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A weeks worth of warm days and 50 degree nights means it is time for tomatoes to go into the ground here in Zone 7. With tomato season officially here, I wanted to offer a solution for preventing or reducing spot and blight diseases on your tomatoes. These diseases are quite prevalent in Maryland. The best way to handle any potential problem in the garden is through a management plan. Here is one idea for you to mull around... a disease earth barrier.
Leaf Spot and Early Blight are spread by spores that hang around on the ground. I don't have the luxury of space for full plant rotation. Creating an earth barrier is a great way to reduce the chances of spores splashing up onto the lower leaves of your tomato plants. I am going to do this for all my tomatoes this year. Well... at least that is my intention. Big plans often slip away.
Picture a room in your house. The carpet is the disease barrier. That is what you are going to create with newspaper, sand, dirt and maybe some hay. The goal isn't following my materials but the idea. Newspaper is, however, the key.
I plan to photograph or video the process later but here are the nuts and bolts of creating a newspaper disease barrier for tomato plants.
- Cover the enter planting area with 4 layers of newspaper. (Barrier One)
- Place sand, in handfuls, on the newspaper to weigh it down.
- Water the newspaper in.
- Cover it with about an inch of bagged garden soil.
- Cover the area with straw or other similar material. (Barrier Two)
I use 4x8 raised beds. They are easy to cover. If you are using an earth bed you want to go about 4 feet in each direction from the tomato plant. The key is newspaper. You are creating a barrier between your garden soil and the tomato plant. This will absolutely reduce the chances of soil born pathogens getting to your tomatoes. It is one step in managing disease in the garden. Just punch a hole in the barrier for planting and seal it up again once the tomato is planted.