Tomatoes rotting on bottom

Blossom-End Rot: Prevention and Treatment

Blossom end rot usually occurs early in the season with the first or second flush of fruit, just when the plant is at maximum growth and is putting on the first growth of fruit, with a second set of flowers on the way. It is in high gear and needs all of its nutrients available to be healthy, resist pests and disease, as well as grow lots of those delicious tomatoes and peppers we’ve spent so much time, effort and energy on. The key to preventing blossom end rot is to supply a sufficient, steady amount of calcium to the plant so it can be transported into the fruit continuously. Problem solved!

Not so fast, just how can we make sure that the plant has a steady supply of calcium?

The Prevention Phase

Here is where we branch off into the two approaches – the primary and the secondary. The primary, preventative approach is to have enough calcium in the soil that feeds the roots and is transported to the fruit throughout the growing season. That calcium in the soil must be ‘available’ meaning that the roots can actually absorb it and transport it where it is needed. Available means that it isn’t tied up by another mineral or a pH level that won’t ‘let go’ of it. There is more to the story than just adding a calcium amendment to the garden bed!

A very good example of this is where we live in central Arizona, there is a decent amount of calcium in the soil that plates out on faucets and glassware as a calcium deposit. Conventional wisdom says not to worry about calcium because it is everywhere. That’s true, but the challenge we have is the pH of the soil is fairly alkaline at 8+ on the pH scale, so the calcium is ‘tied up’, or not available to the plants. This is proven by the weed populations we typically see that only grow in calcium deficient soils.

So what can be done? A comprehensive soil test is one of the best, first steps to take. This is much more than the simple NPK type of test done by university extension offices or the do-it-yourself test kits bought at the local garden center. A complete soil analysis is one that is collected and sent off to a recognized, professional lab that sends back a report on every mineral found along with recommendations on what direction to go and what nutrients to add in what form. They will usually cost from $25 to $75 range, depending on what analysis and information you need. There are several of these labs in the US; the two that we’ve worked with and are familiar with are Crop Services International and Texas Plant and Soil Lab. From this, you will have a very good indication of where to go next.

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Fall or early spring is a great time to get your soil tested and amended in preparation for the next growing season for a few reasons – the soil testing labs are generally not as busy, so results are quicker; and soil amendments will need some time to become integrated and available into the soil nutrients, so the fall to early spring time-frame gives you the needed time, and it is easily incorporated into the traditional garden cleanup and prep.

Calcium is closely tied with magnesium, and this will be indicated on the soil analysis. More acidic soils, such as those generally found in the eastern states, will benefit from lime or calcium carbonate, while the more alkaline soils in the western states will need gypsum or calcium sulfate. Lime tends to raise the pH, while gypsum tends to lower it.

Water’s Role in Blossom End Rot

Water plays an often overlooked, but equally important, role in the blossom end rot saga. Inconsistent levels and rates of water will greatly vary the amount of calcium and other nutrients available to the plant, increasing the chance of diseases attacking the fruit like blossom end rot. This is one of the reasons we talk a lot about a drip system on a timer – it really helps even out the moisture levels in the soil and greatly reduces the stress on the entire garden, with the happy result of lowered amounts of nutrient and stress related problems. Of course, the weather can also play havoc with all of our carefully laid plans, as heavy and sudden rainfall can cause blossom end rot and splitting of tomatoes, along with a noticeable ‘wash-out’ of flavor and taste.

The Treatment Phase

This is where the acute or treatment approach is needed. Calcium carbonate tablets, or anti-acid tablets (Tums or the equivalent) work great when a couple of them are inserted at the base of a tomato or chile plant, where they will dissolve and make the calcium available to the plant in just a few hours, saving this flush of fruit if done right after the rains, or the next set if done when blossom end rot is first noticed.

