Avoiding Blossom End Rot in the Veggie Garden

end rot in vegetables Photo: Tomato Headquarters

There is frustration aplenty to be had when you set out into the garden in search of that perfect tomato only to instead find one with blossom end rot. Though it is a common issue with which veggie gardeners are faced, it is no less disheartening when it rears its ugly head. Rather than letting tomatoes and other affected vegetables go to waste as they fall victim to blossom end rot, make changes to your garden to avoid it in the first place.

Blossom end rot materializes in the form of a watery area on the fruit that is located away from the stem on the blossom end, hence the name. This spot, once it has formed, will go on to continue rotting until what you are left with is a caved in area of tomato that has turned black in color. Once this rot has begun, the tomato is then infected with other organisms that cause further decay, going on to render the tomato useless in your kitchen.

The main culprit in blossom end rot is a lack of calcium, but it is not always obvious exactly where the deficiency is occurring. For example, the soil itself could very well have ample calcium for your tomato plants to thrive, yet blossom end rot is still present.  In scenarios such as this, the problem is that the plant itself is unable to collect the calcium necessary to support the tomatoes as they grow, hence the deficiency remaining. Other reasons behind blossom end rot include root damage, acidic soil, and moisture fluctuation.

A soil test is advised as the best way to find out the status of your soil and what exactly it is providing to your vegetables. This will indicate whether or not you might need to add limestone for calcium, but keep in mind that this is something that needs to be done a few months in advance of planting. A soil test can also reveal the presence of too much nitrogen, which occurs when a garden is over-fertilized. The uptake of calcium is then inhibited when the fertilizer causes the plant to grow too fast to absorb it. Additionally, testing will reveal the pH of your soil, which needs to hover around 6.0-6.5 for successful tomato growth.

Once your soil condition is squared away, it is best to wait until it warms up before planting as that is when tomatoes fair best. Choose and avoid over-using a fertilizer that is low in nitrogen but high in phosphorous to keep the calcium flowing so that it gets where your plants need it to go. When watering, it is best to water deep to about six inches and do so only a couple of times weekly depending on your climate. This will encourage a strong root system which in turn allows for greater calcium absorption. Adding mulch will help retain this water, keeping it in the soil where it belongs to cool soil and nourish plants.

Since blossom end rot can involve a bit of a learning curve, it may be necessary to treat it in the event it was not possible to prevent it. This can be done by spraying the plant with calcium chloride or calcium nitrate as soon as you notice the presence of blossom end rot. You can also use a mixture of 1/4 cup Epsom Salt and 1 tablespoon of finely ground eggshells mixed together in a gallon of water and applied to affected plants. Either of these actions can be taken to prevent the plant from producing more blossom end rot in the future, but any tomatoes currently present should be discarded.

Though dealing with issues such as blossom end rot can be discouraging, it is a part of gardening with which we are all faced from time to time. Going on to recover from it is not only possible, but probable. Since plants are able to adjust and compensate, later tomatoes are generally just fine even if the first round was not. If you are faced with blossom end rot, hang in there and have patience as success is soon to come.


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