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When will late blight hit?

Last year, I did not get one tomato from my plants before they succumbed to late blight. I know many other gardeners here and throughout the Northeast didn't get to savor a home grown tomato either. Last year's epidemic can be attributed to two main factors - the fungal disease being transported here on tomato transplants from the south and a cool wet summer. Luckily, this year, we have not seen late blight here.

While we haven't seen it around here yet, there is still the possibility we could see a late blight outbreak in our area this year. Late blight has been confirmed in Maine, Massachusetts, and even in parts of New York state. But just because it has been confirmed in the state, does not mean we have to be in a state of panic.

The weather has been warm and dry. Late blight spores need wet leaves in order to infect a tomato plant. The sunny, dry days we have been having, help to keep our plants dry. You can also help reduce the risk of late blight by only watering the base of your plant and by watering in the morning. Evening irrigation keeps the plants moist all night long. When watered in the morning, the sun dries the plants at a much faster rate, reducing the late blight risk.

Proper pruning helps prevent fungal infections as well. Tomatoes are prolific producers of suckers. These suckers can produce fruit, but also make the plant very dense. This prevents the inner leaves from drying quickly. Leaving all of the suckers on the plant also reduces the size of tomatoes and slows the ripening rate.

To prune your tomatoes, simply cut off the suckers, or branches that shoot off above a set of leaves coming off the main stem. You can leave one or two suckers if you would like without greatly risking an increased risk of fungal tomato diseases.

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