Another approach is to feed calcium directly to the roots through the drip system as a liquid fertilizer, usually with calcium chloride or calcium nitrate. This approach works very well in offsetting one of the most overlooked causes of blossom end rot – great weather. That’s right – excellent weather with moderate temperatures and lots of sunshine put the plants into overdrive, and their rapid growth can often simply outstrip the amount of available calcium in the soil, even if you have been proactive last fall. The calcium just cannot be taken up out of the soil fast enough, so feeding through the drip system can be a big bonus during these times. The secondary approach will always be needed, even if you’ve done your homework and amended the soil the previous fall.

Calcium isn’t absorbed very well by the leaves of a plant, especially older leaves. The roots are much better at absorption, plus they can transport the calcium faster than through a foliar approach. For these reasons, stay away from trying a foliar spray to supply calcium to your tomatoes.

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Blossom end rot won’t ever quite go away, because of the reasons you’ve seen here. With some knowledge and practice, you can easily create a much better environment in the soil that supports the plants much more fully and then use the supplemental approach to keeping the calcium levels high enough to minimize blossom end rot and keep more of your hard work for your dining table instead of as scraps for the chickens or compost pile!

For more information on how to build your soil in a biologically friendly way and maximize pest and disease resistance, all without harmful petro-chemicals, visit our Gardening Tips and Tricks section of our website! Stephen Scott is an heirloom seedsman, educator, speaker, soil-building advocate, locavore, amateur chef, artist and co-owner of Terroir Seeds with his wife, Cindy. They believe in a world of healthy soil, seed, food and people. Everyone has a fundamental need for vibrant food and health, which are interrelated. They welcome dialogue and can be reached by email or 888-878-5247. Visit their website and sign up for their newsletter for more education like this!

All MOTHER EARTH NEWS community bloggers have agreed to follow our Blogging Best Practices, and they are responsible for the accuracy of their posts. To learn more about the author of this post, click on the byline link at the top of the page.

Organic Control of Blossom-End Rot

Blossom-end rot is a common physiological problem associated with growing conditions that can affect susceptible plants anywhere. It affects fruit. Stems and leaves show no symptoms.

Causes

Blossom-end rot is a non-infectious disease or disorder of fruits caused by low levels of calcium in the fruit. For example, a tomato’s fruit needs calcium to grow. Calcium acts like glue, binding cells together. Tomatoes absorb calcium through water but calcium isn’t fast moving. If a tomato grows rapidly, or if some other conditions slow water absorption, then calcium doesn’t circulate evenly throughout the fruit. The tomato’s tissues breakdown and leave the telltale damage of blossom-end rot on its bottom end.

Blossom-end rot on tomatoes.

Several factors can limit a plant’s ability to absorb enough calcium for proper development. These include:

  • fluctuations in soil moisture (too wet or too dry)
  • excess nitrogen in the soil (lowers calcium uptake)
  • root damage
  • cold temperatures/cold soil
  • soil pH that’s markedly acidic or alkaline
  • excessive heat
  • soil high in salts (lowers the availability of calcium)

Plants Commonly Affected

Tomato, pepper, cucumber, squash, eggplant, watermelon and other fruiting vegetables.

Blossom-end rot on a green tomato.

Damage and Symptoms

Blossom-end rot occurs on both green and ripe fruits and is characterized by a water-soaked, sunken, or brown spot on the blossom end of the fruit when the fruits are approximately half their full size. The spot then enlarges and turns into a leathery brown or black patch. If the problem is severe, the fruit will have a flattened or somewhat concave bottom end. Blossom-end rot will not spread from plant to plant or from fruit to fruit. The plant will generally show no signs of damage, yet the fruit will show tell-tale signs of blossom-end rot.

