Ruh-Roh… Blossom End Rot

One of the greatest fears of the annual tomato gardener is blossom end rot. While I had been fortunate enough to not encounter this problem in previous years, this year it has hit one of my tomato plants with a vengeance, and mid-season no less, which in my head makes it more unpredictable and potentially harder to manage.

For most gardens, blossom end rot is an early season issue, arising on the first fruit of a plant when a rainy weather spell is quickly followed by a heat wave (or vice versa.) This can often be mitigated with the treatment of epsom salts to aid even water retention and absorption, though honestly, salt in the garden tends to scare me. When watering (or the lack thereof) is not the issue, it may also be a surefire tell that your soil is calcium deficient.

Since the tomatoes of various size and pedigree on either side of this particular vine currently show no symptoms, I decided it was safe to assume that watering was not, in fact, the issue. The issue at hand, as far as I could tell, was simply a hungry, finicky breed of paste tomato that originated from the volcanic soils of Mt. Vesuvius. While the soil in my garden may be fertile, I’m not so sure that it is as fertile as volcanic soil, generally high in silica, potassium, and phosphorous. From the six feet of growth that I’ve witnessed thus far, I am sure that it’s high in nitrogen, but too much of any good thing is never a good thing when it comes to gardening. (Though the other four less demanding nightshades in the same row seem to be happy with my soil, thank you very much, prissy paste tomato.)

So this week I set about researching to find a cure for my blossom end rot, lest my dreams of awesome tomato sauces be dashed. I began by cutting off all of the tomatoes that showed signs of rot. As heartbreaking as this can be, it’s better for the plant in the long run to refocus its energy toward getting healthier and creating new fruit. To prevent new fruit from becoming affected, I scoured the internet for answers. All readings led toward a potential calcium deficiency, but getting soluble calcium into an existing garden plot that is full of plants seemed hopeless, as it is generally something you add at the time of planting (or dig deeply into the soil.)

Finally, I stumbled across advice that I remember my Grandmother doing when I was a child: crushed antacid tablets, when stirred into a bucket of water, supposedly provide a simple, effective solution for many calcium plant issues. I grabbed a few Tums, smashed them with a mortar and pestle, and dissolved the fruit flavored powder in a giant watering can which I then used to douse the base of the plant, adding another two cans of water to make sure it absorbed into the soil. I honestly have no idea if this will work, or if my tomatoes will even enjoy the cherry orange and pineapplepalooza snack that I’ve forced on them, but it seems worth a shot.

Just goes to show, gardening is an experiment of trials and errors, and sometimes simple home remedies prove to be the best. Will keep you guys posted to whether or not this works!


About Veronica Flores

Going big or going home.
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