tomato

Blight Resistant Tomatoes and Prevention

All fresh tomatoes are great but those of you who are looking for tomatoes that are blight resistant, look no further!

Brief description of blight:

Blight causes sudden yellowing, wilting, spotting, or browning of new leaf growth, fruit, stems, or the whole plant, depending on the severity. It spreads by fungal spores that are carried by wind, water, tools, and insects from infected plants, and then deposited on the plant or dead plant matter on the soil. The disease requires moisture to progress, so when moisture or rain comes in contact with fungal spores, they reproduce. The spores thrive in humidity and the spores can then be transmitted through the wind easily.

Blight can infect many different plants, i.e.  apples, potatoes, and cucumbers, and can be caused by various fungal strains like Alternaria solani, a.k.a. Early Blight, or Phytophthora infestans, a.k.a. Late Blight.

Prevention is key, even for blight resistant tomatoes. Copper fungicide, or Fung-onil can help slow the growth once you see signs of blight or spray on the plant prior (about 2 weeks) before predicted hot and humid weather.

earl blight on tomato leaf

Example of early blight on a tomato leaf. Source: Univ. of MN Extension

Best practices to prevent blight:

  • Healthy plants are less effected by blight. Provide proper water and nutrients. Tomatoes are heavy feeders. Tomato Tone or Plant Tone are good options when you are first planting your tomatoes. If you get a lot of foliage growth, fertilize with less nitrogen and more phosphorus, 5-10-5.
  • Mulch around your plant to prevent soil from splashing up onto the foliage.
  • Water your plant at the base and avoid the foliage. Morning is best so it can dry throughout the day.
  • Provide proper spacing between plants and air flow but using cages.
  • Sanitize all garden tools between plants
  • Clean up any dead infected foliage around the plant and either burn or put into the trash. Do not compost!
  • Prune the lower branches of tomatoes a foot above the ground to help reduce water splashing on the leaves.  Prune further if you see any disease spots on lower leaves.

Don’t let diseases deter you from certain plants since many plants can get blight without proper care, prevention, or crop rotation. If you have been effected by blight, we understand the frustration, so try one of these blight resistant varieties listed below. If we have especially hot and wet weather, we recommend having a fungicide on hand so if you start seeing blight, you can treat a.s.a.p.

BLIGHT RESISTANT TOMATOES

Variety

 Best Used For

Location*

Growth Habit

Beefmaster Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Better Boy Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Big Boy Slicer Container Determinate
Big Daddy Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Heirloom Brandywine Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Brandywine Yellow Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Champion II Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Cherokee Purple Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Early Girl Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Rutgers Slicer Garden Determinate
Supersteak Slicer Garden Indeterminate
Gladiator Slicer/Paste Garden Indeterminate
Juliet Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Sunsugar Snacking Garden Indeterminate
SuperSweet 100 Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Yellow Pear Snacking Garden Indeterminate
Big Beef Salsa Garden Indeterminate
La Roma Paste Container Determinate
San Marzano Canning/Chopped Garden Indeterminate

 

*All listed container plants will also do well in the ground. These tomato plants tend to have a more compact size.

Determinate = Plant grows to a certain size and stops, bearing most of it’s fruit within a one month period. Great for small spaces or containers. Some will grow tall and still need tomato cages.

Find pictures to help identify blight, from University of Minnesota Extension, as well as more management information.

carrots held by gardening with soil on them.

Starting a Vegetable Garden & Resources

Congrats on starting your vegetable garden journey!

There has been a huge increase of people wanting to grow their own food as well as flowers, pollinator plants and converting lawns to native species so you’ll find a large community, including us, that can help you with all your trials and celebrate your successes.

This post is for bringing the basic info together to start you off. We are always here to answer your questions if you have any if you can’t find what you are looking for email us! Feel free to call or stop in!

Info sheets we like to handout in store for all vegetable gardeners:

Vegetable Gardening Estimated Sowing Dates/Planner (PDF)

Seed Starting Indoors (PDF)

You can also read our post about seed starting supplies and steps.

Additional Resources:

We’d also like to direct you to our Resources page for additonal gardening information.

