I have a decent sized (25'x30') vegetable garden. I have
been using the same plot of land for 17 years. Gradually
I have started to have more and more diseases cropping up.
I have decided to give the land a rest for a year. What
should I do?
THe soil is still very fertile. I grow tomatoes, peppers,
basil, peas, beans, cucs, zucs, carrots, lettuce...
I rotate, but I am not sure the garden is really big enough
for that to be a big effect, and it is only a four year rotation.
Should I grow stuff that is completely different? Solarize? Just
turn the soil every few weeks to get it exposed to the sun and elements?
Thanks in advance,
(Now reading Usenet in rec.gardens.edible...)
I realized I left out my location --- I am near
Boston. In a pretty urban area, with no working
farms anywhere nearby.
I really do not know exactly what diseases they are.
Most seem to be fungal in nature.
The tomatoes start getting sick in July, with lower
leaves drying up, upper leaves, and tomatoes, getting
spots. The tomatoes on the counter seem to have the
pox after a while. Loads of small black/brown spots on
the surface. It does not really affect the taste.
This year I got about a quarter of a decent
year's yield. A couple of years ago it was early Late
Blight, but that does not survive our winters. Also that
year the rot often started inside the tomato, not on the
outside. I grow mostly heirlooms, several brandywine
variants, a couple of plums types (one for cooking, one
for fresh salsa) and two hybrid cherry types. I have
tried a few blight resistant types, but they just did
not taste very good, and did not seem to do much better
The last two years my cucs just did not grow. This
year one of the hills did, the other did not.
This year my basil leaves started turning a yellowish
green and tasted very bitter. I ripped out the whole
crop after just one batch of pesto.
Onions, peas, beans, carrots all have done reasonably well.
I have had varying amounts of an internal rot disease
in my garlic (German Extra Hardy stiffneck). Last year
it cost me half my crop, and the garlic I stored did not
last past January --- it usually lasts until April or May.
This year I got most of the crop, time will tell how long
I am sorry I cannot be more specific. I guess I want a
reasonable generic fix. If such exists. Something that will
improve the odds of minimizing common diseases.
Definitely plural, but sadly, non-specific.
(Now reading Usenet in rec.gardens.edible...)
On Tue, 15 Nov 2011 23:23:27 -0500, Steve Peek wrote:
Copper fungicides have worked for me also. I'm also in Massachusetts. I
don't do it in the summer unless I see a problem on a plant.
If you want to let the land lay fallow this year I'd just plant clover on
it. Clover adds nitrogen to the soil and it's flowers attack bees. I
bought clover off of Amazon last spring and spread it on my lawn, my lawn
is healthier than it's ever been.
copper is poisonous in small amounts to
some critters. please read up about it
before suggesting it as a frequent fungal
spraying often as a preventative is
going to cause it to build up in the soil.
in time some will run off or soak in to
the water table. if the person you
recommend this to is near the ocean it is
even worse as to the amount of harm even
a small amount can do (Boston is near
just because some institute lists it
doesn't mean it's suitable for frequent
and general use.
if everyone in the midwest used a lot
of copper it would severely damage the
Gulf ecosystem (even more than the
dead zone already is doing).
tomatoes are not greatly suited for wet
and cold climates. eastern seaboard USoA can
get some cold storms. if you are going to
grow tomatoes in that area grow short season
and smaller sized firm fruit varieties and
accept that losses will happen. later in the
season get the fruit off the vine before it
gets damaged by frost. etc.
when the plant isn't particularly suited,
be prepared to accept some losses from time
to time. spraying preventatively is an
admission that the plant or conditions are
unsuitable. wasteful and damaging in the
longer term. certainly you cannot keep
spraying copper on your gardens and expect
it to not cause trouble eventually. some
plants are metal accumulators. do you know
which of these are? are any vegetables that
you eat? i like being green, but i don't
want to be green that way. :)
I'd echo The Cook's advice.
Additionally I'd suggest that you do rotate the beds in which you plant
your crops. Because you said that the problems developed slowly (over
several seasons), soil pests would seem to be a reasonable guess. If it
is a mold that is dedicated to one family of plants, it won't travel
I replanted my plants in the same beds for years before my garden got
bitten by soil problems (wilt).
Since you haven't used copper before, you might try it, but it will
upset the soil ecology. If you get a healthy ecology growing in your
garden soil, it will make it difficult for pathogens to establish
themselves. Fungi and mycorrhiza are important to healthy soils.
