White Harvest Seed Blog

  • Welcome Wendy!

    We are excited to introduce a new addition to our blog – Friends of White Harvest Interviews – where we will be talking with gardeners, small business owners, hobby farmers, and others just like you and me who are working hard to live off the land. Feel free to "eavesdrop" and listen in on our chat. And don't miss the giveaway at the end!


    We are thrilled to welcome Wendy and the rest of the McKenzie family to our blog today. All of the homemade goat milk soap we carry online comes from Wendy's farm in Nebraska. If you've come by our booth at a show, you've most likely seen Wendy's homemade products on our tables. These all-natural homemade goodies are hard to resist. Here's the scoop behind her family's soap operation.

    When did you first start your home/farm-based business?

    In December 2011, we moved to rural Nebraska after looking for a farm where we could live more self-sufficiently with our 4 kids. We've always enjoyed animals and immediately started raising chickens and goats. Every animal on our farm has to "earn its keep". Once our hens started laying, we were able to start selling eggs. And our goats were producing so well, we quickly realized soap would be a good fit for us.

    I spent the next 6+ months researching before I started making my products. A few of my first batches included the Oatmeal Honey Soap and the Camo Clean soap, which quickly made a name for themselves with my customers. The business quickly grew from there.

    Why did you choose goat milk?

    There are so many chemicals and unnecessary preservatives in the food we eat and in other products these days. I researched to find better options and found that goat milk in soap was great for helping dry skin and even helps with psoriasis and eczema.

    Many soap makers use base oils that I don't want on my skin, like soy and canola, so I decided to make my own goat milk soap using high quality, healing oils such as coconut, palm, olive, castor, almond, hemp, sunflower, argan, and more. I also found many soap makers use fragrance oils to scent their soap and those have a chemical base that can cause reactions to certain people. I decided to use only essential oils which are naturally derived and can also provide aromatherapy and healing properties.

    Are you working on any other products?

    Yes, I also make lip balms and I have some hard lotions which work super well on healing cracked heels and split fingertips. I have a Baby Balm that is great for diaper rash, or other rashes, and I'm working on more baby items as well. I'm also working on some mineral makeup and mascara. And my toothpaste and deodorant are just about ready. I also do "made to order" if there is something that someone wants but can't find.

    How has your business grown?

    We are lucky enough to live in an area that values local, handcrafted, high quality natural products, so I have quite a bit of interest in my products. Word of mouth always seems to be the best tool in getting customers. We've attended local craft shows and farmers' markets and now have multiple store fronts and wholesalers in Nebraska and in other states as well. I'm always seeking out businesses that share my interest in natural, organic, chemical free products.

    How is your family involved?

    Everyone contributes to the business, whether it's in production, packaging, sales or bookkeeping. We homeschool our kids and each one does their part. My three oldest are the primary milkers. They each picked the one they wanted. They also help with feeding the chickens, goats, and rabbits. They're all in 4-H and love showing animals.

    We also have a 3 year old who tries to keep up with everyone else and helps with bottle feeding and petting anything he can catch. He loves the ducks that we got to keep down the bugs in the garden.

    How can our readers connect with you?

    We do a lot through Facebook – we have a page for Up a Creek Farm, Udderly Naked, and Jumpin Jack Rabbitry. And we have 2 websites – upacreekfarm.net and udderlynaked.com.

    We want to thank Wendy for chatting with us today and sharing a little behind-the-scenes from their farm. We also want to thank you for stopping by! We are giving away 2 free soap bars to one lucky winner, so leave your email in a comment below, along with a note or question for Wendy if you'd like, and you'll be registered to win. (Winner will be notified December 20 by email.)

  • Storing Seeds

    QUESTION: What is the best way to store my seeds?
    - A gardener from Alabama

    ANSWER: That is a common question among gardeners everywhere, especially within the seed-saving circles. If seeds aren't stored properly, they will not germinate well in future years and all your hard work will be for nothing.

    Since seeds sprout when they’re introduced to moisture, warmth, and light, you want to keep them far from such influences while storing them. If stored at room temperature, seed will approximately last 2-3 years, more or less depending on the particular vegetable. The seed life doubles with every 10º the temperature is lowered.

    A dry, cool, and dark room is ideal. Store them in the refrigerator, basement, or cellar. You can use all sorts of containers – glass jars, Tupperware containers, buckets, cups, bags, etc. Sealed containers with lids are best, but we do not recommend vacuum-packing because seeds are living organisms that need oxygen to live. Without air to breathe, they're suffocated and you will notice a decrease in the germ rates.

