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Sunday, July 10, 2011

Combating Blossom End Rot: What is It and How do You Fix It?

I want to thank responses from other gardeners. I wasn't use to seeing blossom end rot on large fruit. If I had to have a problem this is what I would want. Why? Because it can be treated fairly easily.

The bottom line is the browning on the bottoms of the fruit is due to a problem with calcium. Either your plant can't absorb what is there or there isn't enough present in the soil for your plant to absorb as needed. I can't tell you how to tell the difference but can give you some general guidelines to address the problem of tomato blossom end rot.

Tomato Blossom End Rot: Gary Pilarchik
Calcium can be added to the garden through adding lime or gypsum to your soil. You can buy these products in different forms and the direction will tell you how to use it.  These directions are typically for lowering the PH of your garden soil or loosening up clay soil. This is not what you are necessarily doing to fight blossom end rot. You are just adding calcium so it is available to the roots of your tomato plants.  A soil test will tell you more about PH and you can decide how you want to use the lime for that reason.

For the purpose of combating blossom end rot, you want to get the calcium to the plant's system ASAP.

The problem is that you don't necessarily know if you plant is having a problem absorbing the calcium or there is not enough calcium present in the soil. The best way to proceed is to assume both.

Problems absorbing calcium can come from two reasons that I am aware of:
  1. You soil might have a soil PH level that is too acidic. 
  2. You might have watering/moisture problems.
I use peat moss which is acidic and it is quite possible, I forget to add some lime to my mix when I planted this batch of tomatoes. The plants also sit mostly in direct sun through the day. They could be drying out more quickly then I thought.

Water you plant daily for a week and ensure moisture is in the soil. You want to keep the soil moist. Don't let it dry out and the soak it with a ton of water. This process not only can cause nutrient absorption problems but will also cause fruit cracking. 

How to Add Calcium to Your Garden Quickly:

I purchased a bag of pelleted lime and gypsum/pine bark conditioner. I also made a spray from calcium tablets for people. The latter is a stretch. You can by calcium sprays in stores that are designed to be absorb through plant leaves. I like the mad scientist and web searching approach. The DISCLAIMER, if you mix things you run the risk of burning or harming your plants as you learn what works. 

So I would recommend following this plan to add calcium to your garden ASAP:
  • In a 5 gallon container place 1 handful of pelleted lime per gallon of water and mix well. The liquid should be poured around your tomatoes. I used 3 gallons to treat the immediate area of the 2 tomato plants that had blossom end rot.
  • Scatter one handful of pelleted lime around you plant. Don't pile it. Mix it into the top inch of soil.
  • The gypsum/pine conditioner should be placed around the plant like mulch. If you like direction a 3 foot area around the plant with about 2 inches of mulch will work.

These general guidelines will add calcium to your garden and make it available for your tomatoes. If you buy a spray, it will potentially make calcium more quickly available to your tomatoes.

The last thing you need to do or the first, is remove the fruit that has browning bottoms. It won't recover. All your tomatoes on one plant won't necessarily all have blossom end rot. The plant will use available calcium as it deems appropriate. Some tomatoes might get calcium and look great and others on the plant might be neglected.

Tomato Blossom End Rot: Gary Pilarchik

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