Monday, July 21, 2014

Bringing Veggies back from the Garden Bed

This post is to follow up the terrible blight I had that destroyed the majority of the plants in my garden this summer.

What I felt I did right with this last disease outbreak: Each year I anticipate that something will get diseased and I plan for combating this in a variety of ways. By watering once every 4 to 5 days I reduce the amount of water that collects on the surface of the soil. Where there is no water interaction between the soil and the leaves of plants there tends to be much less disease. Every time I see dead or dying leaves on my tomato plants I pull and discard them in the trash. Instead of irrigating the plants by overhead watering, I water with a soaker hose. When diseased-looking beans were encountered, I pulled the majority of the leaves off the plant and discarded them in the trash.

Solarizing my Summer Garden

What I felt I did wrong: The local seed company I purchased my seed from is a nonprofit organization, and probably does no testing for disease. They most likely plant these beans in isolation and are not alarmed when plants wilt or die early. It is doubtful that this company treats seed with anti-bacterial agents or fungicides.

While I did pull diseased leaves from bean plants I did not ensure that the dead leaves that had fallen were discarded quickly enough.

Trying all sorts of things to get rid of the blight

How I reacted: Ripping out the majority of a garden is probably the best long term way to deal with rapidly-spreading disease. After pulling the plants, I added some fish meal to the soil, soaked the area by watering for hours before laying down a sheet of 5 mil plastic over the affected area of the garden. By watering and covering the affected area I am essentially “pasteurizing” the soil with a method called Solarization. This method kills both good and bad bacteria in the soil and requires weeks of furloughing the soil.

Another view of my summer garden while solarizing

Future Plans: Because the Rattlesnake pole beans I bought were very heat resistant and tasty I believe I will give this variety another try. However, next time I will be purchasing seed from out of state and putting them in a corner of my garden that is far from my tomato and cucumber plants.

Saving the diseased Rattlesnake beans to give back to the seed supplier

Though a spray application of diluted EM-1 was able to save the majority of my sweet potato plants (and reverse some of the effects of the blight) much like I had experienced before, EM-1 had less of an effect on the rest of my plants. I began a batch of activated EM-1 in an insulated very warm place and plan on applying this in water to my garden immediately after solarizing the garden. The philosophy behind this is similar to taking a probiotic (such as acidophilus and other healthy bacteria) shortly after taking an antibiotic intended to relieve a bad infection.

Unripe tomatoes in a bucket

A Legend or Celebrity Tomato

Some thoughts about treating bacterial diseases in the garden: Though there are many anti-fungal sprays on the market (such as those which contain potassium bicarbonate) antifungal does not always mean antibacterial. While it is possible to treat the leaves of some plants with an anti-bacterial spray, such as highly diluted rubbing alcohol, this is only a short-term solution to a larger problem. Just as a patient would be unwise to take only antibiotics every time he had a stomach ache, treating garden diseases with mainly anti-bacterial agents is, in the long run, bound to backfire - because some form of bacteria is always present in healthy soil. Introducing healthy bacteria into the soil on a regular basis is probably a more effective means of controlling disease.

Delicious Slices of Tomato


  1. Well I am glad to see you had some harvest and you will have a chance to plant more soon!

    1. Thank you so much for your encouragement Donna! (=

  2. I admire your hard work and your determination, in short, your dedication to gardening and feeding your family wonderful, homegrown foods. It is a terrible shame that you lost so much of your summer garden, but you have turned the misfortune into a lesson learned and shared the knowledge with the rest of us. Thank you and congratulations on those splendid-looking tomatoes. Yum!

    1. Thank you Anastasia. They were fantastic. I hope your garden is doing well this summer! (=


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