Wednesday, July 29, 2009

Yet another reason to hate our abysmal weather this year

It's killing all of our tomatoes:
Late blight, which caused the Irish potato famine in the mid-19th century, thrives in damp, windy weather. Its symptoms include white powdery spores, brown spots on leaves and open lesions, each of which can produce hundreds of thousands of infectious spores. Burning, spraying and deeply burying infected plants are options for farmers; home gardeners should pull plants out at the first sign of the disease. Rather than composting them, the plants should be sealed in plastic bags and thrown away.

Every state in the Northeast and mid-Atlantic has confirmed recent cases of late blight, which normally does not appear in the region until August, if at all. The source of the outbreak is being investigated by pathologists. Home gardens likely helped spread the infection: Lowe’s, Home Depot, Kmart and Wal-Mart all sold tomato seedlings with late blight in their garden centers from April to June. All are offering refunds or credits to gardeners who must destroy their plants.

Apparently you need 10 straight days of 85+ degree weather with dry nights to kill it, and we're not expected to see that in August. Pretty terrible news for local farmers, who I imagine were already hurting from the state of the economy.

I, shamefully, haven't made it to a farmer's market in weeks, so I have no idea how local tomatoes are looking or costing... but this doesn't make me optimistic. I'll have to make a special effort to get down there and support them, but it doesn't sound like we'll be seeing many bargains.