Oh no! BLIGHT! (?)

Via Skippy’s Vegetable Garden, which operates quite near to us, this news:

If you grow tomatoes or potatoes, take heed. This is shaping up to be one of the worst years for Late Blight, the fungal disease made famous as the cause of the Irish potato famine of the mid-1800’s…

Late blight is caused by the fungus called Phytophthora infestans, and it’s actually not uncommon in the Northeast, since it thrives in cool summer temperatures and frequent rains. But usually its occurrence is limited to later in the growing season and only certain areas of the region, typically in a few farm fields. This year, it has shown up early and is widespread. Worse, it’s been identified on tomato plants for sale at a number of home garden centers [*], suggesting that large numbers of home gardeners have purchased infected plants, which may serve as a source of inoculum (spores) that can spread the disease.

Late blight inoculum is easily carried long distances by wind currents, so anyone growing tomatoes or potatoes should be on the lookout for signs of the disease, even in the most remote areas in our region. Currently all varieties of tomato and potato plants grown in home gardens and in commercial fields are susceptible to late blight. If your plants have late blight, be prepared to destroy them in order to limit spread of the disease.

Well, I went out to see my garden – finally, after a couple of days of nonstop downpour – and there it was: sure signs of the blight on the banana fingerlings. What else could this be?

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The other potatoes seem fine, and I am hoping the earlies, the Keuka Golds and Red Norlands, will be harvestable soon enough. The tomato plants seem fine as well (there are some blossoms, no fruits as yet). But the Bananas are, I am afraid, a write-off. I dug some up to see if they are big enough, but no. They haven’t flowered yet, they’re after all mid-to late season. I will dig them up and dispose of them as soon as it stops raining again (tomorrow I am told).

[*] This seems typical of our times, yet another way in which our food is being threatened, and hitting particularly hard those who are trying to take food into their own hands.  I grew all my plants from seed and potato seed, but this stuff blows off in the wind…

As for the rest of the garden, in this constant rain and cloud cover nothing seems to grow. The eggplants have been stalled for weeks: no extra leaves, or inches. The tomatoes grow but slowly, droopily, leggily. What with the wet conditions slugs have been rampant, eating almost all of the kale and broccoli. They’ve proven unstoppable by my crushed eggshell ramparts, so I will have to switch to thin copper strips around the beds and a couple of evenings with flashlight and umbrella to cull the slugs already in the beds.

It’s a whole different game from the seedlings-in-the-basement and the planting-out times! Seasons…

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