Copper does not degrade in soil and there are serious concerns about the
cumulative effect of copper applications on soil copper contents and
soil biology. In the European Union, copper fungicides have been banned
completely in the Netherlands and Denmark, and use has been restricted
to 6kg/ha/year (5.4 lbs/A) elemental copper in other EU countries since
2006. These regulations were directed at perennial cropping systems in
which copper applications are made annually, resulting in a high
likelihood of soil copper accumulation, but the regulations also apply
to annual cropping systems. In annual rotational systems, where copper
applications are only made every 4-6 years, copper accumulation is less
of a concern, but nonetheless, copper use is regulated and certified
organic farmers in the US are required to restrict their use of copper
Copper fungicides are protectants, so they MUST be applied to the
foliage before infection. The copper ion is absorbed by the germinating
spore, and the copper denatures spore proteins. Once infection has
occurred, copper has no effect on disease progress in the plant.
Because there is no 'kick-back', coppers must be applied regularly
throughout the potato production season, beginning when potato plants
emerge. In some regions, this strategy can result in 8 or more sprays
per season. In dry conditions, coppers stick well to plant surfaces
without adding a sticker to the tank mix, so when plants are not
growing, sprays could be less frequent. However, when the potato foliage
is growing rapidly, applications are required more frequently in order
to protect new foliage.
In the European BlightMOP project, potato late blight was effectively
controlled with as little as 6 sprays of 0.9 lbs elemental copper per
acre each as oxychloride, and this total application rate (5.4 lbs Cu
per A) fell within the EU guidelines (6 kg/ha, or 5.4 lbs/A).
In a single season field trial at Oregon State University in 2008, four
applications of 1.9 lbs elemental copper as cupric oxide (highest label
rate, Nordox) (total Cu application: 7.6 lbs Cu/A) strongly suppressed
disease development (Stone, 2007). It is possible that Nordox could be
effective at 0.9 lbs elemental copper/A per spray. Monterey Chemical,
the US distributor of Nordox, is currently investigating the efficacy of
lower Nordox rates.
Toxicity to plants
(this section is excerpted from Resource Guide for Organic Insect and
Copper is toxic to plants, particularly in large doses and at high
temperatures. Symptoms of excess copper are reddish-brown leaves,
followed by an uneven yellowing. These leaves will wilt and become
dessicated. Leaves in this condition are also more susceptible to frost
damage. Copper toxicity rates may result in reduced fruit set of
tomatoes and in extreme conditions may even kill plants. Copper will be
more toxic to plants in acidic conditions and more effective against
disease under higher pH conditions, so a program to maintain soil pH is
an important part of a strategy to maintain plant health.
(This section is excerpted from Resource Guide for Organic Insect and
Because copper accumulation is practically irreversible, limitations on
copper use is a serious concern for organic farming. Copper is bound, or
adsorbed, to organic materials, and to clay and mineral surfaces. The
degree of adsorption to soils depends on the acidity or alkalinity of
the soil. Because copper sulfate is highly water soluble, it is
considered one of the more mobile metals in soils. However, because of
its binding capacity, its leaching potential is low in all but sandy
soils (Extoxnet 1996).
Copper is a necessary plant and animal nutrient, but it is toxic to
plants and other organisms at high levels. It is always present at a
background level, but can be of concern in situations of heavy agronomic
use of copper compounds. Agricultural soils are reported to have average
background levels of 20-30 ppm (Baker 1990), with average overall US
level found to be 15.5 ppm (Holmgren 1993). Some vineyard soils in
Europe, which have seen intensive use of copper sulfate containing
Bordeaux mixtures for 100 years, have soil Cu concentrations ranging
from 100 - 1500 ppm (Besnard 2001).
Maximum soil concentration rates for copper in New York soils have been
recommended based on soil type, from 40 ppm (sandy soils) to 60 ppm
(silt loam) to 100 ppm (clay soils) in order to protect against
phytotoxicity and negative impacts on soil life (Harrison et al 1999).
Typically, each spray with a copper-based fungicide results in an
application of 1 to 4 lb. of copper per acre (raising the topsoil
concentration from 0.5 to 2 ppm), and often several copper sprays are
made per season. Thus, under a heavy copper spray program, toxic topsoil
levels could be reached in a matter of decades. Some certifiers
recommend that growers include copper in their soil testing program in
order to determine a background level and track any changes in that
level as a consequence of repeated copper spraying.
The trick is to start spraying well before any signs of disease are noted.
