Worried about Tomato Blossom End Rot chewing your plants away? Here are the top tricks and tricks to eliminate it for good!
Are you tired of eagerly watching your tomato plants grow, only to discover the frustrating and unsightly black patches ruining your harvest? This common but often misunderstood condition can be the bane of any gardener’s existence. But what if we told you that Tomato Blossom End Rot is not only preventable but that there are innovative and even surprising ways to tackle this problem head-on? Dive in to uncover the secrets to growing picture-perfect, rot-free tomatoes!
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What is Tomato Blossom End Rot?
Tomato Blossom End Rot is a physiological disorder affecting tomato plants, leading to the degradation and rotting of the fruit’s blossom end—the opposite side from where the fruit attaches to the stem.
This condition manifests as a dark, sunken, and leathery spot that starts small but can quickly grow to cover a significant portion of the fruit’s underside. While it primarily targets the fruit, the issue originates from a calcium imbalance in the plant, often exacerbated by inconsistent watering practices.
What It Looks Like
- Initial Stage: A small, water-soaked, darkened area appears at the blossom end of the tomato.
- Advanced Stage: The affected area expands, becoming sunken, leathery, and turning into a dark brown or black color.
- Fruit: The disorder is most visibly and directly manifested on the fruit. The blossom end, or the bottom of the tomato, is the primary area affected.
- Calcium Uptake System: While not visible, the plant’s ability to take up calcium from the soil is compromised, which indirectly affects the fruit.
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Top Tips to Prevent Tomato Blossom End Rot
1. Water Regularly and Consistently
Blossom end rot is a disorder in tomatoes primarily caused by inconsistent watering, which results in the plant’s inability to properly absorb calcium from the soil.
Even if your soil has plenty of calcium, fluctuations in moisture levels can make it difficult for the plant to uptake and transport this essential nutrient effectively, leading to a calcium deficiency in the fruit and resulting in blossom end rot.
Watering is critical for a few reasons:
- Consistent Uptake of Nutrients: Plants require consistent moisture to properly absorb nutrients from the soil. Too little water, and the roots cannot take up nutrients. Too much water, and nutrients can be washed away or the roots can become waterlogged and oxygen-starved, impairing nutrient uptake.
- Cell Development and Function: Water is essential for the proper function and development of plant cells. This is especially true for developing fruits. A consistent supply of water ensures steady, healthy growth.
To water tomatoes correctly, consider the following:
- Method: Drip irrigation or soaker hoses are the best watering methods for tomatoes. These methods deliver water directly to the base of the plant, keeping the foliage dry, which helps prevent diseases that can occur with overhead watering.
- Time: The best time to water your tomatoes is early in the morning. This gives the plants plenty of time to absorb the water before the heat of the day, and it helps to prevent evaporation, ensuring more water reaches the roots.
- Frequency and Amount: As for how often to water, it depends on the stage of growth and the weather. In hot weather, tomatoes might need watering daily. Generally, tomatoes need about 1-2 inches of water per week, but this can vary based on temperature and the size of the plant. A good rule of thumb is to water deeply and less frequently, as this encourages the development of deep roots that can draw on subsoil moisture, making your plants more resilient in dry conditions.
- Monitor Soil Moisture: Always check the soil before watering. The soil should be moist at a depth of 6-9 inches. If it’s dry at that depth, it’s time to water.
- Mulch: Use mulch around your tomatoes to help keep the soil moist and to prevent the growth of weeds. Mulch can dramatically stabilize soil moisture levels and reduce watering needs.
Remember, the goal is to keep the soil evenly moist and to avoid letting it dry out excessively between watering times. Consistency is key to prevent disorders like blossom end rot.
2. Use Epsom Salt
While Tomato Blossom End Rot is mainly caused by a calcium deficiency, the role of magnesium in nutrient absorption can’t be ignored.
Epsom salt, chemically known as magnesium sulfate, can assist in the plant’s calcium uptake, thereby serving as an auxiliary preventive measure against Blossom End Rot.
To use, dissolve 1 tablespoon of Epsom salt in 1 gallon of water and apply it to the soil around your plants every two weeks.
3. Go for Banana Peel Tea
If you’re looking for a natural way to provide your plants with essential nutrients, look no further than your kitchen! Banana peels are a great source of potassium, phosphorus, calcium, and other trace minerals.
They work especially well for slightly acid-loving plants like tomatoes and can help prevent problems such as blossom end rot while promoting robust root growth and blooming. Check out the recipe here.
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4. Apply Eggshells
Why Eggshells Work
- Rich Calcium Source: Eggshells are approximately 95% calcium carbonate, making them a concentrated source of calcium.
