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Tomatoes, Fusarium Wilt, and Dandelion, a Virtuous Plant!

Culinary Dandelion Whole Plant Root Allelopathic Fusarium

It turn out that culinary Dandelions are super Companion Plants for Tomatoes! Canadian researchers have discovered that the dandelion weed can protect tomato plants from fusarium disease. Fusarium attacks the plant roots. It reduces the number of tomatoes that the plant produces. Dandelion roots produce cichoric acid. This acid prevents the disease from getting iron from the soil. Fusarium needs iron to survive.

Here is a link to the extensive and fascinating abstract on Dandelion in the Canadian Journal of Plant Science , 2002, 82(4): 825-853. It says ‘Taraxacum officinale possesses allelopathic properties that can reduce germination of other plant species (Falkowski et al. 1990). In addition, phenolic compounds produced by T. officinale are considered responsible for allelopathic biological control of Fusarium oxysporum f. sp. radicis-lycopersici in greenhouse tomato plantings in Canadian experiments (Kasenberg and Traquair 1988). Satisfactory control of this pathogen was achieved when residues of T. officinale were incorporated into sterilized greenhouse soil. The mode of action is unknown but it may act directly by secretion of allelochemicals or promotion of antagonistic microflora (Jarvis 1989).

In this case, allelopathic is good! Allelopathic can happen 3 ways. 1) Release of chemical compounds from their roots into the soil. 2) Release of allelochemicals in gaseous forms. 3) Like with Brassicas dying/dead leaves that fall, gaseous allelochemicals are released from the small pores of their leaves. In fact, Brassica species are so potent they are grown for weed management by using them as cover crops, companion crops, and intercrops, for mulching and residue incorporation, or simply by including them in crop rotations. However! Some seeds can’t germinate there – that’s one reason why we remove dead Brassica leaves ASAP.

Allelopathy is great for weed suppression, but be mindful. Permaculture News advises CAUTION! They explain that ‘residues of allelochemicals may exist in the soil for a long time after the plant is removed; which results in soil sickness and makes some sites unsuitable for general plant growing.’

Do know that many weeds, including dandelions and lambsquarters, are known to host verticillium wilt. Remove them. When your crops are done, don’t let these weeds overwinter or leave them lying about.

Clearly this is a very careful game to play to keep a healthy balance. 1) You might not want to put Brassicas or dandelions in your compost? 2) As a gardener carefully choose where you will plant dandelions or Brassicas. In a greenhouse is one thing, but in the ground is another. If you have space you might dedicate a special area for your Dandelions – a place where you don’t plan to plant something else later.

Not only are Dandelions dandy tomato savers, but also dandelion greens have superior nutritional and medicinal properties, 4 times the Vitamin A in spinach, in fact, the highest of all greens! The cultivated dandelion variety, Taraxacum officinale, is said to be far superior to the rest in taste! It has broad upright leaves that seem to multiply in great stands right before your eyes.  These dandelions like rich, moist soil. Commercial varieties include Thick Leaf, Improved Thick Leaf, and Arlington Thick Leaf. Don’t be confused! Most American dandelion growers cultivate San Pasquale and Catalogn chicories, but call them dandelion greens, which are similar. Oh, and after a frost, their protective bitterness disappears. Grow your own, 100% organic! In Santa Barbara area Island Seed & Feed has some seeds!

What a beauty! Perennial Italian Red Rib Heirloom Dandelion!

ITALIAN RED RIB DANDELION, Heirloom Variety, perennial, 30-70 Days

Wild Man Steve Brill says: ‘The leaves are more nutritious than anything you can buy. They’re higher in beta-carotene than carrots. The iron and calcium [more than milk!] content is phenomenal, greater than spinach. You also get vitamins B-1, B-2, B-5, B-6, B-12, C, E, P, and D, biotin, inositol, potassium, phosphorus, magnesium, and zinc.’ Low in calories, a terrific liver cleanser, people have eaten dandelions for centuries. The name comes from the French, who called them dent de lion, or “lion’s teeth” because of their sharp, serrated leaves. All parts of the dandelion are edible, but the youngest leaves, less bitter before blooms form, are most commonly eaten, in salads, sautéed or steamed. Drizzle with a deliciously tangy vinaigrette made of honey, Dijon mustard, orange juice, and fresh rosemary. Or toss with garlic, olive oil, and freshly ground black pepper, or with bacon fat (pancetta if you prefer) and a little wine vinegar.

There are many super ways of eating them! In breads, pasta dishes, soups and stews, quiche, omelets, fat sandwiches, avocado/dandelion wraps, sautéed, stir fried and wilted, tea and tarts, fritters and pancakes, pesto, and, of course, Dandelion Wine!

More Tomato Tips! 

Buy toms that are tagged VFN, or just VF – that’s Verticillium Wilt and Fusarium resistant. When they are about a foot tall, water their neighboring plants, but not them.  That keeps a drier soil the fungi can’t thrive in. Once a plant has the diseases, the leaves curl lengthwise and black spots appear on the lower stems and leaves, pull it and start over. Months of lost production time and poor production are not worth it. If your plant gets diseased, but is producing and you decide to keep it, don’t prune out the suckers (the little branches that are between the main stalk and a branch) because blight can enter your plant through these cuts.

For more pollination, tap your stakes and cages, or the main stalk, to shake the flowers – around 11 AM is best! If your toms aren’t well pollinated, they may be strangely shaped! Make homes for wild bees!

Plant toms quite apart from each other so 1) they don’t hybridize on the spot 2) their leaves don’t touch and the wilts can’t spread from one plant to the next.

Since toms are true heat lovers, if your planting area is a bit cool, you can plant a U perimeter of tall plants, leaving the South side open, and plant your toms in the warm center of the U! Water those neighbor plants, but not the toms directly. Water regularly so your tomato’s tap root can gets its regular water. That prevents blossom-end rot. The wilts like moist soil, so the idea is to keep the soil right next to your tom dry. Let them get their water by their tap root below the moist upper soil level where the wilt lives. See more wilt prevention tips!

See also Wilts & Cucumber Beetles, Tomatoes & Cukes! for special planting details!

Between wonderful companion plant Dandelion, Taraxacum officinale, and your specialized growing techniques here and at those links, the Wilts may become history!

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Last updated 12.23.19



Love your Mother! Plant bird & bee food! Think grey water! Grow organic! Bless you for being such a wonderful Earth Steward!

The Green Bean Connection started as correspondence for the Santa Barbara CA USA Pilgrim Terrace Community Garden. All three of Santa Barbara’s community gardens are very coastal. During late spring/summer we are often in a fog belt/marine layer most years, locally referred to as the May grays, June glooms and August fogusts. In 2018 they lasted into September and October! Keep that in mind compared to the microclimate niche where your veggie garden is.

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