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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