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Preventive Pruning for Tomato Early Blight Control

July 3, 2013

Too many seasons here in the fog belt of Point Loma, my tomatoes begin losing lower leaves just as the fruit is setting. The lowest leaves turn brown and shrivel and progression up the tomato plant begins. In a typical year at season’s end the lower third to half of the tomato plants have lost their leaves. 

Several years ago we had a particularly gloomy summer and a meager tomato harvest. A few clusters of under-sized, immature tomatoes hung on the denuded vines. Tomato season was a bust.

Recently, I read the above linked article by Barbara Pleasant in Mother Earth News. It made sense to do some preventive pruning. Dampness promotes the spread of the fungal disease and spores are released to infect upper leaves of the tomato plant. By removing the lowest leaves, the bases of the plants dry quickly. 

In this image, before pruning, tomato leaves touch the soil. Some get wet when I flood the basins.

Here, the leaves are removed about nine inches up the plant. My irrigation method minimizes wetting of the lower leaves.

Each of the tomato plants is deep-watered with a hose filling a one-gallon nursery pot sunk just above the soil level. The water flows through the holes, taking it down to promote deep root growth.

As the water fills the nursery pot which is tipped slightly to one side, the overflow fills the basin. I saturate the quick draining sandy loam and find I need to water less often with this method.

Read the brief linked article from Mother Earth News for more details and information about early tomato blight.

Gardening is about experimentation.

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