So, I have bacterial speck and septoria leaf spot...

lam13(7)June 26, 2013

I recently noticed yellowing leaves and black spots on several of my tomato plants. I removed all affected foliage and took samples to our local agricultural extension plant diagnostic lab and they confirmed today that I have both bacterial speck and septoria leaf spot. I probably had this at the very end of last season, but I planted in different beds this year so didn't think it would be a problem. Obviously, I was wrong.

I took the following preventative measures against fungal and bacterial diseases: I trimmed foliage off the ground about 18 inches, I mulched heavily, I water only at ground level and bleach my shears between trimming plants so as not to spread disease. I also use neem once every 10 days as a fungal preventative. So frustrating when you tend them so closely! It really came about quickly. But, that's gardening.

Has anyone had luck at this stage in getting their plants through to the end of the season? If so, what did you use? I picked my first ripe tomato today. Last year when this started it was August and I had already gotten lots of pretty ripe tomatoes so it wasn't such a heartbreak. :(

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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

While the measures you practice may help in the prevention of Bacterial Speck, they have little effect on Septoria since the fungus is also airborne.

Understanding the environmental conditions that lead to the development of both and how to prevent or avoid those conditions rather than trying to treat them after the fact is the best method. Cool, wet spring weather - especially that experienced in much of the country this past spring - almost guarantees the development of both and several here posted warnings about that possibility.

So a good understanding of the environmental conditions required, delaying planting, planting under cover, or best of all preventative fungicide spraying from the day of plant out is the best way to avoid both. As the weather warms and the humidity falls the risk of BS and Septoria declines and spraying can often be stopped.

Bacterial Speck -

Septoria -

Some fungicides work better than others, some used in alternating combinations work best, some have little effect. But unless one is willing to commit to a regular use of fungicides from the day of plant out then IME, certain diseases are almost a given.


    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 7:36PM
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Thanks for the links Dave. I have been spraying neem since the day of plant out. I thought that was a fungicide. I know now that it doesn't prevent septoria. I know we experienced unusually cold and wet weather, but there is no way to know what the weather is going to do in advance. This was extremely unusual weather in the south. It stays humid here in Alabama throughout the summer, at least until September, so I will need to find something to prevent all possibilities and spray throughout the season next year.

I was curious about people's success or failure after getting these diseases at this point in the season. I'm just trying to find out what is going to happen from here on out - sudden death or can I buy enough time to harvest some tomatoes using copper fungicide or some other product. I know I cannot cure it, I can only remove affected foliage and try to contain it. Just wondering if it is all futile at this point or if there is some hope for harvest.

    Bookmark   June 26, 2013 at 7:58PM
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I got both of these last year on my crop of 40 plants in early July. They lingered a slow death and produced very little for my long days of hard work. I am a stay at home mom and am around all day pretty much to tend to their every need, so they got lots of love and care through their long lingering deaths. But if you keep up with the copper fungicide and continue with removing the bad leaves from the bottom, you will continue to get tomatoes for a while. The issue became as the plants died there became a sun scalding issue as the leaves became fewer and fewer and eventually I determined plant by plant it was time to give up.

I am very sorry for your troubles. I am also very sorry for all your troubles next year. I decided that the new garden I had been contemplating clear on the other side of my house was sounding like a better and better idea. I just spent my entire spring moving my garden (had to remove a large concrete pad and many cubic yards of gravel out of the way first) just to hopefully avoid the same issues this year. My tomatoes just went in as my garden has just finished. We'll see if it was worth it and if I can even get a harvest before frost ;-(

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 10:41AM
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Kali615: Thank you for sharing your experience last year. It gives me a little hope. I would be happy with 1/10th of the tomatoes I have on the vines now ripening. I hope your new garden is healthy and produces for you!