Fungal diseases are almost impossible to cure, much easier to prevent. IMHO
both neem and the commercial "Serenade" are laughable.
turn the soil under deeply, by double digging
and burying the topsoil under at least a foot
of the deeper soil.
as you write about mostly fungal diseases,
leave more room between plants and seriously
change your watering habits to minimize splash
from the soil to the plants. mulch with
something to keep the soil from splashing the
plants during rains. only pick when the plants
are dry (never when the dew is on). always
change your gloves and wash them when picking.
hmm, we lost some leaves due to fungal problems
but didn't have much change in results (in fact it
was a great year for our tomato crop). we grew
blossom end rot?
internal rot observed when first harvested or
internal rot after being in storage for a while?
if the bulbs are rotting in the ground then
i would raise the beds to give better drainage.
burying topsoil deep. that will change the spore
count of the common fungal diseases. then practice
more careful watering and leave more space for airflow
(especially for tomatoes as those seem to be the ones
you are having the most trouble with).
if you dig it and turn it this fall and then leave it
undisturbed then the sun UV will take out a lot of
the spores. mulching will isolate them and keep them
from splashing the plants, but i would not mulch until
after the soil is well warmed and the plants are in and
growing (as it cools the soil).
yes, you are right that rotating in such a
small garden is likely to not gain much for
disease control (but you still need to do it
for nutrient balancing as different crops use
I use a deep cover of salt marsh hay in the beds,
cedar mulch on the paths. I rarely water the plants
and only do so either by hand at the roots, or with
a sprinkler early in the day, so the full sun will
quickly dry them.
I probably do plant them too close. I carefully train them
up poles, but after they get 7' tall I cannot help them leaning
over and touching each other.
and onion harvest. That really fixes up the depleted soil.
My garden is where the 1879 horse barn was build. It was
torn down in the 1920s, and for 70 odd years the owners piled
their fall leaves there (for some reason there was a basement
to the barn). I have really fertile soil. It is just too
Thanks for the advice!
(Now reading Usenet in rec.gardens.edible...)
My usual answer is http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html
Find your local extension agent. He will be able to tell you what is
happening to your crops and how to fix them. First step is to get a
soil test made. Then either bring in some affected plants or find
pictures that match. Just like with people you have to have a correct
diagnosis to get the proper cure.
I just found the new link to the tomato problem pages.
You can probably get a good idea here what is wrong with your plants
ah, ok, i see... there is a likelyhood that
the cedar chips are harboring the fungus.
when did you start using wood chips?
have you ever changed them?
do you mulch the tomatoes heavily too?
i would not do that. lightly, after the
ground is good and warm, ok, heavily, no,
not needed. tomatoes are dry and warm
weather lovers. heavy mulch defeats both
of those things.
hm, ok, not something we have seen here.
this past year was the first we'd seen BER
and that was due to the long heat wave we
weather, lifting too early or too late,
curing temperature, ... all can change
another thing, if you are after a long
storing garlic is to pick up some of the
soft necked garlics with the taste that
you'd like but also the increased storage
for rot in the ground, improve drainage
(raise the bed), make sure the soil is warm
before mulching and don't mulch so deeply.
that way the mulch will protect the soil, but
not become as much a breeding ground for
by the time they get that tall it is late
season anyways. anything you pick green can
ripen off the vine. i'd not even worry about
any rots showing up that late. the plants are
shutting down and more succeptible to rot
anyways, why fight the battle they are
this season we had tomatoes up until last week.
a month and a half longer than last year. we
picked all the green tomatoes before the hard
frosts damaged them and kept them in the garage
in the open air on a table. some ripened
right away, we canned them, others came along and
got used one way or another. the last few were
not as good as the regular season tomatoes and
had some spots of rot, but we cut around that
and was ok. some tomatoes went bad completely,
it happens, worm food or compost or buried.
last year we put newspaper over them and they
all rotted. i think a lot of them were also
frost damaged, which won't help much of anything.
:) i've been very fond of dry beans this
season. i'm still writing up my season bean
report, i put in about 15 kinds, but as i'm
still shelling soybeans i am not going to be
able to finish it until they are shelled and
you're welcome. i hope my comments above
supply further fodder for the noodle. :)
Every couple of years, and this year they were fully replaced.
My paths had a lot of weeds, so for the first month or so in the
spring I went over the paths with a root cutter every few days, then
put in the new mulch. This was before putting out the frost vulnerable
Yes, with the same salt marsh hay.
(Now reading Usenet in rec.gardens.edible...)
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