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Nothing is more disheartening than grabbing a beautiful tomato only to find the entire bottom is soft, black, and rotten. Blossom end rot (BER) affects tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, squash, and melons. Caused by insufficient calcium and uneven water during the rapid growth of the plant and its fruit, BER is easily avoidable with the proper precautions.
All vegetables need calcium for healthy development. When tomatoes, peppers, melons, and eggplant can’t get enough, the tissues on the blossom end of the fruit break down. By testing your soil to determine its pH and calcium content, regular watering, and curbing fertilizer use, your susceptible veggies should be free of BER.
The best prevention occurs before planting. The soil pH determines the amount of calcium available to a plant. At lower pH levels, less calcium is available for the plant to absorb because it becomes chemically tied up in the soil. Most vegetables grow well in soils with a pH of 6.2-6.8. However, vegetables susceptible to BER require a pH of 6.5-6.8, where more calcium is available and it can be more easily absorbed, especially during rapid growth and fruiting periods. If the pH is lower than 6.5, the crop is likely to develop BER. This can also occur when the pH is correct, but the soil contains an insufficient amount of calcium.
Water fluctuations and excessive fertilizer also affect nutrient absorption. A plant requires water to absorb nutrients. If no water is present, no nutrients can be absorbed, and in addition to blossom end rot, plants may be small and weak as well as more susceptible to other pests, diseases, and deficiencies.
Additionally, too much fertilizer can cause a plant to grow so quickly that the nutrient uptake cannot meet the demands of growth, leading to BER. In these cases, the plants grow so rapidly that there isn’t time for the proper nutrient balance to be absorbed, including the right amount of calcium. Because of this accelerated growth and insufficient nutrition for the growth pace, plants will be more susceptible to blossom end rot.
Unfortunately, simply adding calcium to the soil will not stop BER this year, but it can help your soil become better conditioned for next year. However, we do carry several products to help with this year’s crop as well. Easy-to-use calcium sprays can save much of this year’s crop of tomatoes or other vulnerable produce. Come on in and our knowledgable staff will help you find the best product for your situation, as well as tips on how to improve your soil’s pH levels, calcium content, moisture retention, and overall nutrition so blossom end rot is never a problem in your garden again.