Organic Control and Prevention of Blossom-End Rot

Prevention:

  • Protect young seedlings from extreme temperatures and conditions by gradually hardening them off.
  • Grow plants in soil with good drainage.
  • Plant outside at the right time when soil is warm enough. Avoid setting plants out too early in the season, which can expose them to cold soil and temperatures.
  • Soil worked with organic matter and compost will allow the plant’s root system to grow strong and deep.
  • Avoid excessive nitrogen fertilization. Ensure adequate phosphorous levels.
  • Test your soil pH; tomatoes grow best at a soil pH of about 6.5. If needed, add quick-release lime to provide plenty of absorbable calcium.
  • Supply water evenly throughout the season to facilitate regular uptake of calcium. Tomatoes need 1-3 inches of water a week. They are known to prefer deep watering a couple of times a week rather than everyday superficial watering.
  • Avoid close, deep cultivation after fruit set, especially in dry weather. Scraping the soil lightly with a hoe is usually sufficient to control weeds in home gardens.
  • Mulch established plants to conserve moisture and provide a more uniform water supply. Suitable materials are straw free of weed seeds, corncobs, grass clippings, peat moss and newspaper.
  • Cultivate carefully around plants to avoid damaging root systems.
  • Choose resistant vegetable varieties whenever possible.

Control:

Blossom-end rot cannot be reversed on fruits once it’s set in, but steps can be taken to slow and halt it.

Blossom-end rot on a pepper.

  • At the first sign of blossom-end rot, pay attention to watering and mulching. Even out water supply to the plant so that it is never super dry and then super wet, instead make sure it has a steady, even supply of water.
  • Preserve affected plants by applying calcium immediately. Spray plants with natural calcium solutions such as Enz-Rot and Rot-Stop, which are specifically meant to treat blossom-end rot by correcting calcium deficiency. Follow label directions for application. Or mix 1 tablespoon calcium chloride in 1 gallon of water. Apply in the morning when temperatures are cool.
  • Reduce stress on the plant by picking affected fruit and thus allowing it to direct its energy to other tomatoes.
  • Cut out rotted spots on harvested fruit as blossom-end rot does not make the rest of the tomato inedible. However, if tomatoes have been infected by fungi or mold, discard them.
  • Spray with seaweed extract help supply some calcium to affected plants.

Most plants usually grow out of the problem later in the season when growing conditions have been corrected. Determinate varieties are more prone to blossom-end rot because they set fruit in a short period of time, whereas indeterminate and semi-determinate varieties set fruit throughout the season, allowing for easier calcium regulation for plants.

Tomato Rots On Bottom – Identifying Tomato Plants With Blossom Rot

Have you noticed tomato fruit that looks rotten on the bottom? A common problem in the garden, especially when growing tomatoes, and a commonly asked about topic, blossom end rot is usually seen in half grown fruits or early on in the season. So what is tomato blossom end rot and what, if anything, can be done about it? Read on to learn more.

Causes of Tomato Blossom End Rot

Blossom end rot (BER) is a physiological condition that results in a brown or yellow water-soaked spot which appears on the end of the fruit where the blossom once was. As the tomato grows, this spot darkens, eventually becoming leathery and black, and may even cover half the fruit’s bottom.

Often blossom end rot in tomatoes is blamed on a lack of calcium, either by depleted, poorly drained soil or simply from displacement due to transpiration, especially when plants are under stress. Technically, brown spots on tomatoes from blossom end rot is caused by this lack of calcium. For this reason, you often see it recommended that you should add calcium to the soil or replace the calcium in the plant through a foliar application in order to help correct the problem. But it is actually very rare for soil to be lacking in calcium.

Instead, there can be a number of other environmental causes of tomato blossom end rot, from uneven watering due to drought, heavy rainfall or an over caring gardener. Rapid plant growth, especially if given an overabundance of nitrogen early on, as well as fast climbing temperatures can contribute to blossom end rot in tomatoes and other susceptible fruits, like peppers, squashand eggplant.

Blossom end rot occurs not because the soil lacks calcium but because the plant simply cannot take calcium out of the soil at a fast enough rate to keep up with the growth of the plant or because stress causes the plant to be unable to process the calcium the plant does take up.

How to Stop Tomato Blossom Rot

Unfortunately, this disorder cannot be fully “cured,” as you can’t control nature. That said, tomato blossom end rot can be somewhat alleviated or managed to a certain extent by taking steps to improve or avoid conditions that foster its development – at least those more easily controlled by the gardener, like poor soil, watering and fertilizing.