We like getting our plant and gardening information from multiple sources, just like you do, so we found this webpage that helps you decide on where to plant, soil health, and more information. These steps are not only for vegetable gardens but perennial gardens and landscaping!

Don’t forget to follow us on the Facebook, Instagram and subscribe on YouTube for plant and gardening tips!

Video link

Seeds you need to start in March and April and what you need!
lettuce

Seed Starting

Smell the soil and see the plants grow new leaves! You can experience new life by starting seeds, also known as sowing, indoors this winter! Each plant packet will tell you when to sow the seeds but most will be started late winter through early spring.

Reasons to start your own plants from seed:

  1. Save money over the long run – The initial investment into growing gear may be seem like a lot but you can use trays, pots, lights, etc for multiple years.
  2. If you have a plant that dies, it’s ok! Sow extra seeds so you can avoid total loss. That one plant loss will be a low-cost loss than an already grown starter plant. If all else fails, we have starter plants to make sure you grow what you want to!
  3. Seeds will last longer than the packet expiration date. There may be lower germination rate so plant one or two extra seeds per hole.
  4. You can grow a lot of plants and a diverse variety! Garden centers, like us, grow a lot of different varieties but we can’t grow them all.

Next, we will cover seed packet info to take note of, supplies you will need to start seeds indoors, caring for seedlings, and hardening off seedlings.

Bonus info about sowing seeds outdoors in the winter is included! It is a must-see if you want to sow perennial plants.

Important seed packet info to get to know the plants you are growing:

  • The best time to plant ( Weeks before or after frost) The last frost date for Southern MN is projected as May 1- May 15th. See examples in the next section of sowing times before transplanting outdoors.
  • Indoor or direct sowing recommendations
  • How deep to plant the seeds
  • Days to germination gives an idea of how long it takes the seed to sprout
  • Days to maturity = the number of days from planting to harvest
  • Seedling thinning & spacing directions
  • Check if it’s perennial (must be zone 4 to be S.MN hardy) or annual (only grows one season)

Start seeds indoors or directly sow them in the garden or planter?

Use the “date to maturity” as a guide for your produce. This will let you know about the time you should be harvesting and if you will need to sow in the winter. Some plants have a LONG growing season and should be started indoors around Feb/Mar to reach maturity. ( ex. peppers, celery, tomatoes, cole crops, lemongrass, and rosemary)

Some plants have sensitive roots and mature fast enough in our climate to be directly sown. Examples are corn, cucumbers, potatoes, carrots, sunflowers, nasturtium, beans, radishes, peas, dill, and radishes.

**Hardy perennials may require cold stratification or scarification for proper germination. Read more about starting seeds outdoors in the winter, which is needed for zone 4 and 5 perennial seeds.

What type of growing medium is best?

AVOID using soil from your yard/garden if possible! It is an easy way to introduce unwanted pests and disease problems for little seedlings. *Most at-home compost piles do not get hot enough to kill harmful pathogens.

Recommended for seeds – Seed Starting Mix. It is a fine textured, soilless medium that is sometimes heat sterilized. It contains no nutrients and is intended for germination only.

When potting up seedlings into containers – Standard Potting Mix. Any potting mix will do! Some may contain nutrients to start feeding your plants but if you have them planted in containers you will have to supplement the soil with fertilizers as they get bigger.

Supplies needed to start seeds indoors:

Plug tray, soil pellets or seed starting potting soil, open flat, humidity dome, pots, watering can, heat mat, fertilizer, grow light, and a fan.

Let’s dig into each of these materials and why you need them.

Plug Trays – Provides a controlled environment for proper germination

When choosing a size of plug tray, ask yourself how many plants you want to grow. Some plug trays come with smaller plugs and can fit more plants and vice versa. The smaller the plug, the sooner you will need to pot up into larger plug trays or pots.

Soil Pellets

Usually, these pellets are made of coco coir. To expand the pellets, soak them in water and place the seed in the soil.

Open Flats

With drainage holes: Fill with seeding mix and scatter seeds. Divide and up-pot or plant outside when they are ready.

