Its the season of harvest here at the Dandelion Wrangler. Every adventure into the garden delivers an abundance of flavors to savor on the evening dinner plate. This week I’m overwhelmed with the sweet sight of Cherry Tomatoes.
Last year I did a number of varieties of tomatoes. Mostly larger slicers. Not long after I started to salivate over the idea of a nice BLT, my crop got hit! Black lesions and blotches covered the plants, from stem to tip. It happened so fast! Eventually the fruit itself began to rot. It was a depressing sight. I was set to have a bumper crop of tomatoes that year. Big ones too. Ahh, it was so beautiful, until it, er… until it wasn’t.
I’m learning to learn from my mistakes, and leaving the larger tomatoes to the pros. Or at least to those with the desire and conditions to grow their tomatoes from seed in the cold dark days of February. With our short growing season in the Lower Mainland, it’s difficult to get larger tomatoes to ripen before the onset of late blight. Late blight is a water mould, and is spread through moist and wet garden beds. You can see why a green house is on my dream to-do list!
Until then I’m picking up my juicy slicers from the dedicated farmers that supply the local Farmer’s Market. All the yum with none of the heartache. This season I’m focusing on fruit that will actually make it to my plate, cherry tomatoes!
Small and packed full of flavour, growing cherry & miniature tomatoes gives you a wider selection then you’ll find at the grocery store, or vegetable market. Bringing fantastic flavours and beautiful colours to your dinner table. Add kids to the mix, and you’ve got a hit! Who doesn’t love to make a cherry tomato explode in their mouth?
This year I’m growing:
- Tumbling Tom Yellow
- Sweet Olive (heirloom variety)
- Tumbling Tom Red
- Heirloom Black Cherry F1
- Gold Nugget
How to avoid the onset of late blight (Phytophthora infestans)
- Grow your tomatoes in sunny warm location with good drainage. If your area is prone to blight, pots are ideal. Place them on a sunny cement slab, and let them soak in the heat. Raised beds are wonderful. They warm sooner than the ground. They will allow you an earlier start, and retain their heat better. Tomatoes grown above ground in baskets, or on patios & rooftop garden do especially well at avoiding late blight.
- Avoid over head watering. Tomatoes don’t like to go to bed wet. Late blight thrives in moist damp conditions. Water early and allow for good drainage. Use of Soaker hoses is optimal.
- Give shelter to your tomatoes. They like it sunny and hot. It’s, umm, not like that all the time here. Grow them under the eves on the south wall of a building, or construct a temporary roof for your plants. Many local gardeners choose to grow their tomatoes in a greenhouse. Ensuring the perfect growing environment.
- Maintain good health & order. A weak plant is always more susceptible to outbreak or infestation. There are some cultivar that are being tested to be blight resistance. However, from what I’ve seen none of them appear immune.
Akk! I’ve been hit! What now?
- Remove effected leaves or stems immediately. Do not compost these. Put them in a plastic bag and throw them in the garbage. I know many municipalities use high heat in there composters blah, blah, blah, but seriously, DO NOT put diseased plant debris in either your home or city compost.
- At the end of the season remove the rest of the plant in the same manner. Plastic bag, toss it into the trash. This will reduce carry over of the disease.
- There has been some success with copper sprays. Copper is accepted by most organic gardeners, and is safe for use. Although should be used more as a preventative method than a cure.
- Harvest a plant once it’s shown signs of blight. Yes, even the green tomatoes. Green fruit is not guaranteed safe. Tomatoes can carry spores on their surfaces, not visible to the naked eye. Some gardeners simply wash the fruit with soap and water once it’s brought inside. Other have has some success washing them in a solution of 1:9 household bleach and water, to reduce signs of rot as the fruit ripens.
- Once the infected plant has been removed, make plans to plant your tomatoes in a different location for the next year. Crop rotation is essential in good garden health. With this problem the same rule applies: Don’t plant the same plant in the same spot twice. Pests just love that shit!
- If space does not permit crop rotation, and pots are not an option, then remove the top layer of soil to reduce carry over of spores from a previous infestation.
**If you’ve had success keeping your tomatoes blight free here in BC, drop a line and brag a little. Be sure to let me know how you did it! Cause that sort of stuff, you just shouldn’t keep to yourself!**