Planting tomatoes in a timely matter and in a well-draining soil amended with organic matter will go a long way in giving the plants exactly what they need to develop healthy growth early on, which means that extra dose of fertilizer isn’t necessary. And if you do fertilize tomatoes, opt for one that is lower in nitrogen and only apply at the recommended rates, or cut by half.

Providing adequate and even amounts of water for tomato plants is important too. The addition of mulchcan help retain moisture while keeping the soil and plant roots insulated.

While it may or may not be effective, and is a highly debated topic, the addition of crushed eggshells, limestone or calcium carbonate in the soil won’t necessarily hurt, but it may not help much either.

All in all, the majority of tomato plant varieties will at some point be affected with blossom end rot. But, in most cases, as the season progresses, this condition will normally clear up on its own without any major ill effects. As for the fruit suffering from tomato blossom end rot, these can simply be picked off and discarded or cut the bad parts out of larger, more ripened ones and eat the rest – it won’t harm you.

by Matt Gibson

About Blossom-End Rot

When the growing season in your region starts out with lots of rainy days and then shifts to dry conditions as the fruit is setting, watch out for blossom-end rot (BER). When your tomatoes are about half of their mature size, damage may start to occur, appearing as large water-soaked areas that quickly enlarge and turn dark brown and leathery. These areas are actually rotting, so fruit must be picked and discarded.

The water-soaked spots occur at the blossom end (or the bottom side) of the fruit, hence the name of the condition. Blossom-end rot is not actually a disease, but a physiological disorder that is caused by a calcium imbalance in plants. Blossom-end rot is common in tomatoes, as well as peppers, eggplants, melons, and squash.

Causes And Symptoms of Blossom-End Rot

In soils with calcium deficiencies, blossom-end rot is a common issue. Calcium deficiencies can be caused by depleted soils, poor drainage, and displacement due to transpiration most especially when your tomato plants are under stress. Calcium deficiency in soils is not a common issue, and it’s not the only cause of blossom-end rot.

There are quite a few environmental causes that can lead to blossom-end rot issues as well, including:

  • heavy rainfall or overwatering
  • uneven watering (often caused by drought)
  • root damage from cultivation
  • too high or too low soil pH levels
  • cold soil
  • soil that is high in salts
  • fast climbing temperatures
  • rapid plant growth due to an overabundance of nitrogen early in the plant’s life cycle

A lack of calcium intake is still at the root of the problem. These common environmental issues cause plants to be unable to absorb enough calcium at a fast enough pace to keep up with the growth of the plant, or cause the plants to have trouble processing the calcium that they do take up because of stress from environmental causes.

Blossom-end rot usually occurs when the fruit is green or ripening, starting with a small, depressed, water-soaked area on the underside of the fruit. The spot then enlarges, becomes more depressed (physically, not emotionally) or sunken, and begins to turn dark, leathery-brown or black in color.

When calcium levels are too low for healthy growth, plant tissue begins to break down, causing the rot. If spotted early enough, you can cut around the rotten part and salvage some of the tomato if desired. Eventually, the rot will cover the lower half of the fruit, which will become concave, or flat, destroying the entire tomato.

Control and Prevention of Blossom-End Rot

The only control method for blossom-end rot is to remove the entire fruit. Once the rot has set in, there is not much you can do for the particular fruit that has been affected, but if you remove it from the plant, there is a chance that a healthy fruit might grow back in its place. Apply a liquid calcium fertilizer after removing the affected fruit to improve your chances of growing healthy tomatoes moving forward.

