When I came back from vacation I found my house looking better than I had left it. My house-sitting friend had done an unbelievably remarkable job of taking care of my home. The inside and outside were cleaner than I had ever seen them, the whole garden was weeded, tomato branches all tied up on their trellises, yard mowed perfectly, and on and on and on…
The fungus, however, was not so kind. The same blight (probably septoria leaf spot) that usually begins killing my lower branches in June and eventually kills the whole tomato plant in early October was RAMPANT. My 24 tomatoes, in 4 varieties, were knocking loudly on death’s door…in JUNE!
The bigger, faster growing plants have tried to compensate for their foliage loss by growing more leaves at the top…and not setting any fruit. The smaller, more compact plants had already set a bunch of green tomatoes, but didn’t have the strength in them to grow new leaves and branches fast enough to keep ahead of the rising blight.
I broke my rule and sprayed everything with a non-organic fungus spray. I also ordered an organic copper based solution that has since arrived in the mail. The spray won’t heal damage that had already begun, but it promises to help slow the upward spread of the disease.
All plants in the main garden under 3 feet tall are either dead already or will be by mid-month. I can only hope and pray that the taller plants will actually begin setting fruit at some point, but I have become depressed about the whole situation. Tomatoes were my real reason for gardening. Last year I bet I had over 100 pounds. This year I feel I’ll be lucky to eventually get 10 pounds of tomatoes, and not close enough together in time that I can make any canned products.
I can see that in my near future I’ll be leaving the farmer’s market with box upon box of expensive local tomatoes, but I’ll just have to hope I can find ones that I trust to be any better for my family than store-bought.
This year, it seems, my garden will produce no ketchup, no pizza sauce, no pasta sauce, no salsa…the list goes on. And now I don’t even feel the motivation to go out there. I know it needs to be fertilized with compost. I know it needs to be weeded again. I know my cucumbers could use a trellis at this point. I know it could use a nice deep watering. I’m so frustrated at this point that I am to the point of avoidance. Logically I know that staying in my air conditioned house is not going to teach me to deal with this minor disaster and recover from it, but I’m a spoiled kid of modern society who knows that there is always another source for anything my heart desires. Aren’t we lucky to live in an age where we can entertain our tantrums and still eat all winter? What are we going to do when those store shelves sit empty?
P.S. It doesn’t seem to be “just me.” I went to the farmer’s market about a week ago hoping to buy the last few potted tomato starts that might still be available at this late date. There were several beefsteak plants there, probably 14 inches tall in their 3 inch pots. Every one already had the same leaf spots on their lower branches as I have in my garden. It was no use trying with them.