Most gardeners have heard of blossom end rot, or experienced it firsthand. The telltale sign is a big brow/black soft spot developing on the bottom of tomatoes, peppers and eggplant. It can also be seen on other vegetables, although it tends to offend us most when it happens to our tomatoes. After all, we’ve spent a lot of time growing and anticipating those luscious, juicy fruits. The disappointment to our taste buds is nearly inconsolable. Fear not, there is no need to throw in the trowel. A little bit of TLC can prevent it from affecting later fruits.
So, what is it? Blossom end rot is technically the result of calcium deficiency. Now, I know you probably think I’m off my rocker. After all, our soils have plenty of calcium. But there are a number of factors that can inhibit the plant’s ability to translocate the calcium. In other words, it’s not really the lack of calcium, but that the plant is unable to make use of it.
The most common causes for blossom end rot is entirely related to environmental and cultural conditions. When there is excessive moisture, as in our recent rains, followed with an increase in temperatures and a quick dry out, it’s the perfect storm, so to speak. Voila! Soft, water soaked brown patches appear on the bottom of the fruits.
Ferti-lome Yield Booster is a handy spray that staves off damage to future fruit set. While those that already show the damage cannot be saved, Yield Booster can protect those fruits yet to come. So there’s no need to worry. We just have to exercise a little more patience. It’s easy to use. A word of caution…spray in the cool of the evening or in the very cool morning hours, allowing enough time for the spray to dry before the sun hits it. Plants sprayed in the heat of the day, in the peak of the sunshine, often suffer foliar damage. This is true, whether you are applying foliar fertilizers or other chemical treatments. Be sure to amend the soil further this fall and next spring before planting to improve drainage, as well. Soil that compacts easily tends to hold excessive moisture levels longer than the plant can endure.
Rest assured, there’s no need to give up on your dreams of delicious, tasty tomatoes!
Temperatures have warmed up. We’ve had an abundance of rain. Insects have recently hatched and are multiplying like mad. So, how do you keep your plants looking fabulous through it all? Plants have some built in defenses, but you can greatly help them along through stressful conditions. It comes down to managing the moisture as best you can, and feeding them regularly, along with removing the spent blooms.
Managing moisture levels starts when the plants are potted. The selection of the potting mix is the key to success. This is definitely a year when drainage is the most important consideration. Moisture control mixes tend to hold water for an extended period, which is helpful during dry periods but not so much when it rains.
It’s also important to feel the soil before watering. Just like in most every other aspect of life, making assumptions are not a good idea. Sometimes plants look as though they are wilting but they are really flagging due to high temperatures, reflective heat from nearby walls or concrete, or even because their root systems are so water logged leaving the plants unable to draw up moisture. All the more reason to use a moisture meter or to get your fingers dirty and feel the soil.
Watering in the morning is better than watering in the heat of the day or in the evening. Why? When plants approach the day well hydrated, then they will be less stressed during the height of the heat of the day. When plants are watered at night, it’s really a sort of recovery tactic. Additionally, as moisture evaporates off the soils surface when the night temperatures cool, it’s the perfect set of condition for fungi like powdery mildew to take hold.
One of the most important things you can do is fertilize your plants regularly. If you are growing flowering annuals, choose a high phosphorus fertilizer, like Jack’s Classic Blossom Booster. If you’ve ever wondered what those 3 numbers are on a package of fertilizer (ex. 10-30-15), they represent the percentage of the nitrogen, phosphorus and potash in the fertilizer. The middle number represents the phosphorus which promotes flowering . For flowering, this number should be 3 to 5 times higher than the first number, which represents the percentage of nitrogen to promote green growth. Follow the directions on any fertilizer you choose. Each is formulated differently and will have varied instructions for use. We’re asking our plants to perform at their best during the most stressful part of the summer. If we don’t supply them with the appropriate nutrition, they can’t live up to our expectations. If you purchased a potting mix that said it included a fertilizer, it’s a good idea to supplement it around mid July. More often than not, the fertilizer in the potting mix is just a little something to get things started and doesn’t support the plants for the long haul. Lastly, a little selective pinching and dead-heading (removal of the spent blooms) will keep plants looking fresh. Pinching and pruning stimulates new growth which brings new flowers, too.