, turn brown and dry up while progressing upward, but fruits for the most part ripen and remain edible.
3. Late blight is an airborne fungal disease transmitted through the atmosphere during periods of cool, humid and wet weather particularly during August and September.
4. Spores attach to both tomato and potato plants causing darkened or black sections along the stalks rendering the fruits and tubers unattractive and inedible.
Late blight resistant tomatoes
Jim and Aileen Solomon own and operate Solomon’s Home Garden Gift located just north of McDonald’s on 25th Street off Sask. Ave., in Portage’s busy and bustling west end.
Jim tells me one of the varieties they’re growing this year is a new one called Stellar tomato. He says “plant habit is determinate (non-vining) and maturity is from 70 to 75 days with fruits at 5 to 7 ounces each.” Jim continued “it’s one of the ones they’re touting with the highest late blight resistance so far. This will be especially noticed when Stellar is grown separate and apart from other tomato varieties.”
Another new one Solomon’s is introducing is Rugged Boy tomato. “Plants produce 6 to 8 ounce fruits about 75 days after transplants are set out into the garden. It too is shown to demonstrate strong resistance to late blight and other green leaf issues.”
One that’s been around for a while according to Jim Solomon is Mountain Merit. “Like the others, it also has late blight resistance.”
My own experience confirms that Mountain Merit is highly adaptable with good tolerance to multiple diseases. After 75 days or so, 10 ounce fruits ripen to a nice dark red during a harvest window spread out over 4-5 weeks.
Solomon’s Garden Centre will be selling started tomato plants of Stellar, Rugged Boy and Mountain Merit by the end of April.
Gardeners need to keep in mind that regardless of variety, tomatoes can be a tricky crop since plants are susceptible to multiple types of diseases beyond early and late blights.
Want to seed your own tomatoes?
I, Ted, always recommend to search and buy locally first, so check out seed displays during your travels. Inquire at greenhouses, garden centres and other seed sellers. If you can’t find seeds for some or any of the following named late blight resistant tomatoes, the following mail order sources are available. Note that some of the listed seed sellers provide one or more late blight resistant tomato varieties.
Early’s Garden Centre, Saskatoon, S7J 0S5, phone 1--800-667-1159; has Defiant and Mountain Merit.
West Coast Seeds, Delta, B.C., V4L 2P1, phone 1-888-804-8820, has Mountain Merit.
W.H. Perron, Laval, Que., H7P 5R9, phone 1-800-723-9071 has Mountain Magic, Mountain Merit and Italian Plum Regal.
Veseys Seeds, Charlottetown, P.E.I., C1A 8K6, phone 1-800-363-7333; has Defiant, Mountain Magic, Mountain Merit and Plum Regal.
We’re letting it be known among the gardening public, garden centres, nurseries and garden clubs about options available and reasons for growing late blight resistant tomatoes. It’s also of immense benefit to potato farmers as late blight is a costly disease that affects quality of their crops.
If you the reader and as a gardener grow or have grown other tomato varieties that have demonstrated good disease and late blight resistance and wish to share, let me hear from you.
Singing Gardener zinnia seed draws
Got a youngster in the family with budding green thumbs? Introduce him/her to zinnias, one of the easiest flowers to direct seed and grow outdoors once soil has warmed. Tell them about my Celebratory 150 zinnia seed draws -- a red and white zinnia mixture in honour of Canada’s 150th anniversary this year. Place name and phone number, plus where you’re from, onto a piece of paper. Mail your entry or drop it off in person into the draw box at The Herald Leader, 1941 Sask. Ave. W., Portage la Prairie R1N 0R7.
 This is Ted Meseyton the Singing Gardener and Grow-It Poet from the City of Portage la Prairie: Great and Growing – Good Things Happening!© In the Middle Ages wealthy people often ate from pewter plates. Foods with a high acid content, such as tomatoes, caused some of the lead to leach onto the food, resulting in lead poisoning and death. For the next 400 years or so, tomatoes were considered toxic.

singinggardener@mts.net



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