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Saturday essay: 'Mater massacre

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Contact Colin McNickle (412-320-7836 or cmcnickle@tribweb.com).

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'American Coyotes' Series

Traveling by Jeep, boat and foot, Tribune-Review investigative reporter Carl Prine and photojournalist Justin Merriman covered nearly 2,000 miles over two months along the border with Mexico to report on coyotes — the human traffickers who bring illegal immigrants into the United States. Most are Americans working for money and/or drugs. This series reports how their operations have a major impact on life for residents and the environment along the border — and beyond.

Friday, Aug. 30, 2013, 8:57 p.m.
 

The tomato plants are gone — every last one. No amount of fungicide, leaf-picking or hope against hope could stop the advance of this year's insidious early blight.

They died from the ground up, 14 all told in four raised beds. By Saturday last, the killing spores had marched to the top of each, planted with so much promise in May. The last of their green fruits were picked and placed on the back deck to ripen.

Gone, too, is the second planting of green beans, sown in an indignant, reality-defying huff after the first planting succumbed to the same malady.

A variety of lettuces, spinach and radishes have replaced them. All germinated quickly in this week's heat; a steady crop of salad goodies should be available through late fall, if not through the first of winter.

But the blight problem still must be addressed. Since even a hard freeze likely will not kill any spores that surely have made their way into the soil, they will have to be “solarized.” That is, plastic will be placed over the affected beds and the eradication will be left to the winter sun. Next year, the tomatoes will be rotated to other beds.

The good news is that gardening is a lot like baseball. There's always next year, hope springs eternal, (insert your cliché here) and The Great Tomato Massacre of 2013, though not forgotten, will fade from memory.

— Colin McNickle

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