The best method of protection against blossom-end rot is prevention. The following prevention tips will help keep blossom-end rot out of your tomato beds:

  • Avoid cultivating, chopping, or hoeing near the root system of your tomato plants to keep from damaging the roots.
  • Make sure not to over-fertilize during early-fruiting, when BER is most likely to strike.
  • Keep soil pH around 6.5 adding lime to increase the calcium ratio. Add gypsum, bone meal, or powdered milk to the transplant hole to increase calcium intake. You can also add crushed eggshells, but keep in mind that they take a long time to break down and fortify the soil with calcium and are more of a long-term fix to increasing calcium levels in the soil.
  • Commercial calcium sprays can be applied directly to plants when blossoms first appear.
  • Use mulches, as well as manual irrigation (as needed) to maintain a consistent water supply. If it becomes rainy in your area, make sure your tomato beds have good drainage and soil dries out between waterings but continue to water when needed. Ideally, provide around one inch of moisture per week,
  • Use a nitrate nitrogen fertilizer instead of ammoniacal nitrogen. Ammoniacal nitrogen can actually cause BER flare-ups.
  • Stake young tomato plants when needed

Common Questions and Answers About Blossom End Rot

With proper treatment, it is possible to stop blossom end rot and even reverse the progression of the disease. While individual tomatoes can’t be salvaged once they’re affected, the plant itself can be nurtured back to health. Just follow these steps to stop blossom end rot in its tracks so your plants can produce many more disease-free tomatoes.

First, all affected fruits should be discarded. Then give affected tomato plants a jolt of calcium by adding powdered milk to the water you use to hydrate them. (You’ll sometimes see eggshells recommended as way to give plants calcium, but it takes time for the shells to decompose and release their calcium. The calcium in powdered milk will be available to your tomato plants immediately when you use it to water them.) Gardeners also use 4-12-4 or 5-20-5 fertilizers, or any fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in superphosphates, to prevent blossom end rot.

Finally, you should ensure your plants are getting plenty of water on a set schedule, as inconsistent watering can be the culprit behind blossom end rot. Make sure to water tomato plants daily. If you live in a particularly warm area or are going through a hot spell, you may even need to increase your watering schedule to twice per day. Water to a depth of six inches. It can take a few weeks of consistent hydration to see results, so don’t be discouraged if healing isn’t immediately apparent.

Can overwatering cause blossom end rot?

Blossom end rot can occur due to either overwatering or underwatering, as the real problem is lack of consistency. It’s most likely that tomato plants afflicted with blossom end rot went through a dry spell when they weren’t watered enough, then in an attempt to correct the problem, were overwatered next. Another scenario could be when the growing season starts out especially wet, then as the plants are setting fruit, the weather turns dry. Blossom end rot is most often caused by both inconsistent watering and a lack of calcium in the soil.

To treat blossom end rot, do not permit soil to completely dry out in between waterings. Tomato plants should be watered daily to a depth of six inches—and in particularly hot regions or times of year, they may need to be watered twice per day. Gardeners can also use a layer of mulch to help soil retain water and stay more consistently moist. (You can learn more about mulching in our Guide to Using Mulch the Right Way.

To address the lack of calcium in the soil, simply add some powdered milk to the water you use to hydrate your tomatoes. Powdered milk provides calcium immediately, while the eggshells that are often recommended take time to release the calcium they hold. You can also nourish your plants with fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in superphosphates, such as 4-12-4 or 5-20-5 blends.

Can you eat a tomato with blossom end rot?

Yes, you can cut away the rotted portion of your tomatoes and eat the rest. However, many people find that tomatoes affected with blossom end rot have a mealy texture and are less flavorful than healthy tomatoes. While you can eat them fresh, tomatoes that show signs of blossom end rot should not be preserved through canning or other methods.

Does blossom end rot affect the whole plant?

In short, no—blossom end rot affects the fruit only, not the entire plant. But it’s a little more complicated than that. The signs of blossom end rot are only apparent on the fruit of the plant, but blossom end rot can be due to issues with the root system. An underdeveloped root system may fail to draw the needed water and calcium from the soil, and the lack of those nutrients can result in blossom end rot. In other words, while the roots can contribute to blossom end rot, the disease’s impact is limited to the fruit of the plant where symptoms of the disease appear.

Does Epsom salt stop blossom end rot?