    We also do not suggest freezing your seeds. There are a lot of varying opinions and stances on this matter. Let me explain why we don't recommend it. If seeds are placed in a freezer with more than 6% moisture content, they will inevitably crack and will not germinate. Sometimes the damage can be so small that the fractures in the seed are not easily visible. Don't store them in the freezer or else you risk losing seed that wasn't completely dry and ruining your hopes for future plantings.

    It's very easy to give your seeds the right environment and encourage them to live long lives in your garden. Take care of them and they will, in turn, take care of you.

    Here's a list of approximate years to expect from seed saved and stored properly:


    Vegetable Seed Longevity


    Beans----------------------- 2 – 4 years
    Beets------------------------ 3 – 6 years
    Broccoli--------------------- 3 – 5 years
    Cabbage--------------------- 4 years
    Carrots---------------------- 2 – 3 years
    Corn------------------------- 2 – 3 years
    Cowpeas--------------------- 3+ years
    Cucumbers------------------ 5 – 10 years
    Eggplants------------------- 2 – 5 years
    Lettuce---------------------- 2 – 6 years
    Melons---------------------- 5 – 10 years
    Okra------------------------- 2 – 5 years
    Onions---------------------- 1 – 2 years
    Peas------------------------- 2 – 3 years
    Peppers--------------------- 2 – 3 years
    Radishes-------------------- 3 – 5 years
    Spinach--------------------- 2 – 5 years
    Squash---------------------- 2 – 6 years
    Tomatoes------------------- 3 – 10 years
    Watermelon---------------- 4 – 5 years

    How do you store your seeds? Do you have any questions? Let us help!

  • Pollination & Isolation

    If saving seeds is your goal, then the process of plant pollination must not be overlooked.   Plants produce their fruits once their blooms have been fertilized by pollen.  While this is a desired result of seed-saving, if the plant has been pollinated by a different plant, their seed will be a cross between the two.

    You may not notice the alterations in that first year harvest.  The initial fruit should be fine.  However, if you save that seed and plant it next year, it will contain genes from both parent plants.  That's why pollination control is essential to saving pure seed.

    The way to control pollination is by isolation.  Protect the blooms and you protect the seeds.

    First get acquainted with the vegetables within each botanical family, as we mentioned in our previous post 5 Rules to Saving Seeds.  Remember, only plants within the same family will cross with each other.  The rest are fine and will not affect seed results.

    There are 3 main methods of plant isolation:

    1.  Time Isolation involves planting conflicting varieties at alternate times.  Either plant your second variety once your first has already begun to flower or separate their planting dates far enough apart to be safe.  It is important that the first sets its seed before the second variety flowers or there will be reason to be concerned that cross-pollination has occurred.

    If you want to grow two types of sweet corn and save seed from both, for example, plant varieties approximately 3 weeks apart.  Once the first is done tasseling and is ready to pick, the second variety should be starting to pollinate.  Maturity dates may vary with each variety, so the required time isolation may differ some.

    Lettuce, corn, and sunflowers are just a few of many crops that favor this method.

    2.  Bagging is your second option for isolation.  This process requires you to cover the flower heads to keep unwanted pollen out.  Whatever you use for protection, it must allow air in and keep insects out.  Nylon mesh bags, lightweight fabric, or bridal tulle secured around the entire plant or individual blossoms will work well.  Once the variety has finished flowering, mark the fruit with a string and uncover barrier.

    (If you don't bag the entire plant, make sure to protect multiple blooms in case something happens to one of the fruits later.  You wouldn't want to put all your seed saving hopes on one tomato, let's say.  If that tomato ended up getting chewed on by bugs later in the season, you will have lost your only chance.)

    This method does take some extra work and attention to detail, but it also gives you a little more freedom with what you can grow where.  Tomatoes, which are mostly self-pollinating, are often saved this way. However, others like spinach, beets, and corn are pollinated by wind and should not be isolated through bagging.

    Image

    3. The other main choice you have is Distance Isolation, which is exactly what it sounds like.  Plant space in between family members to prevent pollination.  If you have ideal growing space, this may be your solution.  Follow our chart below for recommended and required distances for proper seed saving.  (And don't forget about any nearby neighbors who might be growing conflicting varieties adjacent to yours.)

    Smaller gardens may have a problem providing enough distance, however.  If so, they should try one of the methods already mentioned.  Everyone can save seed.  They just have to figure out what works best for them.



