Sunday, August 26, 2012
Heirlooms Break My Heart
Poor sick tomato. When I started gardening, I grew heirloom varieties, like Brandywine, Mr. Stripey, Mortgage Lifter and the like, but soon switched over to the most disease resistant varieties I could find because of problems with disease. Well, I was recently seduced by "free" packets of organic, heirloom seeds and a healthy Mr. Stripey plant at a local plant sale (and I really like the taste and color of Mr. Stripey). Big mistake. The plants quickly succumbed to disease (which one? I'm not sure, other than it did not have the symptoms of early blight), while my disease resistant Goliath and Whopper were still producing fruit and looking good- and they were all shoulder to shoulder in the same garden area. Very disappointing.
How do you know if you have a disease resistant tomato? Look for letters (like V, F, and T) after the name. These stand in for the names of the diseases like verticillium wilt, fusarium wilt and tobacco mosaic virus (smokers should wash their hands before touching tomato plants to prevent spread of this last one from cigarettes with infected tobacco to the tomatoes). Tomato diseases are many and varied and can be hard to diagnose, but two sources can help: your local Ag Extension Agent and the Plant Doctor at; http://vegetablemdonline.ppath.cornell.edu/DiagnosticKeys/TomWlt/TomWiltKey.html
I am not exactly sure what disease affected the heirloom cherry tomato in the photo above. When I shop for seeds, I look for descriptions like "most disease resistant" and "highly disease resistant" and a long string of letters after the plant name! No more free tomato seeds for me unless they are tough disease fighters!