Saturday, August 28, 2010

Tomato Blossom End Rot

First it just looks icky on the bottom of the tomato - like it has a water blister. Then it turns kind of brown -  like an apple that fell on the floor yesterday and has a big brown bruise.  Finally the bottom starts to become concave and turns almost black.  All things you do not want to see on your tasty tomatoes that you've been tenderly looking after since early spring. 

     "But what is it?  And more importantly, what can I do about it?!!" 

It is known as The Dreaded Tomato Blossom End Rot.  (Actually just tomato blossom end rot - I added the dreaded part, if you get it in your garden you probably will add the dreaded too)  It is a relatively common garden problem. 
  • Good News - It is not a disease and is not contagious to the other plants around it in your garden! 
  • Bad News - It is a physiological disorder caused by a calcium imbalance in the plant.  Which means that it is possible that other plants in your garden - namely Pepper, Squash, Cucumber and Melons - could have the same problem.
But don't despair. 

There are a few factors that can effect a plant's ability to take up calcium:
  • Fluctuations in soil moisture (too wet or too dry),
  • Too much nitrogen in the soil,
  • Root damage due to cultivation,
  • Soil pH that’s either too high or too low (Should be around 6.5),
  • Cold soil,
  • Soil high in salts

Now we come to the "What to do??" area:

  1. Be consistent with you watering. Uneven watering is the #1 reason for B.E.R. Water thoroughly, and deeply. Roots and leaves will take the available soil moisture first leaving the little baby tomatoes to suffer if the soil gets dry. If you're not sure if the ground is too dry or too soggy, stick your hand in the soil and feel it - So many people seem afraid to do this. Are you a gardener or what? Get your hands dirty!
  2. In cold climates, allow soil to warm before planting; cold soils can limit nutrient uptake.  Consider using raised beds if the problem persists.
  3. Maintain soil pH at or near 6.5.
  4. Use fertilizers that are low in nitrogen and high in phosphorous.
  5. Apply mulch to minimize evaporation and help maintain consistent soil moisture.
  6. When planting (next spring) sprinkle some Epsom Salts in the planting bed and mix in well. 
"But, I have this dreaded problem right now and need a fix - not a prevention!!"

Don't Panic!  If you are currently dealing with this problem - and why else would you be reading this - then there are some things you can do. 
Usually blossom end rot is confined to the first crop of tomatoes when your baby plants have little bitty shallow roots and growth is running rapid. 
  • Pick and discard the effected fruit, as it will start to rot quickly - (none of us wants rotting fruit in the middle of our pristine gardens). 
  • Follow all of the steps above that can be done at this point in the growing season. 
If the problem persists there are products on the market like Tomato Rot-Stop.  While I have never used these products they claim that you simply spray it on your plants and it will be absorbed into the plant stopping the B.E.R.  If anyone out there has used these products please comment and let us know the results.
If none of these things work for you contact your local extension agency as you may have some other issue that we have not covered here.

Good luck and get dirty!

1 comment:

  1. Yuck!! So that is what that stuff is called!! I did not have a problem with it last year - my tomatoes were beautiful - but this year, my tomatoes were a miserable lot. They didn't ripen until September and many had this Blossom End Rot problem you wrote about. I'm thinking my rot was due to inconsistent watering b/c by the time I got some poor looking tomatoes, I rather gave up and let nature water them.


Thank you so much for commenting! Sign up to be a Follower so you don't miss any of my posts!