How to Banish Blossom Rot From Your Tomato Garden

How to Banish Blossom Rot From Your Tomato GardenBlossom rot, or blossom end rot, is a common problem encountered by professional and back yard tomato gardeners. You may be asking what is blossom rot? It is a disease that that can be identified by a dark, rotten spot at the blossom end of developing tomatoes.

But no need to despair, as there are techniques you can use to counter act blossom rot before it even starts. It is pertinent that you follow through with the methods, because once the end rot appears on an individual fruit, there is no way to cure the affected tomato.

You can cut away the rotted portion of the tomato after you harvest it and safely eat the portion that was not affected, but it is best to eliminate the problem before it reaches that point.

How To Prevent Tomato Blossom Rot

Let’s examine these questions:

  1. How does blossom rot start?
  2. How can I prevent it from showing up in the first place?

Blossom end rot is a physiological affliction of the tomato plant. Initial symptoms can  and consist of small, light brown flecks and lesions occur initially on green fruit that are clustered on the blossom end of the developing fruit.

As the disorder worsens, a circular to oblong, dark brown, firm lesion develops on the blossom end.

If blossom rot is left unchecked, you can lose a large portion of your entire tomato crop to this condition.

What causes blossom end rot is the plants deficiency in calcium. Adequate amounts of calcium are needed in order for tomato plants to produce their fruit properly. Even if you have plenty of calcium in your soil, your plants may not be able to effectively absorb it for a number of reasons. When this occurs, your plants are at risk of contracting blossom rot.

Prevention

Now to answer the question of how to prevent blossom rot in the first place? To prevent blossom end rot is making sure your plants have getting enough calcium and are able to absorb enough of the mineral.

soil test kitBefore planting your tomatoes, be sure to have your soil tested or do it yourself with an inexpensive soil testing kit.

Ideally, your soil should be slightly acidic, with a pH somewhere running between 6.2 to 6.8. The plants also need a constant supply of major and minor plant nutrients as well (Bonnie Plants).

To start, if your soil is too acidic, add some limestone to increase the pH. Use caution when adding this soil amendment, because adding too much will cause the soil too be, to alkaline.

If this occurs, or if your soil is naturally alkaline, you can amend it with rich organic matter, elemental sulfur or an acidifying fertilizer, such as ammonium sulfate. It can be very challenging to lower soil pH, however, because limestone in the ground is continually dissolving.

If you live in an area where alkaline soil is a fact of life, you may want to build raised beds to create a more favorable environment that tomato plants will thrive and produce tasty fruits.

water base of tomato plant

Image Credit: HGTV – Garden

Once your soil is at the optimum pH level, you’ll want to ensure your plants are receiving adequate moisture.

Optimal tomato growth requires regular and deep watering, so that water gets all the way down to the entire root system.

Make sure your plants are receiving 1 to 2 inches of water weekly, and more if a warm spell comes on.

To reduce the chance of foliar diseases, water the base of tomato plants and avoid getting water on the leaves, especially if you’re watering in the evening.

Blossom end rot will usually occur at the start of the season as the first fruits appear. If you notice your tomatoes are showing possible signs of blossom rot, make sure your plants are watered deeply every 4 to 5 days. If it is extremely hot in your area, water them even more frequently.

To determine when it is time to water your plants, dig down 3 or 4 inches into the soil. If the soil is moist, wait 24 hours and check again. When the soil at that level is dry, it is time to water again.

seaweed extractFinally, many tomato gardeners also swear by liquid kelp (seaweed) extract as a way to combat blossom rot. Sea Kelp contains a natural substance you can use to condition soil, and it can contain more than 70 vitamins, minerals and enzymes essential to the health your tomato plants.

The extract and fertilizer are readily available in local garden centers, large home improvement stores or via online retailers. You may want to test it out on part of your garden to see how it works for you.

Although blossom rot can be a garden dilemma, it is time will spent in preparation and planning your tomato garden, which will go a long ways towards eradicating blossom end rot from your garden.

Header Article Image Credit: Durham County Master Gardener Volunteer Program

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Vegetable Gardening and Raising Chickens the Organic Way

organic vegetable gardenWhether you’re on a budget, aren’t sure of the authenticity of local organics or both, the surest and cheapest way to get good organic food is by growing your own. And growing your own can be as simple or as involved as you want.

