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The Day I Stopped Composting

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Saturdays in the Garden: The Day I Stopped Composting

All of you green gardening friends out there know how important composting is.  You’ve probably heard me wax nostalgic about proudly saving my family’s vegetable peelings year around so I can build a backyard compost pile to use later in the garden.  I often mention composting as a first step for anyone wanting to get into organic gardening.

This Saturdays in the Garden post is sadly about the day I stopped composting.  It’s the day I stopped dead in my tracks between the garden beds and the compost bin — and had to start putting leave trimmings in the trash instead.  It was the day I first discovered suspicious spots this summer on some of my strawberry plants.  It started with just a few leaves, just a few spots, then turned some leaves yellow with the nastiness of the infection.  Luckily, we still enjoyed healthy strawberry fruit; however, the infection may have stunted some of the potential for maximum yields.

I was ashamed and shocked!  Mad at myself, really, because I recalled seeing a few of these spots on the strawberry leaves late in the season last year.  But I wasn’t diligent enough at getting those leaves out of there and away from the other plants.  Apparently, this sort of infection can overwinter in the soil as well as in dead plants.

Blight like this can be caused by various fungi, with universities studying them in strawberries, tomatoes and other plants.

blight spots on strawberry and tomato leaves

Blight on Strawberry & Tomato Leaves

I’ve been trimming and trimming blighted leaves from a few tomato plants too.  Whether I have one common blight or more than one, who knows?

The wrong conditions can also set up a garden for this scary discovery I found after a couple neglectful weeks.  I found a suffocating squash leaf rotten from some type of mildew, and a few budding tomatoes nearby in deathly condition, as well.  I knew also with this that it wasn’t worth the risk of spreading mold spores in the compost.

I realize how bad this looks.  Will I ever return to composting from the garden?  I think so.  I just need to stay diligent right now about getting any diseased plant parts away from there.  I’m showing you these ugly photos.  But I’ll show you photos next week of how lush and beautiful much of the little family garden is, as well.  There is hope.  I’m just a really messy gardener.  My tendency to crowd my plants in the small space I have has made things more challenging. Below are some tips on how to avoid or minimize this nasty situation even if you are using organic growing methods like I am and want to avoid chemical fungicides.

mildewed squash leaf and tomato

Mildewed Squash Leaf & Tomatoes

  • Rotate crops
  • Allow plenty of space for air circulation
  • Water from the ground with something like drip irrigation (which I do not have)
  • Water in the morning, not the evening
  • Train up and prune garden plants regularly
  • Remove any diseased plant parts immediately & practice pristine sanitation
  • Consider treatments like diluted neem oil to provide natural antifungal relief

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