    Plant Isolation Distances
    every Seed-Saving Gardener needs to know:



    Plant Isolation Distance
    Bean--------------------- 25 – 100 feet
    Beet--------------------- 1/2 mile
    Broccoli------------------ 1/2 mile
    Cabbage----------------- 1 mile
    Carrot------------------- 1500 feet
    Corn--------------------- 1/2 mile
    Cucumber--------------- 1/2 mile
    Lettuce------------------ 25 – 50 feet
    Melon-------------------- 1500 feet
    Okra--------------------- 1/2 mile
    Onion------------------- 1500 feet
    Pea---------------------- 50 feet
    Pepper------------------- 500 feet
    Radish------------------- 1500 feet
    Squash------------------ 1/2 mile
    Tomato------------------ 25 – 100 feet
    Watermelon------------ 1/2 mile




    Do you save your own seed?
    If so, what method do you use to control pollination in your garden?

  • 5 Rules to Saving Seeds

    Saving your own seeds does not have to be as complicated and impossible as people believe at first.  With just a few supplies and a little preparation, anyone can do it!

    There is certainly a world of information out there on this popular subject among gardeners and survivalists alike.  We will tell you about some books we recommend which offer great, in-depth information in just a bit, but first we'd like to go over the basics of seed saving.


    1.  First, you need to know the difference between Hybrids and Open-Pollinated varieties.

    Open-Pollinated — These varieties, so long as they are properly isolated from other plants of their species, will produce “true to type” seed with the same traits as that of their parent plant. That is why gardeners everywhere consider OP seed to be irreplaceably important, for it allows them to produce their own seed supply.

    Hybrid — The result of deliberate crossing of two distinct parent varieties from the same species, for the purpose of combining the ideal characteristics of separate varieties into one. While at first this may sound appealing, any seed saved from an F1 hybrid will not grow the same “true to type” traits a second time. Plant breeders must deliberately cross the parent varieties every time to obtain new hybrid seed.


    2.  Familiarize yourself with the different botanical families and vegetable groups.

    Varieties of the same botanical family can cross-pollinate each other and produce altered seed as a result.  However, different varieties of vegetables can be grown together unprotected and will not cross.  It's essential to securing a pure seed supply that you are familiar with each botanical family member you're growing and prevent unwanted pollination.

    For example, a tomato will not cross with a bean, but it will cross with a different tomato. That is because tomatoes and beans come from different botanical families.  They can be grown side by side without any worries.  Just learn your vegetable groups.

    Certain vegetables are grouped together in one family.  The Brassica family, for example, includes cabbage, cauliflower, broccoli, and brussels sprouts. So in this case, a cabbage plant could cross with a broccoli plant.  Again, learn your vegetable groups.

    One odd exception to the family rule is the matter of squash.  Take a deep breath!  You can get this!  Squash are divided into four different family groups and must be protected from their members within those individual groups only.

    CUCURBITA PEPO
    (Includes Crooknecks, Zucchini, Scallops, Straightnecks, Spaghetti, and some pumpkins)

    CUCURBITA MOSCHATA
    (Includes Butternuts)

    CUCURBITA MAXIMA
    (Includes Bananas, Hubbards, & Marrows)

    CUCURBITA MIXTA
    (Includes Cushaws)

    This means, i.e. that “Moschatas” only need to be protected from other “Moschata” siblings.  They'll be fine next to the “Maxima family”.


    3. Control pollination to maintain pure seed.

    The process of cross-pollination consists of pollen being transferred from one plant to another and where fertilization occurs as a result.  Now that you see the influence of the families on each other, another question arises.  How do I prevent unwanted cross-pollination then?

    There are various ways to prevent this and protect your plants.  Here's a few:

    -Plant only single varieties in your garden. One variety of watermelon, one variety of beans, etc.

    -Organize successive or alternating plantings, where one variety finishes blooming before another one begins.

    -Isolate plant blooms, either by “bagging” or distance.

    (We will talk more about this in-depth in our next blog post, so stay tuned!)


    4.  Allow fruit to fully mature before harvesting for seed.

    Each vegetable has its own maturity date.  It's important you let it finish growing or the seeds you save may be underdeveloped.  Tomatoes are one that you must pick ripe from the vine and scoop the seed out.  Beans, on the other hand, should be allowed to dry completely on the vine right up to the first frost and then shelled.


    5.  Seed must be stored properly to preserve a high germination rate in following years.

    Again, we will be touching on this more in a couple weeks on our blog, but as a general rule keep all seeds in a cool, dark, and dry environment.  We recommend in a refrigerator or in the basement.

