Text by Niki Jabbour for the March/April 2018 issue of Horticulture.
Blight is the bane of many tomato gardeners, reducing yield or even killing plants before they can produce their fruits. There are two main types of tomato blight: early and late.
Early blight (Alternariasolani) is a nuisance that causes plants to yellow from the bottom up. It doesn’t kill plants, but it weakens them, looks unsightly and can reduce the harvest. It can be slowed by mulching the plants to prevent fungal spores from splashing on the foliage and by removing the lower leaves as they yellow.
Late blight (Phytophtherainfestans), on the other hand, kills plants. Once the symptoms appear, it’s too late—within a day or two, the entire plant looks as if it had been burned. Late blight appears later in the season when there has been a lot of moisture combined with warm temperatures. It’s an unwelcome but thankfully infrequent visitor to my garden, but it has become more prevalent in the Northeast in recent years.
Happily, plant breeders have been working on blight-resistant tomato varieties. They have come up with a number of hybrids that show excellent resistance to late blight, early blight and a number of other common tomato diseases. Here are four worth growing:
Mountain Merit bears medium to large fruits on compact, four-foot-tall plants. This 2014 All-America Selections winner is resistant to multiple tomato diseases and it yields up to 45 fruits per plant. The flavor is mild.
The name says it all for ‘Defiant’! This one is early to mature with richly flavored, round red fruits. It’s a bush-type tomato, perfect for pots or gardens, that produces medium-size six- to eight-ounce tomatoes for slicing and salads. Highly resistant to late blight, it also shows intermediate resistance to early blight and verticillium wilt.
‘Jasper’, another All-America Selections winner, has become my go-to cherry tomato for its resistance to late blight and several other common tomato diseases. It’s also ridiculously productive, with fruits ready to pick two months after transplant. The harvest of sweet cherry-size tomatoes continues until frost.
A recent introduction, ‘Cherry Bomb’ shows strong late-blight resistance. The very vigorous plants produce a large crop of bright red cherry tomatoes. It’s also early to mature, with fruits ready to harvest just 64 days from transplanting.
Catch up with expert vegetable gardener Niki Jabbour at savvygardening.com.
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