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Jetsetter Tomatoes, Early, VFFNTA!!!!

It may seem a bit early to talk about tomatoes, but tisn’t!  Hey, it’s always ok to talk about tomatoes, right?!  There are important things to know about that start well before planting time!  Read on….

Last year I tried the dandelion cure – either I didn’t do it right, not enough dandelions soon enough, or it doesn’t work.  But this year I am going to plant toms where the dandelions grew into big patches, just in case there are any residual benefits!  This year I found this info from Gene Bazan, Ph.D, about toms and favas and I have fava seeds!!!!

Favas First, then Tomatoes!  Or….

Gene says:  Many years ago I introduced a diseased Early Girl tomato plant I purchased at a greenhouse. Unknown to me, it had verticillium wilt. I thought the wilted look was just due to dry conditions, but didn’t think much about it. I composted the debris, and unwittingly used the diseased compost in the following year’s tomato bed. That year I lost 3/4 of our tomatoes to wilt. I then took a diseased plant to the pathology lab at Penn State, and got the diagnosis. I remembered that Jeavons wrote that fava (bell) beans counteract wilt, so the next year I planted fava beans in early April, and put the same tomato varieties in the same bed. Mortality dropped to 1/4th. Since that time, we always precede tomatoes with bell beans. We have reduced wilt even further.

Clearly, here in SoCal, we have missed the usual Sep to Nov fava planting window, so let’s do as Gene did, plant favas and tomatoes at the same time!  I already have one Jetsetter (those are Jetsetters in the image), unbelievable VFFNTA resistance/tolerance, in the ground surrounded with a six pack’s worth of favas.  All doing fine so far.  Next fall decide where you will plant your 2012 toms and put in a patch of favas then and there!  Plant your toms, as usual, starting in March.

Basil and Wilts Since so many of us like to companion plant basil with our tomatoes, and tomatoes are so wilt susceptible, and the wilt fungi are in the soil and windborne to boot, what’s a Pesto Lover to do?!  Get wilt resistant basil variety Nufar! Pesto lovers, Nufar is the first basil that is wilt resistant, developed in Israel in 2006.  It is a Genovese basil, heat and humidity tolerant, and very tasty!  ArcaMax Publishing says:  …some of the specialty basils (such as lemon and purple basil) have shown some resistance to the disease.  If you can’t find Nufar basil locally, do send for seeds ASAP, and ask our local nurseries to stock it!

And please, do NOT compost diseased tomatoes, or any other diseased plant.  Better to trash it, not even put it in green waste that the City will make into compost.  That’s how you spread soil born fungi, let alone that they are also windborne.  If your neighbor has a diseased plant, don’t be shy to respectfully and gently ask them to remove it.  Remember, they raised that child, besides having paid for it.  How hard was it for you to give up your plant?  Especially the first time.  See?  They may not even know about wilts.  Educate them if possible.  Tell them how you learned about it.  Offer to forward this info to them.

TOLERANT.  Some varieties like Surecrop, mentioned below, are wilt tolerant.  They keep producing well though diseased.  What to do?  At Pilgrim Terrace, the soil has the wilts and wilt is virtually unavoidable.  Slowing it down is probably the best we are going to do.  So, find out what variety your neighbor has planted before you make your request for them to pull a producing plant.  If the plant is simply dead, then it is a nonproducing disease factory, better for everyone that it is removed ASAP.  Use your discretion and kindness. 

If you have success with a particular variety, do let your nursery know so they will stock it again!  A couple gardeners at the Terrace have had good luck with 2 blight resistant/tolerant determinate varieties, New Hampshire Surecrop, a 78 day, great tasting slicer/canner, and Legend, a very early 68 day!  The best to you with yours!

See Tomatoes & Wilt, Part 1 for a list of Wilt Resistant Varieties, How to Save Your Plant Tips

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Tomatoes & the Wilts – Part 1

Wolf Peach!!!!  Did you know – our tomato originated in South America and was originally cultivated by the Aztecs and Incas, came to Europe in the 1500s.  People were warned not to eat them until the 18th century!  Wolf Peach comes from German werewolf myths that said deadly nightshade was used to summon werewolves!  ‘Tis true, tomatoes are of the deadly nightshade family, and does have poisonous leaves.  But you would have to eat a LOT of them to get sick!  But they are not good for dogs or cats!  Smaller bodies, right?

Tomatoes & the Wilts – Part 1

Tomato - Healthy SunGold!

Tomato – Verticillium Wilt

Above on the left is a very healthy Sun Gold cherry tomato and happy owner.  On the right is a verticillium wilt fatality, not old age.  Almost all of us have had tomato wilt fatalities.  Very sad to see, disappointing and frustrating as XXX!  Tomatoes are pretty dramatically affected, but many plants get the wilt, including your trees, shrubs and roses.  Veggies affected are cucumber, eggplant, pepper, potatoes, rhubarb, watermelon, artichoke, beet, broad bean, strawberries, raspberries.  Cool, damp weather, like we had here in Santa Barbara area ALL last summer, referred to as the ‘May grays’ and the  ‘June glooms,’ is the worst. 

