I’m not a gardener but when I presented the information to Martha yesterday that Late Blight had returned to the North Country, she was somewhat aghast. After reading about it I can see why.
Late Blight decimated North Country tomato crops a few years ago, and this year, Irene brought the fungal infection’s spores up the coast. Now they’re affecting tomato and potato plants. Cornell cooperative extension in St. Lawrence County has confirmed cases, and Jefferson county’s awaiting results, as reported in the Watertown Daily Times.
Early signs of infection on tomatoes are brown spots on stems that quickly grow…with white fungal growth developing under moist conditions, that leads to soft rot collapsing the stem.
The most visible symptoms are nickel-sized or larger olive green to brown spots on leaves, and slightly fuzzy white fungal growth on the underside.
The Cooperative Extension is advising gardeners to harvest what’s left of their tomato crop—even if some fruits aren’t yet ripe.
And if you see signs of infection on tomatoes, the extension told north country now that vines should be either piled and securely covered with a tarp—in a sunny area—or bagged and sealed until all green plant material has blackened. You shouldn’t compost infected plants.
Affected potato plants should be cut off at the base, and treated like tomato plants. The potatoes can be left a week or two to harden up and then harvested as usual—although you should take extra care not to damage them.
A really excellent primer on Late Blight is here–along with much more detailed instructions on what to do about it–from Cornell Cooperative Extension. Good luck with this one–it’s nasty.