Without drainage holes: Use under plug trays to catch the water/soil.

Humidity Dome – Keeps moisture in and helps germination of seeds.

condensation inside a dome with a tray of plants inside.

Fits over most plug trays and open flats. A short dome is for seed starting, and a tall dome is for propagating cuttings. Domes will need to be taken off after the seedlings are a couple of inches tall.

Pots – Plastic, Coco Coir, Biodegradable options

Use various sizes to start seeds if desired. Pots are good for when you need to divide plants in plug trays and up-pot. Choose the right-sized pot when up-potting! Too big and it may not dry out fast enough, causing root rot.

Watering Can/Spray Bottle – For keeping the soil moist and not disturbing the soil around seedlings.

Heat Mat – Most homes are not warm enough for proper germination

Raises soil temp 10-20 degrees above room temperature which will speed up the germination process and reduce chances of seeds rotting. The heat mat does not need to be on once all the seedlings have sprouted.

Lights & Timer – Supplemental light is essential to growing happy seedlings indoors!

Plants need strong light so supplemental light prevents weak and leggy plants. Get full spectrum/daylight bulbs. There are T8 & T5 fluorescent, Standard Bulbs, and LED options.

Use a timer to make life easier! 14 hrs. of light per day is the standard after seeds germinate.

There is no need to have a light on before seedlings emerge unless the seed packet says “light germinated”.

Fans

A light breeze helps grow strong plant stems. The movement of the stem will strengthen it. It will also help prevent fungal diseases from too much humidity.

Fertilizer

Seedlings do not need nutrients right away. Wait until they have a few sets of true leaves before adding fertilizers.

A half-strength, balanced fertilizer works well for most plants. We recommend looking up proper fertilization for specific plants grown.

Caring for seedlings:

Proper watering is essential. Keep soil evenly moist until germination.

Allow tap water to sit out overnight to dechlorinate when possible. Avoid using soft water.

Know your plant’s specific watering and fertilization needs by reading their packet or researching online.

Find a routine and water early in the day if possible.

After germination, allow the soil to dry slightly between watering. This encourages root growth! Avoid “loving your plants to death”, aka overwatering.

Hardening Off – Allows your plants time to adjust to light, temperature, and environmental changes

Start putting your potted plants in the shade on a calm day, for an hour or two. Slowly increase time by 1 to 2 hours outside and sun exposure over several days. It usually takes 7-14 days to fully acclimate. Reduce sun exposure again if you see signs of sun-scorched foliage. Make sure you check the soil moisture once or twice a day, depending on pot size.

We carry grow lights, seed starting kits, seedling potting soil, fertilizer, and seeds. Later in the spring, we will have vegetables and herbs that we have grown for you to purchase if you don’t get to start your seedlings.

bloomstruck hydrangea

Acidic Soil Loving Plants


Three Plant Needs

Water, Sun, and Soil (Nutrients).

Where does soil pH level come in?

Plants need nutrients and have a balanced relationship with elements in the soil which will contribute to the health of plants.

Plants also have pH level preferences. The soil pH level can affect the uptake of nutrients. Depending on the plant, if the soil pH is not ideal then you may have a stunted and unhealthy plant and it’s not because there isn’t nutrients in the soil.

Put Away the Fertilizer For Now

If you are noticing any issues like yellowing leaves, no fruit production, growth seems stunted, and not blooming, checking the pH is highly recommended first before using fertilizers.

For example, you may add fertilizer to your garden but it still has little effect on your plant health if for some reason your soil pH is off. Too much fertilizer can also inhibit nutrient uptake because of soil nutrient imbalances. In addition, nitrogen and phosphorous runoff is a huge environmental pollutant, especially to our waterways and lakes.

Testing your soil nutrients is good gardening practice and could save you money in the long run. If you know your soil pH is within the proper range and your plant is showing nutrient deficiency symptoms, use a slow release fertilizer (like Bio-tone) for in-ground plants to avoid excessive nutrients and run-off.

What is Acidic Soil?

The range of pH is from 0-14. Acidic soil is considered anything below 7.