The leaves fold along their length, the stems get brown/black spots/blotches on them, the leaves turn brown, dry and die.  It is a fungus in the soil that is also windborne.  There may be too much N (Nitrogen), too much manure – lots of gorgeous leaves but no flowers.  That’s an easy fix, add some Seabird (not Bat) guano to restore the balance, bring blooms, then fruit.  The wilt is tougher.  When the toms get about a foot tall, STOP WATERING!  Remove weed habitat and don’t mulch.  The fungus can’t thrive in drier soil. Water the toms’ neighboring plants, but not the toms.  Tomatoes have deep tap roots and they can get water from below the wilt zone.

It is better to pull infected plants, called the one-cut prune, because their production will be labored and little compared to a healthy plant that will catch up fast in warmer weather.  And you will be more cheerful looking at a healthy plant.  Heirlooms are particularly susceptible, so get varieties that have VFN or VF on the tag at the nursery, or are a known VFN variety.  The V is for Verticillium, the F Fusarium wilt, N nematodes.  Ask a knowledgeable person if the tom doesn’t have a designation, or check online.  It’s just a bummer when plants get the wilt.  If you are one who removes the lower leaves and plants your transplant deeper, don’t let the lowest leaves touch the ground. When your plants get bigger, cut off lower leaves that would touch the ground BEFORE they touch the ground or leaves that can be water splashed – some say take all up to 18″ high!  The wilt gets into your plant through its leaves, not the stem.  Don’t cut suckers (branches between the stem and main branch) off because the cuts can be entry points for windborne wilts.  Wash your hands after working with each plant with the wilt so you don’t spread the wilts yourself.

Verticillium-resistant Tomato Varieties
AAS (All America Selections) are Starred & Bolded 
  • Ace
  • Better Boy
  • *Big Beef
  • *Celebrity
  • Champion
  • Daybreak
  • Early Girl
  • First Lady
  • *Floramerica
  • *Husky Gold
  • Husky Red
  • Italian Gold
  • Jet Star
  • Miracle Sweet
  • Pink Girl
  • Roma
  • Sunstart
  • Super Sweet 100
  • Ultra Sweet
  • Viva Italia

There’s little you can do for/to the soil to get rid of the wilt.  The only method I know that most of us can afford is Solarization.  Put black plastic tightly to the ground during a couple weeks of heat to kill it.  Problem is twofold.  1) That would be high summer to get that heat, so you can’t have your summer crop in that area.  If you have enough space, it’s doable.  If you only have a small space, that means no toms this year.  2) We are coastal and the temp needed to kill the wilt isn’t maintained over a two week period.  Sigh.  So we do our best, resistant varieties, little water, removal of lower leaves, remove infected plants.  A lot of smart local farmers dry farm tomatoes, and it’s water saving. 

You can use straw bale planting, or make raised box beds and fill them with soil that isn’t infected with the wilt.  That can help for awhile.  Here’s a link to my Green Bean Connection blog post on Plant a Lot in a Small Space that has a bit on hay/straw bale gardening!  It’s about 2/3s down the page, with link for instructions!  But.  Not only are the wilts soil borne, but airborne.  That you can’t do a lot about except ask everyone with infected plants to remove them.  

See Tomatoes & the Wilts – Part 2, including Fava & Basil Tips

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Powdery Mildew on Peas

Select powdery mildew resistant or tolerant varieties!

Cornell University’s lists of Disease Resistant Varieties

  • Longbeans
  • Green beans:  Provider, Merpatim, Parkit, Perkutut, Sriti
  • Cucumber: Diva, Cumlaude, Media F1.  Slicers:  Cornell’s list
  • Muskmelon:  Ambrosia F1, Primo (western type), Sun Jewel
  • Pea:
    • Ambassador – Resistant to powdery mildew, entation virus and fusarium wilt
    • Cavalier – Good resistance to powdery mildew.
    • Greenshaft – Resistant to downy mildew and fusarium wilt
    • Rondo – Resistant to fusarium wilt
    • Downy Mildew resistant peas:  Kelevdon Wonder, Oasis, Twinkle, Avola, Hurst Greenshaft, Ambassador, Cavalier and Peawee.
  • Pumpkin: 18 Karat Gold, Gladiator
  • Winter Squash:  almost all varieties
  • Yellow Summer Squash: Success, Sunray, Sunglo
  • Zucchini: Ambassador, Wildcat, Cornell’s list

Healthy Practices Make a Difference!

Plant in full sun!
Plant so leaves of one plant don’t touch another and spread the spores.
Remove any debris or dead leaves breeding habitat.
Remove and don’t compost infected leaves.  If  you don’t remove them, you reinfect your plant each time you water. 
Wash tools and your hands before you go from one plant to the next.
Water in the AM, at ground level.  No overhead watering.
BEFORE you have mildew, while your plants are still babies, drench the leaves with a baking soda/milk mix.  Tablespoon Soda, ¼ cup nonfat milk powder, drop of liquid dish detergent in a watering can.
Drench weekly with your mix.  But if you think you aren’t going to be able to get rid of the mildew, sadly, do the one cut prune.  Remove that plant so it won’t infect others – yours or your neighbors’.  Do this sooner than later.  Mildew is windborne, so the more mildew, the more is spread.

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