Wednesday, July 31, 2013

Tomato problems and a small harvest.

Last year my garden was hit with late blight. It was pretty devastating at the time. i have always grown a ton of tomatoes, then turned them into sauce, froze or canned them. i was pretty proud of the fact that i had gone several years without having to buy pasta sauce or canned tomatoes. Last year, at this same time i had over 40 heirloom plants that were destroyed by blight in a little over 1 weeks time.

 Looking back i realize that the loss of all those tomatoes was only the beginning of a cycle of loss that would continue until we had lost most everything.   

Since our house burned in Jan. my main goal has been to return home and plant my garden. It was something i needed to do, to stay sane and to not lose myself completely in all the chaos we were dealing with. This is my therapy, it is healing and one of the few things that makes me feel 'okay' again. So getting back to my garden became my focus, more important even than rebuilding the house.

Since we were in the rental house i had no where to start seeds inside, so i purchased a flat of tomato plants from a farm market in NC.  Before i had even gotten the tomatoes into the ground one of the plants died.  i didn't really think much of it, sometimes you get a weak plant that for what ever reason doesn't make it.  i threw out the dead plant and went ahead and planted to rest of the tomatoes. One, by one the plants began to shrivel and die.  i was not at all concerned that it was late blight again. They did not have the leaf spots that you see with blight.  From my research last year, i read that late blight does not over winter in the soil and just because you have it one year doesn't mean you'll get it again. It has more to do with weather conditions. It only appears during wet cool summers, which are not typical for this area. 

So i had no idea why my plants were dying.  We were getting a ton of rain at this point, so i thought perhaps they were getting waterlogged. Often times irregular watering can mimic other plant diseases.   i examined the plants, and found that they all had strange brown lesions on the stems, and the leaves were turning brown just along the edges and then eventually wilting and dying completely. i cut the stems of a few plants and found the tissue inside streaked with brown. After a bit of internet research i came to the conclusion they were either infected with bacterial canker or some type of wilt.  i pulled and destroyed about a dozen plants.

i was not about to be defeated by this so i purchased new tomato plants, and even started some from seed even though it was already the middle of June.  The rain continued, and continued and continued.

By the middle of July, i was finally starting to see tomatoes develop.  My plants were looking fantastic, but the tomatoes were coming in cat-faced and splitting.  This is most often caused by weather conditions.  So far i had been really confident that i wouldn't have late blight again, after all it doesn't overwinter in the soil and was most definitely killed off over our abnormally cold winter. i'd gone 11 years without ever getting blight, what is the chance i would get it two years in a row? 

But we were getting a ton of rain, and the temps were oddly cool for July. i was checking the blight map religiously. The weather conditions were favoring late blight and it was starting to pop up everywhere. NC, WV, NJ and Dc area. It had not yet been confirmed in VA yet and i was still feeling pretty confident that it would miss us. What are the chances i would get it two years in a row?? 

The rain stopped, the sun came out and for a moment i was beginning to feel like we were in the clear.  i looked back to my old blog post to see when it had hit last year thinking we were already way past that point.  The post was published July 30th.  i looked at my calender, it was only July 22rd.  That's went it hit me that late blight was still very much a possibility. 

It began to rain again, and the temps dropped.  i checked the blight map again, still no VA, then went out and checked my plants.

There is was. July 23th, late blight again.  Devastated? crushed? or just completely defeated. It's hard to explain the feeling. Yes, i know they are only tomatoes. i know i can by pasta sauce and canned tomatoes at the store. i know that in the grand scheme of things it's really not that big of a deal.  Yet, when you put your heart and soul into something and then watch it fall apart and die,  it takes a bit of you with it.  

On that same day a note was released by the Virginia Tech Esarec Plant Pathology FB page that Late blight had been officially confirmed in Floyd County and was widespread in the area.

Eight more plants have been pulled and bagged.  i've been pulling the plants immediately at the first sign of blight, unlike last year where i thought maybe i could somehow save them.  i've started spraying copper on all the other tomatoes plants.

The tomatoes in my main garden all look like this.  So far however, it is only the tomatoes in the main garden. i have tomatoes in two other beds that are not yet infected. i'm not optimistic that they will remain that way, but i am spraying them with copper and i hoping.  After losing all my tomatoes last year, i told my husband that i would be happy with one perfectly ripe on the vine Cherokee purple tomato.  

The rain, which has caused so many issues with my tomatoes plants, has caused the rest of my garden to explode with abundance. i am trying to let go of the tomato loss and focus on everything that is doing well. i've been harvesting lots of beans and zucchini. i won't be doing any vegetable canning this year because we are in the RV, but i have been able to freeze quite a bit. We have a deep freezer set up at Kenan's shop and i am slowly getting it filled up with homegrown organic goodness.  i only have a few chickens left, but they are starting to lay again too. i'm only getting a couple eggs a week, but it is something.

 My flowers also seem to be loving the rain, and although the beds are neglected and overgrown with weeds, the flowers look prettier than they ever have before. The  flowers have brought the butterflies and hummingbirds in abundance. So on the days when it is not raining, i sit outside and just enjoy being right here, right now. 

i did get my one perfect ripe on the vine Cherokee purple tomato, in fact i have picked 6 so far and there are a few others on the plant that are very close to being ripe.  i will not get the bushels of tomatoes i was hoping for, but i will get a few and right now that is enough.

Be content with what you have, rejoice in the way things are.  When you realize there is nothing lacking, the whole world belongs to you.  ~Lao Tzu


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