If you’re a first-time gardener, the trick is not to overwhelm yourself. Keep your garden relatively small, but leave room for expansion when you’re ready. A family of 4 can start with about 200 square feet (approximately 50 square feet per person) and have a great supply of produce. But if you don’t want to start that big, don’t. Do what you’d like and what you can.

organic tomato growing in a potIf you don’t have a lot of space, containers work well. Root vegetables may not be possible but some people report great success in growing potatoes in compost bags. Other traditional container fare includes tomatoes, cucumbers, green beans, carrots, peppers, strawberries, blueberries and herbs.

If you are growing in the ground, there are a couple of things to consider. First, is the amount of sunlight. The second is soil quality.

For sunlight, you should find a space that gets what’s full sun. That’s about 8 hours of sun each day. Some items may need a little less sun, but 8 hours will help you grow a large variety.

For soil quality, you are looking for a pH of about 5.8 – 6.8 and you can buy an inexpensive testing kit at a garden store. You can increase pH, or correct acidity, by adding limestone. To decrease pH, or to correct alkalinity, use elemental limestone. Also, ensure that you have plenty of organic material in your soil and add leaves and compost to help.

If your soil isn’t quite right, you can make raised beds and surround them with bricks or stone to contain the nutrient rich and balanced soil.

When you’re ready to start planting, consider planting some plant starts, instead of seeds. They may be a little more difficult to find organically, but for first time growers, they’re much easier to work with.

Make sure to water your plants regularly. Seeds should be watered daily. New plants should be watered every 2-3 days. On particularly hot days, you may need to do more. You can even collect rain water for your plants by using rain barrels or creating your own from garbage pails.

watering can

Organic herbicides don’t work that well. Instead, take the time to pull weeds, ensuring you grab the weeds fully by their roots or they will continue to grow. Weeding regularly will keep them from maturing and becoming problematic…plus it makes your whole job quicker and easier.

As you go through your gardening journey, keep a record. Write down dates things are planted, how they are treated and progress. Take weather and other conditions into consideration. It will allow you figure out what worked well and help you improve your gardening techniques, year after year.

You may not feel like a green thumb now, but keep at it. It’s so worth it. Now let’s talk about raising chickens.

Backyard Chickens: Tips for Getting Started, his will be our theme.

organic chicken eggsA few years ago, it seemed a little bizarre that someone would keep chickens in their backyard. These days, no one bats an eye at this inexpensive and rewarding way to feed the family.

There are a few reasons why people raise chickens:

– Obviously, for the fresh eggs
– Natural removal of weeds and bugs
– Save money
– It’s pretty easy, once you get started

Of course, always check local laws about raising chickens in your yard and ensure you’re in compliance before you start. You can purchase chickens from a variety of suppliers. You can actually hatch eggs or raise chicks, but they are more work than a grown chicken. Keep your climate in mind, the egg size you want and whether or not the chicken will be raised strictly for eggs. You can use the handy tool here to select a breed.

One chicken will lay about 4-6 eggs per week, but they generally lay less in colder months, so keep this in mind when planning their space.

Raising Chickens

To raise chickens, you can have them running free, but a coop provides protection from the elements and predators, so make a plan to build one. A coop should provide about 2-3 square feet per hen and for the outside area; each hen should have about 5 square feet of space. In a coop they can peck each other without enough space, so never try to cram them in.

As you build, keep seasonal temperatures in mind. Make sure air can get through in summer and keep it from going through in winter. You can even use a tarp to keep air from blowing through and remove it, as needed. Use a slanted roof to let rain roll off, if you live in a rainy area.

Inside the coop, use pine shavings for the flooring. This makes it comfortable for the chickens and easy for clean up as you scoop out and replace the shavings. Provide plenty of roosting space. They will also need nesting space. Wooden boxes work well for this.

You can feed chicken store-bought feed pellets. They also love vegetables scraps, bread and bugs. Give them fresh water regularly, keep their area clean and you’ll have happy chickens. Check on them daily and collect their eggs each day as well. Eggs can go bad quickly in warm weather and in cold weather; they can freeze, expand and crack.

Hand feeding Chickens

If you have young children, always supervise them with the chickens. Chickens will peck to defend themselves and although it won’t take a child too long to learn this, you need to be there to ensure proper handling of the chickens. In addition, live poultry can carry salmonella. Everyone should wash their hands thoroughly and immediately after handling the chickens or being in your chicken’s area.

Overall, having chickens can be a very rewarding experience and many people come to see chickens as part of their family. It is a long term commitment because chickens can live for 12 years or more. Just care for them, protect them and they will serve you well.

Next theme link here:  Nine Things to Consider When Storing Organic Food

 

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