Adding Epsom salt to soil does not stop blossom end rot. On the contrary, it can contribute to causing blossom end rot in your plants. Blossom end rot is caused by inconsistent watering and lack of calcium, and Epsom salt doesn’t contain calcium. It does contain magnesium sulfate, and the magnesium it adds to the soil battles against calcium ions to be drawn into the plant’s root system.

Instead of Epsom salt, use powdered milk added to the water you give your plants to boost their calcium intake, and be sure they’re getting plenty of water on a consistent basis. When you’re having trouble with blossom end rot, don’t permit the soil to dry out between waterings. In hot regions or times of year, that may mean watering your plants twice a day instead of just once. Water to a depth of six inches each time. Adding a layer of mulch may also help keep moisture more consistently available in the soil. Another preventive measure against blossom end rot is fertilizer low in nitrogen and high in superphosphates, such as a 4-12-4 or 5-20-5 fertilizer.

How do you prevent blossom end rot?

You can prevent blossom end rot by ensuring a consistent watering schedule that meets the needs of your plants and providing plenty of calcium in the soil. Water your plants to a depth of six inches daily, and when weather is especially hot, you may need to water twice per day. Using a layer of mulch can help keep moisture in the soil, reducing the likelihood of it drying out in hot or dry weather.

If your region is cold at planting time, wait for soil to warm up a bit before planting your tomatoes. Cold soil can prevent your plants from taking in sufficient nutrients. Ensure that the pH level of your soil is around 6.5. (If you aren’t sure of your soil’s pH, read our article on how to test pH levels.)

You can make sure your soil has plenty of available calcium by adding powdered milk to the water you give your plants. Powdered milk will make calcium immediately available, as opposed to the eggshells you’ll sometimes see recommended, which need time to decompose before plants can access the nutrients they hold. Nourishing plants with a 4-12-4 or 5-20-5 fertilizer, or any blend low in nitrogen and high in superphosphates, also helps prevent blossom end rot.

How do you stop blossom end rot on tomatoes?

With proper treatment, you can stop the progression of blossom end rot. Although you won’t be able to recover fruits that are affected, you can heal the plants so they can produce more healthy tomatoes throughout the season. To stop blossom end rot on tomatoes, ensure your soil has plenty of calcium to offer, and water your plants consistently.

Adding powdered milk to the water you give your plants is the best way to boost available calcium in the soil. Some gardeners recommend eggshells, but it takes time for the eggshells to decompose and release calcium into the soil, unlike the immediate availability powdered milk supplies. Another supplement to fight blossom end rot is fertilizer that’s low in nitrogen and high in superphosphates, like a 4-12-4 or 5-20-5 blend.

Water your plants to a depth of six inches, and do not permit soil to dry out between waterings. In especially hot or dry climates or times of year, this may mean watering twice a day instead of once a day. A layer of mulch on top of the soil can help lock in moisture so it’s consistently available to your plants. It can take a few weeks of proper watering to kick blossom end rot to the curb, so don’t despair when recovery takes a little time.

How do you treat blossom end rot?

Treat blossom end rot by giving plants consistent access to water and by making calcium available in the soil. You can solve a lack of calcium by adding powdered milk to the water you give your plants. Powdered milk is more efficient than eggshells at providing your plants with calcium, as eggshells must decompose to release the nutrients within them into the soil. When it comes to watering, make sure you’re watering deeply and frequently enough. You can feed your plants with a 4-12-4 or 5-20-5 fertilizer, or any blend that’s low in nitrogen and high in superphosphates.

Water your plants to a depth of six inches, and don’t let soil dry out between waterings. If it’s particularly hot in your area or you’re going through a dry or hot spell, you may need to water plants twice a day instead of once daily. You can help lock moisture into the soil with a layer of mulch. It can take a few weeks for your plants to get rid of blossom end rot, so don’t give up if you don’t see the results of your adjustments right away.

How does blossom end rot spread?

