A Blight on Basil

Yesterday’s post covered late blight on tomatoes, just confirmed in Connecticut. Today brings news of another blight. One that attacks basil … that’s right … basil. I’m just full of good news!

I missed the NPR story on basil blight earlier in the week, but caught the link from the CT NOFA (Northeast Organic Farming Association) Facebook fan page. Apparently the disease is a problem in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, and Florida. It acts and spreads much like late blight in tomatoes – via splashed soil and wind – so it is likely to impact gardeners in surrounding areas. It’s also known as basil downy mildew.

The solution should you find your carefully tended basil leaves beginning to tinge yellow? Inspect the underside of the leaves for spores – they look like tiny grayish/brown specs between the veins (check out photo links below. If you find basil blight, freeze or make pesto with all the healthy leaves and destroy the remaining plant residue.  I’m only guessing you should isolate infected plants in a sealed plastic bag for trash disposal – this is what you should do with late blight infected tomatoes. I also guess you should not compost diseased plants.

Vegetable MD on basil blight – photos, more info on the pathogen, and a reporting link should your basil develop blight.

Photos of basil blight.

basil seedlings1 basil seedlings2 It just so happens that I went a little crazy planting basil this year – we LOVE pesto. I have five varieties potted in numerous containers and planted amongst perennials; large-leaved Basilico Mostruoso, Italiano Classico, Basilico Finissimo Verde a Palla, a globe-shaped bushy plant, and Greek Mini Yevani, a small leaved Ocimum-type, and lemon basil. I’ve also given a good number of small transplants away. The prospect that some … many … all … could be wiped out by blight, as could my tomatoes, makes me downright queasy. My mouth waters for fresh tomato and basil salads – the perfect flavors of summer.

I have no experience with basil blight. I’d love to hear from anyone who has dealt with basil blight –how fast did it come on and spread?

11 comments for “A Blight on Basil

  1. June 26, 2010 at 7:09 pm

    I have no experience with basil blight either but planted my first basil plants (3) this year. Thanks for the heads up, I’ll keep a close eye on them now. I’ve noticed lots of leaf issues on my plants this year…not sure if I just missed them last year or if the warm August-like weather is the culprit. I’m taking a wait and see approach but must admit the powdery-mildew on my spirea is a bit alarming. I’ve had spirea in my garden for over a decade and this is the first ‘issue’ I can remember.

  2. joenesgarden
    June 26, 2010 at 8:38 pm

    A 9:1 solution of water:milk sprayed on plants with powdery mildew might at least keep it under control. Spray twice weekly and when leaves dry after a rain.I did this with phlox and lilacs last year with good success, and only sprayed about once a week.

    I’m seeing a lot of leaf issues this year also.

  3. June 27, 2010 at 8:53 pm

    Yikes! My basil is looking sickly this year. I planted them in a new place next to my tomatoes. Thanks for the info. I will have a closer look at the leaves to make sure this is not the problem!

  4. joenesgarden
    June 27, 2010 at 8:59 pm

    Please let us know what you find, Deb. I’m curious to hear from people who have basil with blight.

  5. June 28, 2010 at 9:04 pm

    Like you I went a little crazy with the basil seeds this year. I really hope I don’t lose them all to this basil blight. I live for fresh tomato, mozz, and basil in the summer and my tomatoes aren’t ready yet. And of course late blight would appear in the state just when I’m growing potatoes for the first time!

  6. joenesgarden
    June 29, 2010 at 7:11 am

    Late blight is just beginning this year, Heather, but this is not the first year for it to hit CT. It devastated many tomato crops last year here and in other parts of the northeast. Potatoes are the main source, so watch them closely. For more info follow the links provided in my late blight post just prior to this one.

  7. June 30, 2010 at 9:12 pm

    Oh I know, Joene. While it didn’t hit my tomato plants last year, I still had a terrible tomato season. And I spent nearly every day scrutinizing them for signs of blight — early or late.

  8. joenesgarden
    June 30, 2010 at 9:18 pm

    I think most northeastern gardeners had a less-than-optimal tomato harvest last year. My sauce and cherry tomatoes did okay, but my heirlooms produced a meager crop. The weather was not condusive to growing many of the warm season crops – cold spring, lots of rain. Unfortunately we may have to add daily inspections of our tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant to our regular list of gardening tasks. Just add this to the regular joys of gardening.

  9. Linda
    July 27, 2014 at 3:55 pm

    Linda from MA. Sad day, just pulled all my basil crop out. 14 bushy plants. Made pesto Monday last week and never saw any sign of blight. Friday saw sighs and was going to save what I could today but it was worse than I thought. Had blight lasy year too but not as soon.

    • August 12, 2014 at 7:06 am

      So sorry, Linda. I’ve been lucky and have not had a serious basil blight problem.

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