Black Spot is Not The End For Your Tomato Plants; Simple Organic Technique For Treating This Normally Lethal Fungus

This is an entry in this month’s contest “How To Grow Tomatoes; Tips, Tricks, and Tutorials”.  A big reason for this contest is to have a living resource of information we can all reference in the future.  Be sure to rate this article – your vote is imporant!

We live in a mobile home park in what looks like an L.A. suburb, but is really California’s low desert. Keeping the plants watered in our poor, clay soil is our biggest issue, as tomatoes do best if deeply watered and left alone for a week or two. I’ve found I have to supplement that by overspraying the garden to simulate evening rain.

It cleans the dust off the leaves and aphids appear to dislike it.

Black Spot fungus has also been an occasional problem in some years.

Now, some would say this is caused by getting the leaves wet, but tomatoes have been rained on for millenia, being native to the hot, humid tropics, so I just don’t buy that idea (it doesn’t bother the squash either).

They’re also perennials in their natural habitat, for those who didn’t know.  I’ve kept tomato plants and their relatives the bell peppers for as long as five years here, as long as I can keep them frost free. They get huge without pruning.

Black Spot appears as, well, black spots on leaves, usually the lower ones first, followed by yellowing and dropping of the foliage. It will reduce or outright destroy yields, and eventually kill the plant. The standard “expert” advice is to pull any affected plant out and dispose of it. I have done that in some cases, and I certainly wouldn’t put one in the compost, but I have also saved plants with a very simple treatment. It occurred to me that, since it’s a fungus, then anti-fungal substances should control it. I wanted to stay organic, so I went to the local pharmacy and picked up a bottle of sulphur flowers. This is just powdered sulphur. It worked beautifully.

Here’s how simple it is; cut the toe out of an old pair of panty hose, or a knee high. Fill it with powdered sulphur. Tie it shut. Now, holding it by the knot, dust the whole plant with it using a bouncing motion, as if you were playing with a yo-yo.  Be sure to do the soil around it as well, and any neighboring plants. Repeat as necessary. I haven’t found this to affect soil pH much. As an aside, this method works very well to apply other powders in the garden and around the home, such as diatomaceous earth.

We saved three of our potted tomatoes a couple of years ago with this method; they turned out to be our biggest producers. You may have trouble finding sulphur flowers at the pharmacy now. I’ve noticed a few things have vanished from the shelves, due to the increasing paranoia from the so called wars on drugs and terrorism, but I’m sure you can still find it at garden centers. At least, for now.

We are giving away five prizes this month!  Winners get to pick one of the following; a copy of the “Grow Your Own Groceries” video set, or a copy of the “Alternatives To Dentists” video set, or 3 months of free membership in the Core Community.  If you want to enter this month’s contest click here: http://growyourowngroceries.org/contribute-here/

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