    So there you have it.  5 rules to save seeds by.  For more information and instructions, check out any – or all – of these great resources:


    Seed to Seed
    by Suzanne Ashworth

    The Complete Guide to Saving Seeds
    by Robert Gough and Cheryl Moore-Gough

    Breed Your Own Vegetable Varieties: The Gardener's & Farmer's Guide to Plant Breeding & Seed Saving
    by Carol Deppe


    What seeds have you saved?  If you haven't ever tried it, what's holding you back?  We're all still learning here, so feel free to share your thoughts and ask questions.

  • Blight Be Gone

    One of the most common problems a gardener will face during the growing season is blight – a fungal infection that resides in the soil and quickly devours plants like tomatoes, peppers, potatoes, and eggplants.

    What begins as a small black or brown spot on the bottom leaves of the plant will quickly spread up the stem and onto the other leaves. If left alone, the blight can prevent plants from flowering and fruit from maturing.


    What Causes Blight?

    This disease thrives in wet, humid conditions, where temperatures range between 60º-80º F. It most commonly occurs on tomatoes when over-watering occurs from above and a mixture of moisture and dirt have made contact with the leaves of the plant. This bacterial fungus can spread quickly through excessive watering or by hand and can reside in the soil for many years.


    How to Fight
    Blight – Before It Arrives

    The most effective way to fight this infection is to prevent it altogether. Here's some steps every gardener should take.

    1. Start Your Own Seeds If you grow them yourself, you'll know your plants' history. You'll have guaranteed healthy, disease-free transplants.

    2. Establish Good Air CirculationGive your plants space – at least 3 feet between tomatoes – for your plants to breathe and to allow moisture to dry quickly. It's important to keep the branches off the ground and out of the soil too.

    3. Mulch – Use leaves, grass clippings, or straw to cover the base of each tomato plant to protect the foliage from soil getting splashed and to retain moisture for the root system.

    4. Water at Ground LevelUse soaker hoses or drip irrigation to keep foliage dry and water in the morning.

    5. Crop RotationThis step is key if you've had blight in previous years. Rotate your plantings so that the same vegetable is not grown in the same place for 3-4 years if possible.


    How to Fight Blight – After It's Arrived

    Sometimes it's too late to prevent a problem. Sometimes the problems just beat us to the punch. Blight is a hard one to fix in the garden. Here's a few ways to help the headache, though, and save some of those vegetables.

    1. Visit your Local Garden Center, Hardware Store, or Nursery for a Fungicide that Fights Blight
    If you're wanting an organic, natural solution, find a copper-based fungicide. This will help control the disease, but it may not cure it.

    2. Try one of these Homemade Remedies:
    a. Mix 3 cups compost, 1/2 cup powdered nonfat milk, 1/2 cup Epsom salts, and 1 Tbs. baking soda. Add a handful of this mixture into each planting hole and put more powdered milk on the soil every couple weeks throughout the season.

    b. Mix 1 part skim milk and 9 parts water together and spray on plants to the point where it runs off. Apply early in the summer to discourage diseases from starting.

    c. Sprinkle crushed egg shells and/or compost tea around the plants to help fight the blight naturally.

    3. Discard Infected Leaves & Wash Your Hands
    It may be hard to break off those branches, but if you don't you could lose the entire plant. And do not toss them in the compost pile. The bacteria will breed in the dirt there. It's important to wash your hands with soap after handling any blight-affected plants or you could unknowingly spread the disease on to other plants in your garden.


    Blight is one of those things that simply comes with the gardening territory. You're not alone in the fight! Follow these steps mentioned above and grow a blight-free garden for years to come.


    Have you tried another method that successfully gets rid of blight? What garden diseases have your plants survived? We'd love to hear from you and learn your secret!

  • Preserving the Harvest VS. Put 'Em Up

    I'm sure many of you are reaping the bounty of your harvests this summer! It's always a fun and busy season when that produce starts kicking in and the “preserving” season has begun.

    It can also be a stressful time, though, and that's where a great book to guide you makes all the difference. We have 2 amazing books on food preservation - The Big Book of Preserving the Harvest by Carol W. Costenbader AND Put 'em Up by Sherri Brooks Vinton - which often leads people to wonder which they should choose.

    When we go to Garden Shows or Expos, I have been asked many times, 'What's the difference between the two?' or 'Which one do you like better?'

