Monday, May 12, 2014

Tomatoes - Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot is a very common problem for tomatoes (it can also get on peppers, squash and watermelons).  A dark water soaked spot appears on the blossom end which is opposite the stem end of the tomato.  This spot usually gets bigger and turns black, and then mold will grow on the surface. 

Ways to avoid blossom end rot include soil testing to be sure your calcium levels are adequate.  If calcium is lacking, you can amend it by adding calcium nitrate, lime, gypsum or spray foliage with calcium chloride or calcium nitrate. 

Other factors that contribute to blossom end rot are:
·         Fluctuations in soil moisture.  Letting the soil get very dry then very wet.  Cotton Burr Compost used as a soil amendment or as a mulch will add organic matter to the soil reducing these fluctuations.
·         High nitrogen fertilization.  If plants get too much fertilizer, then get hit by a dry spell, this will cause blossom end rot.  Avoid trying to grow the monster tomato bush by piling manure or fertilizer around the plant.
·         Root damage.  Root damage can be caused by cultivating (hoeing) too close to the plant, having the tomatoes sit in water after a rain, nematodes and excessive salt.  When hoeing, stay away from the root zone of the tomato plant.  Be sure you have well drained soil (Cotton Burr Compost will help), so your roots will not suffocate.  Test your soil for sodium and remove the salts by leaching the salts out or by applying a salt removing product.  If you have nematodes, plant in a different area or in a container. Using Neptune Harvest’s Crab Shell product has shown to reduce nematode populations by building up chitin eating bacteria in the soil.
·         Container growing. Many potting soils are sterile and ‘soilless’ – meaning they do not have any fertilizer or nutrients built into the soil. Happy Frog or Ocean Forest soils would be an exception to that. If you are growing in containers, be sure you are adding what the plant needs for proper growth.

The main thing in controlling blossom end rot is to soil test and be sure there is plenty of calcium in the soil before you plant the garden. 

A product that might help you with blossom end rot is called Mighty Plant.  Mighty Plant triggers the plant’s natural defense mechanisms, and toughens up the plant against disease, insects, fungi and bacteria.  Mighty Plant also gives your fruit longer shelf life (it thickens up the skin of the tomato), and will give you more blooms. For those of you that remember Messenger, Mighty Plant is Messenger with an 18-18-18 fertilizer added to it. Messenger won the Environmental Protection Agency’s Presidential Green Chemistry Award based on its beneficial properties and safety profile.

Always read, understand and follow product label. The product label is a Federal Law.