Blossom end rot does not spread between plants in the garden because it isn’t a virus, fungus, bacteria, or the result of insect infestation. Blossom end rot strikes when plants don’t have access to enough calcium in the soil and when they’ve experienced inconsistent watering. An underdeveloped root system may prevent plants from taking in enough water and calcium even if it’s present in the soil for them as well.

Because blossom end rot isn’t contagious, you don’t need to remove and discard affected plants. If you provide them with calcium and plenty of consistently available moisture, in a few weeks they will begin producing healthy fruit again. That said, you should go ahead and remove any fruits that show signs of blossom end rot so your plants won’t devote energy and resources to them. While it’s safe to eat the portions of fruits that aren’t rotted, the texture and flavor will be subpar.

Should I remove tomatoes with blossom end rot?

Yes, you should remove tomatoes that show symptoms of blossom end rot. Though they aren’t contagious and the unaffected portion is safe to eat, the fruit will be mealy and lack flavor. Removing affected fruit also prevents your plants from devoting their energy to developing damaged produce, too, encouraging the creation of healthy new fruits instead.

What can get blossom end rot?

Plants that can get blossom end rot include apples, cucumbers, eggplants, melons, peppers, squashes, and tomatoes.

What can I use for blossom end rot?

Treating blossom end rot is a matter of providing sufficient calcium and consistent water for your plants. You can give plants a quick boost of calcium by adding powdered milk to the water you give them. Powdered milk is more efficient than eggshells, which must decompose before calcium is available. Water to a depth of six inches, and don’t permit the soil to dry completely between waterings. If it’s especially hot in your region or you’re going through a hot or dry spell, you may need to water plants twice a day instead of once. A layer of mulch on top of the soil can help keep water consistently available for the plants’ roots.

You can also plant your seeds a little later in the season if the weather is cold at planting time, as cold soil can prevent roots from taking in enough water and nutrients. Avoid cultivating the soil too near your existing plants so you don’t cut through their feeder roots. Positioning your plants where they’ll get some shade can also help when it’s dry, hot, or windy in your region. You can also nourish your plants with a fertilizer high in nitrogen and low in superphosphates, like a 4-12-4 or 5-20-5 blend.

What causes blossom end rot on tomato plants?

Blossom end rot occurs when plants aren’t getting enough calcium and haven’t had consistent moisture. It may happen when the weather was wet at the start of the season, then turned dry when plants began to set fruit. Any circumstances that cause underdeveloped roots can lead to blossom end rot, as the roots may not be able to take in sufficient water or nutrients.

What does blossom end rot look like on tomatoes?

Put simply, blossom end rot creates rotten-looking patches on the bottom of tomatoes or other affected fruit. At the base of fruit where the blossom used to be, blossom end rot creates water-soaked patches that start out brown or yellow, eventually turning black and leathery in texture. The discolored area can be quite large, covering up to half of the affected fruit.

Why does blossom end rot happen?

Blossom end rot happens when plants aren’t getting enough water on a consistent basis and when they aren’t taking in enough calcium. This can happen if calcium isn’t available in the soil or if roots are underdeveloped and unable to take in sufficient moisture and nutrients. Blossom end rot can also strike if plants get too much water at the beginning of the season followed by not enough water when they begin to set fruit.

Will TUMS help blossom end rot?

The amount of TUMS that would be required to provide sufficient calcium to help with blossom end rot makes this treatment ineffective. Another commonly recommended remedy for blossom end rot is eggshells, but it takes time for the shells to break down and release their calcium so it’s accessible for plants.

However, gardeners report success fighting blossom end rot when they add powdered milk to the water they give their plants. Many times, though, the problem behind blossom end rot isn’t only a lack of calcium but also inconsistent watering. To treat blossom end rot, plants need a few weeks of consistently available sufficient moisture to turn things around.

Water your plants to a depth of six inches, and don’t let the soil dry out completely between waterings. If it’s particularly hot or dry in your area, you may need to water twice a day instead of just once. Adding mulch or positioning plants where they’ll get some shade can also help keep moisture in the soil.

Want to learn more about how to fight tomato blossom-end rot?

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