But last year’s tomato experience on the east coast gives a person cause to pause. 2009 was an absolute disaster for commercial growers and home gardens alike all up and down the American East Coast states on into the Midwest. Tomato plants, with very few exceptions, curled from a late blight infestation (a fungus common in plants like tomatoes and their relatives) and produced nothing but headaches for the gardeners and losses for those planting commercially. The phenomena shocked the entire horticultural establishment.
The disease first became apparent, it seems, in home gardens, not in the commercial fields so that the epidemic was well under way before it caught the attention of the industry; by the time agricultural officials were mobilized it was virtually impossible to contain the infestation and there was no hope of any tomato harvest in much of the east.
The infestation probably started in the Southeast states where these tomato plants were started before being shipped north for the summer. Some infected plants were probably included in shipments to big box stores up and down the country, spores from the flats with infected plants got into uninfected plants and soon every tomato at the store was carrying the beginnings of the disease. From that foothold, it spread with devastating swiftness.
What lesson could possibly be learned from that? I take away the thought that we should buy locally grown plants where ever possible. In fact, regular readers know that I would rather we all tried our hands at growing most of our own plants from seed. It’s not that hard, you have much more choice, and you don’t import a fungal disease from any where else.
Scott Daigre, owner of Tomatomania, has fostered the Los Angeles based company since its inception and every year he adds more tomatoes to his mix. This is the largest selection of tomatoes you can find short of growing your own. Check the website for locations where you can physically purchase the plants after inspecting them – or order through the website.
We’ve had some decent rain this winter, let’s all say a prayer and sing a song for a wonderful summer garden with lots of juicy delicious tomatoes! I’m ready for it!
Grandson of a Great Plains farmer, David King is the Garden Master at the Learning Garden, on the campus of Venice High School. He shares his love of the land and music through teaching, writing and playing in a folk/country band. Contact: firstname.lastname@example.org