    So I thought I would compare the two and share what each book has to offer.

    Lets talk about PUT 'EM UP:

    1. Includes step-by-step instructions for freezing, drying, pickling, and canning.

    2. Covers 33 different vegetables and fruits.

    3. Easy referencing. For example, when you find yourself in abundance of tomatoes, you only have to look under the “Tomato” section and find recipes like “Heirloom Tomato Salsa” or "Easy Bake Tomato Paste". Just simply look up your vegetable or fruit, and find the recipe you are looking for.

    4. You can also find different preserving recipes for whichever vegetable you are working with. Just choose the method that is right for you.

    5. No need to be an expert! The recipes are easy to follow.

    6. Practical recipes with basic ingredients.

    7. Includes a great resource section in the back of the book about local, sustainable farming and home preservation.

    Now let's talk about THE BIG BOOK OF PRESERVING THE HARVEST:

    1. Tells us the best methods of preserving for over 60 vegetables and fruits,including canning, freezing, drying, cold storage, pickling, and juicing... just to name a few.

    2. Gives information on when to harvest and what to look for when produce is ready in the garden.

    3. Step-by-step instructions.

    4. Divided into sections such as “Canning” with all the instructions followed by several canning recipes. Then you'll find the“Drying” section, followed by several drying recipes, and so on.

    5. Easy to follow. Packed with a lot of “extra” information, including hundreds of “tips” throughout the book.

    6. Learn how to make your own vinegars and seasonings.

    7. Several fun ideas for gift-giving your preserved food.

    So even though both books teach us how to preserve our food, both have a unique spin and give us something special. And each one is FULL of valuable information, whether you are a beginner or an expert.

    What is your "Go-To Book" when the produce starts filling up your kitchen? What's your favorite way to preserve food?

    Leave a comment below, along with your email, and your name will be entered in our Gift Certificate Giveaway! Winner will be notified by email on September 10.

  • 10 Fall Crops

    There's no need to say goodbye to your garden just yet!  You can extend your growing season by putting in a fall garden.  Our summer here in Missouri has been a blessed one with perfect temperatures and much needed rainfall. (Way different than what we got last year, that's for sure!) We hope you're in the midst of a plentiful season too.  Together, let's keep those gardens flourishing and the canner running "full steam ahead"!

    Many vegetables can be planted right now for a fall crop.  Here's our list of ten great varieties we recommend:

    1. Bush BeansPlant these 12 weeks before your first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Contender, Blue Lake Bush, Provider, or Jade. Each of these are heavy producers and make beautiful green beans.

    2. BeetsPlant these 10-12 weeks before your first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Detroit Dark Red, Bull's Blood, or Chioggia. If you prefer a yellow beet, try the Golden Detroit Beet. Don't forget to save those leaves to be used in salads!

    3. Broccoli Plant these seeds 12-14 weeks before your first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Waltham 29 has a 90-day maturity date. If you need a variety that matures a little sooner, consider the Green Sprouting Calabrese which takes 70-80 days to mature. Both love the cooler temperatures and will do well in those fall gardens.

    4. CarrotsPlant these seeds about 12 weeks before last frost.

    Suggested varieties: Scarlet Nantes (my personal favorite) has an earlier maturity date of 65-70 days.  The Imperator 158 is another excellent carrot, great for adding to those soups and stews you'll be making once the weather gets colder. If you plant late and need something with a shorter maturity before the first frost hits, consider the Little Finger baby carrot which matures at 55-65 days.

    5. CauliflowerPlant these seeds 16 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested variety: Snowball Y Improved. A seasoned gardener recommended to us to grow cauliflower only in the fall. They do better as a fall crop and planting them this time of the year eliminates any bug problems.

    6. CucumbersPlant these seeds 12-14 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Marketmore 76, Homemade Pickles (if space is limited), or for something different, try the Lemon Cucumber which is a great fresh eater!

    7. PumpkinsPlant 14-15 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested varieties: Connecticut Field (makes great canned pumpkin!), Small Sugar Squash (which is a smaller version of the Connecticut Field), Howden Pumpkin, or the Rouge Vif D'Entampes (Cinderella Squash).

    8. SpinachPlant 8 weeks before the first frost.

    Suggested variety: Bloomsdale Long Standing. With all of the healthy benefits that spinach provides, no garden should be without it.

    9.SquashPlant 12-14 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested Varieties: Butternut-Waltham, Vegetable Spaghetti Squash (did you know you can grow spaghetti in your garden?), or Delicata Winter Squash.

