This week there was a little bit of an issue. A whole row of my tomatoes started to die and I really couldn’t work out why.
I have spent the last week or so trellising everything to give the tomatoes support for the next period where they start to really burst outward and upward. Equally, I have been spreading charcoal on the beds as well.
My first reaction was that one of these two actions had caused the tomatoes to wilt. However, like with all systems, we need to look for the feedback loops, and while this may have caused some disruption through root tear or chemical imbalances, it still led to the question of why only one row was affected.
I was completely stumped, so I went to my team. One of the great things, as I’ve mentioned before, with working with local guys, is that they know their land and they tend to know any problems that are occurring. While I don’t know the name of the specific issue, having observed the plants with me, they showed me how the plant was turning brown from the root upward, demonstrating that the issue is within the soil. With our mix of broken Spanglish, they managed to get across to me that it is some form of parasitic fungus which attacks the roots. It’s common here, especially when planting non-native species such as this.
My response to this was two-fold. On the first hand, I made a neem, chilli and garlic insecticide. The ingredients are left to steep in water for a day or two and then sprayed on the plants. This will help to keep that parasitic fungus back in the same way that it keeps insects back.
Secondly, with a more long-term look, I tried to consider how to keep this issue from returning. Fungus tends to indicate high levels of carbon, and the rice husks on the bed are adding carbon to the soil. Where I am planting nitrogen-fixing cover crops in this area, they haven’t spread very far yet, meaning the likelihood is that the rice husks are unbalancing the system somewhat with too much carbon. In response to this, I sprayed a home-made nitrogen fertilizer that I had previously been fermenting.
For this, I walked around the property and pulled leaves and fruit from as many different leguminous plants as I could find. I placed them in a five gallon bucket, filled with water. I placed banana leaves on the surface to keep everything under the water (to stop it rotting) and I popped the lid on for two weeks to let it brew. Boy, did it stink when I opened that lid. Hopefully, however, it will help to give those plants a boost and keep that fungus back.