Acidity ranges:
Slight  6.0
Strong  5.5
Very Strong 5.0
Extremely 4.5

Many plants like to grow within the 6-7.5 pH range for optimal nutrient uptake.

In Southern MN, you may notice a lot of clay soil with lime, which tends to be more alkaline 7 pH or above. Water coming from hoses in this area are usually more basic, which increases soil alkalinity.

Other factors that affect soil acidity are rainfall, nitrogen fertilizers, plants (like pines), and subsoil acidity. The best way to know your soil acidity level is a quick home test.

Acidic Soil Loving Plants

Plants that prefer slight acidity, 6.0-7.0 range:

Most plants! Each plant has a pH range it can tolerate and many plants can handle down to 6.0.

Plants that prefer strong acidity, 5.5:

Trees and Shrubs: 
Raspberry 5.5-7.0, Pears 5.5-7.0, Peaches 5.5-7.0

Vegetable and Fruits:
Potato 5.5, Squash 5.5, Garlic 5.5-8.0, Carrot 5.5-7.0, Sweet Peppers 5.5-7.0, Tomatoes 5.5-7.5, Cauliflower 5.5-7.5, Cucumber, 5.5-7.0, Pumpkin 5.5-7.0, Eggplant 5.5-6.5, Sweet Potatoes 5.2-6.0, Rhubarb 5.5-7.0

Flowers:
Begonia 5.5-7.0, Black-Eyed Susan 5.5-7.0, Clematis 5.5-7.0, Marigold 5.5-7.5, Nasturtium 5.5-7.5, Pansy 5.5-6.5, Snapdragon 5.5-7.0, Zinnia 5.5-7.0, Fox Gloves 5.5-6.5, Cyclamen 5.5-6.5

Plants that prefer very strong acidity, 5.0:

Trees and Shrubs:
Spruce 5.0-6.0, Juniper 5.0-6.0, Blackberry 5.0-6.0, Apple, 5.0-6.5, Serviceberry 5.0-6.0, Fothergilla 5.0-6.0, Magnolia 5.0-6.0

Fruits:
Strawberries 5.5-6.5, Grapes 5.5-7.0

Flowers:
Coneflowers 5.0-7.5, Cosmos 5.0-8.0, Gladiolus 5.0-7.0, Lupine 5.0-6.5

Plants that prefer extremely strong acidity, 4.5:

Trees and Shrubs:
Azalea 4.5-6, Blueberry 4.5-6, Hydrangea-Blue flowered 4.0-5.0, White Pine 4.5-6.0, Rhododendron 4.5-6
Flowers – Lily-of-the-Valley 4.5-6.0

Plants have a range of pH that they will grow in and thrive. Those plants that have very strong and an extremely strong acidic soil needs, may need additional amendments to keep soil pH down.

Changing Soil pH

The best way to improve soil pH is through addition of amendments and adding organic material. To increase acidity add sulfur and to decrease acidity add lime. Add both of these amendments in small stages and increments as to not shock the plant if it’s already planted. Read the instructions on any product you use to properly adjust the pH.

Favorite supplements to adjust the soil pH that will not shock the plants
if used as directed:

Epsoma Soil Acidifer – Organic, Safe, long-lasting, and won’t burn the plants if used as directed. Repeat in 60 day intervals if needed.

Epsoma Berry Tone for Berries – Organic, Good if you need to slightly increase acidity, Use early and late spring, Use on blueberries, strawberries, and raspberries, Will help produce bigger plants and more berries.

Adjust Soil pH with Organic Matter

Add any type of compost to your garden beds. This is best to do in the fall since it takes more time to adjust the soil pH using this method but feel free to feed plants with top dressing of compost during the growing season. Reach for compost first when wanting to add nutrients, improving soil aeration, improving water retention, and adjusting pH.

Modifying your soil’s pH will take some time. Depending on the type of soil you are working with, the addition of supplements and organic material may be needed year-after-year.

If you test your soil and notice you’re having troubles with keeping your soil more acidic, don’t fight it! Choose plants that will tolerate more neutral or alkaline soils. There are plenty out there!