- Slow Release: The calcium in eggshells is released slowly as the shells break down, providing a steady supply to the plants.
- Sustainability: Using eggshells is an eco-friendly method, repurposing waste into a valuable resource.
Preparation of Eggshells
- Collecting: Save eggshells from your kitchen and let them air dry.
- Cleaning: Rinse the shells thoroughly to remove any egg residue.
- Sterilizing: Bake the eggshells in an oven at 200°F for 10-15 minutes to kill any pathogens.
- Crushing: Grind the sterilized eggshells into a fine powder using a blender or mortar and pestle.
How to Use Eggshells
- Initial Soil Mixing: Add 3 to 4 tablespoons of crushed eggshell powder to the soil at the bottom of each planting hole before setting your tomato plants.
- Top Dressing: Sprinkle additional crushed eggshells on top of the soil around the base of the plants.
- Side Dressing: As the plants grow, add more eggshell powder as a side dressing to replenish calcium levels.
5. Use Powdered Milk
Powdered milk is another source of calcium and can be applied to the soil around the tomato plant. Mix the powder with water as per the package instructions and water your plants with the solution.
- Direct Application to the Soil: Sprinkle a small amount of powdered milk around the base of the plant in the soil. You can do this when you first plant your tomatoes, and it can also be done throughout the growing season as needed.
- Powdered Milk Solution: Another method is to dissolve the powdered milk in water and use this to water the plants. Use approximately 1/4 to 1/2 cup of powdered milk per gallon of water. Pour the mixture slowly around the base of the plant, making sure not to splash it onto the leaves to prevent possible fungal problems.
- Foliar Spray: You can also use the powdered milk solution as a foliar spray. Spray it lightly on the tomato plant leaves. This can help provide calcium directly to the plant, although this method is not as effective as applying it to the soil.
6. Go for Tums or Antacids
Antacids or Tums are also a good source of calcium, and while unconventional, can be used to help combat blossom end rot. Here’s how you can use them:
- Directly to the Soil: Crush 1-2 tablets and add them to the hole before planting the tomato. They will dissolve slowly over time, releasing calcium for the plant’s roots to absorb.
- Antacid Solution: Crush 1-2 tablets and dissolve them in a gallon of water. Use this solution to water your tomato plants at their base. This method provides a quicker but temporary fix as it directly increases the amount of soluble calcium available to the plant.
7. Use Bone Meal
Bone meal is a great source of calcium and can help to prevent or mitigate blossom end rot in tomato plants. Here’s how you can use it:
- At Planting Time: Incorporate bone meal into the soil at planting time. You can add 1-2 tablespoons of bone meal to the hole before planting the tomato. This will provide a slow-release source of calcium for the plant as it establishes itself.
- Top Dressing: During the growing season, you can also apply bone meal as a top dressing. Sprinkle a tablespoon or two around the base of the plants, keeping it away from direct contact with the stems. Water the area thoroughly to help the bone meal begin to break down and make the nutrients available to the plant.
- Incorporate into the Soil: If you have a known calcium deficiency in your soil, you may want to mix bone meal into the top layer of your garden soil at the beginning or end of the growing season. This will help to boost overall soil calcium levels.
Bone meal is a slow-release fertilizer, meaning it won’t instantly add calcium to the soil. It breaks down over time with the help of soil microorganisms, gradually releasing nutrients. Because of this, it’s best to add bone meal to the soil several weeks before you plant.
8. Go for Garden or Dolomite Lime
Garden lime (calcium carbonate) and dolomite lime (which contains calcium carbonate and magnesium carbonate) can help to add calcium to the soil and adjust soil pH, which can be beneficial in preventing blossom end rot in tomatoes. However, before using lime, it’s best to perform a soil test because adding lime when it’s not needed can result in soil that is too alkaline for tomatoes.
Here’s how you can use lime if your soil test indicates a need for it:
- Incorporate Lime into Soil Before Planting: If your soil test shows that your soil pH is acidic and needs to be raised, apply the lime a few weeks before planting your tomatoes. This gives it time to start working in the soil. You can till it into the soil or apply it to the surface and water it in.
- Amount to Use: The amount of lime to use depends on your current soil pH and how much you need to adjust it. The product label should have recommendations for how much to use based on your needs. As a rough guideline, you might apply 5-10 pounds of lime per 100 square feet of garden area, but this can vary depending on the specific conditions of your soil.
- Side-Dressing with Lime: You can also side-dress your tomato plants with a small amount of lime when you plant them. Put a handful of lime in the planting hole along with the plant.
Remember that lime is slow-acting and it can take several months to fully alter soil pH, so it’s often best applied in the fall or early spring before planting.