Friday, November 4, 2011

Mostly about Tomatoes...

My tomatoes. This started as 4 starts from
McLendon's yearly spring plant sale.
One thing I love and hate about gardening is that one year you water, fertilize, love, and care for your plants and they do great; then the next year you water, fertilize, love, and care for them the same exact way and they fail miserably. Some blight or rot or insect wreacks havoc and all you can do is stand, like Marius, among the ruins of Carthage.
Two years ago I had two tomato plants, one Roma and the other cherry, and the tomatoes abounded. Last year I watered my plants the same as the year before, but, because the weather was hotter and I didn’t keep them consistently moist, a lot of them burst the skins. (incidently, inconsistent watering will make your radishes get hotter if you like that sort of thing) This year I learned what blossom end rot was.
My tomatoes have frosted over so they are done for the year. I gathered in the remnants and, not being the industrious canning and saucing type, put the green and rotten ones into the compost bin. I have attached some pictures of the blighted tomatoes so that you also may learn of the blossom end rot. I actually didn’t have it that bad compared to some of the website photos I found, but am still thankful this is a curable problem. In the meantime, you can cut the black ends off of the tomato and the rest tastes fine. This end rot was caused by my soil not having enough calcium in it. Add some of that, say the experts, and you’ll be right as rain. I also have a whole lot more info on tomato end rot after this if you care to read further.

tomato blossom end rot
Not pretty, but still delicious

Blossom-End Rot of Tomato, Pepper, and Eggplant
Blossom-end rot is a serious disorder of tomato, pepper, and eggplant. Growers often are distressed to notice that a dry sunken decay has developed on the blossom end (opposite the stem) of many fruit, especially the first fruit of the season. This nonparasitic disorder can be very damaging, with losses of 50% or more in some years.
On tomato and eggplant, blossom-end rot usually begins as a small water-soaked area at the blossom end of the fruit (Figure 1). This may appear while the fruit is green or during ripening. As the lesion develops, it enlarges, becomes sunken and turns black and leathery. In severe cases, it may completely cover the lower half of the fruit, becoming flat or concave. Secondary pathogens commonly invade the lesion, often resulting in complete destruction of the infected fruit. On peppers, the affected area appears tan (Figure 2), and is sometimes mistaken for sunscald, which is white. Secondary molds often colonize the affected area, resulting in a dark brown or black appearance. Blossom end rot also occurs on the sides of the pepper fruit near the blossom end.
Blossom-end rot is not caused by a parasitic organism but is a physiologic disorder associated with a low concentration of calcium in the fruit. Calcium is required in relatively large concentrations for normal cell growth. When a rapidly growing fruit is deprived of necessary calcium, the tissues break down, leaving the characteristic dry, sunken lesion at the blossom end. Blossom-end rot is induced when demand for calcium exceeds supply. This may result from low calcium levels or high amounts of competitive cations in the soil, drought stress, or excessive soil moisture fluctuations which reduce uptake and movement of calcium into the plant, or rapid, vegetative growth due to excessive nitrogen fertilization.
  1. Maintain the soil pH around 6.5. Liming will supply calcium and will increase the ratio of calcium ions to other competitive ions in the soil.
  2. Use nitrate nitrogen as the fertilizer nitrogen source. Ammoniacal nitrogen may increase blossom-end rot as excess ammonium ions reduce calcium uptake. Avoid over-fertilization as side dressings during early fruiting, especially with ammoniacal forms of nitrogen.
  3. Avoid drought stress and wide fluctuations in soil moisture by using mulches and/or irrigation. Plants generally need about one inch of moisture per week from rain or irrigation for proper growth and development.

  4. Foliar applications of calcium, which are often advocated, are of little value because of poor absorption and movement to fruit where it is needed.


  1. I collect egg shells from the kitchen in early Spring. I crunch a handful of dried eggshells under the roots of the tomatoes as I plant them out. The calcium helps prevent blossom end rot, along with even watering!

  2. Wow, Thank you! I've heard of that, but I thought it was to prevent slugs??? (I could be wrong) I'll start this spring.