One problem that tomato growers have faced at one time or another is blossom end rot. There is nothing more frustrating than picking what appears to be a nice tomato, only to find that the bottom end (or blossom end) has started to rot. Many times it is prevalent early in the season, but tends to settle out after the first few tomatoes. If you are having some issues with blossom end rot, there are some techniques you can use to help prevent it.
What Is Blossom End Rot?
In short, blossom end rot is a condition where the tomato (or any flowering vegetable/fruit for that matter) begins to get a brown or darkening spot on the blossom, or “bottom” end. The decaying will generally become larger as the tomato gets larger. Once a tomato begins showing signs of blossom end rot, it is too late. It is best to go ahead and pick off the rotted fruit and chunk it in the trash, or compost pile.
What Causes Blossom End Rot?
Blossom end rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil, which in turn leads to a calcium deficiency in the tomatoes. This lack of calcium inhibits the growth of the fruit creating the brown or black decaying spot. Excessive soil moisture fluctuations can also create an environment ripe (no pun intended) for this condition.
How To Treat and Prevent Blossom End Rot
There are many ways to combat blossom end rot for tomatoes. Prevention starts at the bottom – the soil. Test your soil’s pH level; you want to have a pH of 6.5 to 6.7 for tomatoes. The best way to adjust pH for symptoms is to add garden lime. I suggest using pelleted garden lime over using hydrated lime. Hydrated lime usually comes in a powdered form and is mostly used in lawns or similar applications. Garden lime is specifically formulated for gardening situations. Add about a cup of garden lime per plant, in the hole when planting. Use about a 1/2 cup of garden lime every 4 – 6 weeks after planting. Make sure to follow the instructions that are on the bag.
There are some other tricks you can implement in order to get the much needed calcium to your plants:
- Take finely crushed egg shells and add to the hole when planting tomatoes. Add about two egg shells per plant.
- Give your tomato plants a milk bath. Pour about 3 cups of whole (not skim) milk into a hose sprayer and water each tomato at the base of the plant. If you get any milk on the leaves of the plant, rinse off with regular water. Avoid letting the milk dry on the leaves. Do this twice a week if blossom end rot is severe.
One of the most important things to remember is to regularly water tomato plants. By watering, then waiting long periods to water again highly contributes to blossom end rot. Avoid letting the soil dry out between waterings. Do not over do it – overwatering can cause the condition as well. Avoid over fertilizing, as the excessive nitrogen can cause blossom end rot. It can be tricky to get the correct balance of proper watering and pH, but is crucial in growing those perfect tomatoes.
For more information, please check out this page on blossom end rot.
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