One of my favorite parts of coming home from vacation is seeing the magic that happened in my garden while I was away. This homecoming, however, only gave me disappointment.
The day I left for Cape Cod started with me finding my beautiful and healthy tomato patch (to the right) stricken with late blight, the fungus that caused the famous Irish Potato Famine.
It literally happened overnight. One day the plants were beautiful and green and the next half the stems were black and the leaves were starting to wilt. I harvested the few fruits that were ripe enough, packed the car, drove to the Cape and crossed my fingers. Some farmers would spray with chemicals, but being organic I can not. It was a risky bet I chose to take to protect my family's health. And I lost.
When I returned a week later the tomato patch looked even worse. There was barely a single green leaf left.
Peering out from my back window I thought the fruits could at least be salvaged, but on closer inspection it was a total loss:
So now my tomato patch looks like this, the tangled, dead branches in a pile waiting to be carted off to the town's leaf dump. And I have only myself to blame. I've been hearing the news of the devastation for two months now and I've been very careful with my own garden quarantine. Usually I only wear my garden clogs from the front door to the tomato patch. But I slipped up a few weeks ago and lazily wore my flip flops in there to do some extra staking. That's when I must have tracked the deadly spores in.
So the fruit are in a sad pile waiting to be composted. I couldn't bear to count how many tomatoes I could have had, I'm sure it would have been at least fifty if you count the fourteen I managed to harvest before the blight hit.
From what I hear late blight has completely ruined all of Massachusetts' organic tomato crop with the exception of a few farms. Green Meadows Farm in Hamilton, where we get our farm share, was spared but not without a fight. They managed to run a strict quarantine and we received a few tomatoes every week, but not the usual two to three pounds I'm used to from previous years.
I need to do some research to figure out if I should throw out the stakes I used, disinfect them, or let them over-winter outside hoping the cold kills the fungus. I hope throwing the decaying fruits in the compost pile doesn't infect the compost for next year. If anyone has any advice on this it would be much appreciated! And I promise next year to be more careful....
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