    10. TurnipsPlant 8-10 weeks before first frost.

    Suggested variety: Purple Top White Globe. (Turnips are a staple at all of our Thanksgiving Dinners.)

    Hope these give you some ideas and inspiration to keep the gardens growing. Wishing you a bountiful fall harvest!

  • Hornworms – The Tomato's Nightmare

    These large caterpillars can be very destructive, but tricky to find.  They are one of the most common pests you'll find in the garden, proving to be a nightmare for tomatoes and gardeners alike.

    Hornworms are the camouflaged green caterpillars that like to munch on the leaves, stems, and the immature fruits of tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, and potatoes. Tomatoes especially seem to be their prey of choice.  That's why most gardeners call them Tomato Hornworms.

    In early summer, they hatch from moth eggs on the underside of the leaves and grow to 4 inches in 4 weeks.  They typically have a black or red horn on their body, but they do not sting.  During its growth spurts, the unnoticed hornworm can literally destroy your plants in a matter of days.  You usually will spot their handiwork first, usually in the absence or bareness of leaves, and the sign of black droppings on the plant.

    This ugly duckling, which eventually turns into the hawk or sphinx moth – also known as the hummingbird moth – is a rather stubborn intruder.  The easiest and most effective way to protect your plants is to hand-pick the worms off whenever you spot them and either step on them or toss them in a bucket of soapy water.

    Diatomaceous Earth and Neem Oil will also help de-populate the hornworm camp, but it may take a couple days to take full effect.  Go ahead and pull off any hornworms that you see before any further damage can be done.

    If the problem is reoccurring every year, till the dirt over in the fall and spring to destroy any overwintering larvae in the soil. For helpful companion plants, grow dill and marigolds near your tomatoes.  Wasps will also serve as a natural predator against these pests, so if you spot their white eggs on a hornworm, let them be.  The wasps will finish the job.

    If you're growing tomatoes, hornworms are most likely to show up uninvited.  Make them know they're not welcome. Never let them win!

    What pest seems to be your nemesis in the garden?  What have you found that works to fight the Hornworm?

  • Battle of the Beans

    The season of beans is in full swing and boy, is it a busy one!  We thought we'd give y'all a little break from all that picking, snapping, and canning and throw a Green Bean Giveaway!

    Match each of the pictures below with its proper variety name to win 2 FREE PACKETS of YOUR CHOICE of beans. (All varieties below are available on our website.)  The gardening season isn't over yet.  The lucky winner will be able to plant the seeds right away and get one more harvest before fall!

    Leave your guesses and email in the comments below. (The first person to guess the most correct answers wins. )  Winner will be announced via our Facebook page and notified by email on August 1st. May the Battle of the Beans Begin!

    #1

    #2

    #3

    #4

    #5

    #6

    #7

    #8

    #9

    #10

  • Blossom-End Rot

    This particular plant disorder is most commonly found on tomatoes, squash, melons, cucumbers, eggplants, and peppers.  The symptoms first appear early in the season when the fruits are about half of their full size. A decaying water spot will appear at the base of the fruit on the furthest end from the stem.  It will continue to increase in size, turning a dark, leathery brown color until the fruit must be discarded entirely.

    The “Bad Bugs” aren't to blame for this problem.  Blossom-End Rot is primarily caused by a deficiency in nutrients and is oftentimes a moisture-related problem.

    Plants rely on a heavy amount of calcium in the soil.  If the calcium levels are low, the fruit can not develop properly.  Blossom-End Rot can also be caused by too much nitrogen fertilizer, damaged roots, over-watering, and extreme drought conditions.

    This infection is best avoided with preventive methods.  Always establish a healthy foundation first or you'll regret it.  Make sure the soil has good drainage and contains a pH level around 6.5. Amendments such as Lime and compost will also contribute to balancing the soil beforehand.

    If you still happen to find yourself dealing with Blossom-End Rot mid-season, apply crushed egg-shell tea or compost tea to the base of the plant, try adding some powdered milk, and stabilize moisture levels.  Mulching with straw or grass clippings will help.  You will have to discard any infected fruits since they will not recover from the deficiency.  Use fertilizer that is low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous.

    This problem can be a frustrating one, but fortunately it can be prevented.  Never underestimate the nutrition – or lack of – in the soil.  The vegetables depend on the dirt and the dirt depends on you, the gardener.  Don't let a small oversight steal away those valuable tomatoes.

    What problem(s) are you facing in your garden this year? Can we help?

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