I pruned more leaves (maybe 1/3 left) and applied a copper fungicide yesterday. (Of course it rained it all away this morning.) Goodness gracious what an ordeal! Long sleeves, jeans, goggles, face mask, gloves (in 90 degree heat) - I'm sure my neighbors are wondering what in the world I'm spraying back there! Then per the directions I immediately put my clothes and shoes in the wash and showered for 20 minutes. The only fungicides I've used in the past - neem oil and serenade - didn't require such drastic precautions.

I'm afraid to let the dogs in the yard, paranoid they will try and munch on a leaf behind my back (as they are prone to do) and be poisoned. This was what I was trying to avoid by growing organically. Do you have reservations or concerns about safety? Are the directions overkill? I noticed they were the same for the Daconil product as well. I want to salvage what I can of the tomatoes, but do not want to risk the lives of my pets.

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 2:41PM
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I honestly try very hard NOT to be overparanoid about things like this. I do not ever use anything in my garden except for homemade compost. I don't even add things to my soil as most gardeners do. I am also the person who uses steam to clean her house instead of chemicals when at all possible. I also figure though that for the times I do need to buy things in the stores, like right now when my garden is being moved and my canned goods are running out, I have little control over what they have done to the plants they grew my food on and they probably did WAY worse than a little copper fungicide.

I don't have pets, but I do have a now 3 and 4 year old. Last year when they were 2 and 3 I didn't let them in the garden for the day I sprayed , but after that I let them back in. BUT, my kids also don't munch on leaves (well not of the tomato plants anyway) so I am not sure how I would feel about that.

I am not sure what your plan for next year is, but I did my research before deciding to move my garden for other reasons. I was going to do solar sterilization. You will obviously need to do something otherwise you will have the same issue next year that you have this year. I will add a link below to solar sterilization. I haven't tried it, but with my tomatoes dying off early I figured I had enough time to cut my losses cover the garden up and bake the soil if I needed to get it ready for this year. I would be curious if anyone on GW has tried it.

Here is a link that might be useful: Soil solarization

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 7:19PM
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I was thinking I might end up doing that if my plants give out soon. It stays hot here through September. I think mid July through the month of August would be hot enough to get the soil temps where they need to be. I also thought about prior to that spraying the soil with a very dilute bleach mixture.

I will be throwing away all tomato supports (just bamboo, so no money lost there), rotating crops (I have 2 beds that have never had tomatoes planted there) and religiously spraying copper or Daconil next year. I know Daconil is not organic, but copper seems to have its own dangers as well despite being "organic". I don't have any other place to move my garden, so I'm not sure if there is much else I can do. I will also be putting in some type of fence to keep the dogs out of that part of the yard. One of my dogs not only eats leaves, but also the half done compost I use for mulch. I can't turn my back on him for a minute without him getting into something! It's like having a perpetual 2 year old!!! Thus my concerns about safety issues. ;)

    Bookmark   June 28, 2013 at 10:49PM
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I can't make myself use copper or Daconil, etc. Your description of the experience is exactly what freaks me out!

It's possible I've just been lucky, but I've had good experiences spraying a mix of milk, kelp or fish emulsion with water, sometimes with Epsom salt, and dusting the leaves with rock powder (I use agrowinn/s but there are others).I think the rock powder and the milk are particularly helpful - I apply them often when I see foliage symptoms and during the most disease-prone season for me (spring/early summer). What I'm trying to accomplish is not so much to get rid of the disease, since I think these things are basically ubiquitous in the enironment, but more trying to strengthen the plants to resist. So far it's working for me - I usually start out the season with a whole host of fungal and bacterial symptoms and then the plants start taking off and grow out of them. You've got to start early, though - if a plant is really far gone, it's only minimally helpful but that's true for copper, etc., as well.

I have to admit I'm not a big believer in garden hygiene either - I think it's basically impossible to keep a bed free of pathogens that are otherwise everywhere in the environment surrounding it. I've sterilized my stakes and scrupulously removed diseased foliage and I've also not done that, and I don't see much difference. You just want to do what you can to get your plants growing. Growth seems to be key to outpacing disease.

    Bookmark   June 30, 2013 at 12:41AM
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