Taking a year off, diseases, what to do?

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,
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Andrew Hall
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snipped-for-privacy@no-spam-panix.com wrote:

What diseases? When? Of what?

Depends on the problem(s)
David
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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 against disease.
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 it lasts.
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.
Thanks,
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Andrew Hall
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Spray with copper, start early and spray often. I've had very good success on my heirloom tomatoes with this method.
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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.
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Steve Peek wrote: ...

copper is a poison to many creatures. i would not advise this at all.
fungal problems can be controlled in many other ways that don't involve poisons.
songbird
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All metals are poisonous in extreme amounts. I believe copper is still listed as organic by OMRI (organic materials research institute).

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Steve Peek wrote:

copper is poisonous in small amounts to some critters. please read up about it before suggesting it as a frequent fungal spray.
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 the ocean).
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. :)
songbird
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I'd echo The Cook's advice. http://www.csrees.usda.gov/Extension/index.html http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/tomatoproblemsolver /
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 quickly.
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.
<http://www.extension.org/pages/18351/organic-management-of-late-blight-o f-potato-and-tomato-with-copper-products> 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 products.
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 Disease Management) 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.
Soil accumulation (This section is excerpted from Resource Guide for Organic Insect and Disease Management.) 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.
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- Billy

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Billy wrote:
about copper.
thanks, useful information in there.
songbird
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I did, both a copper based fungicide and a neem based one. It did help, but not nearly enough.
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Andrew Hall
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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.
Steve
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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 beefsteak.

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 different nutrients).
songbird
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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.

Both.
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 bloody diseased.
Thanks for the advice!

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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.
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wrote:

I just found the new link to the tomato problem pages. http://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu/publications/tomatoproblemsolver /
You can probably get a good idea here what is wrong with your plants and fruit.
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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 had.

weather, lifting too early or too late, curing temperature, ... all can change storage quality.
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 life.
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 fungus.

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 quitting?
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 weighed.

you're welcome. i hope my comments above supply further fodder for the noodle. :)
songbird
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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 plants.

Yes, with the same salt marsh hay.

Interesting.

Absolutely!
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