Blossom end rot is a gardener’s worst nightmare! It appears as a black leathery spot on the vegetable and commonly happens with pepper, squash, cucumber, melons, and tomatoes.
Rot usually takes place when the growing season starts out wet but moves to dry conditions. Later on, this is when the fruit/vegetable starts to appear and along with them, the blossom end rot.
Many gardeners make the mistake of classifying the blossom end rot as a disease. Rather, it is a disorder and should be treated as such, with proper care and delicateness.
This rot is an indication that something is wrong with the soil.
As every gardener knows, plants require nutrients to grow properly which they acquire from the soil around the roots. One of these important nutrients is calcium.
A problem with the calcium level of your soil or perhaps the lack of calcium in the soil or improper transport of calcium from the roots results in blossom end rot.
Growing fruits have a need for large amount of calcium which they get from the soil. If they don’t get their required amount, the result is the black spot known as blossom end rot.
There are ways to fix this particular problem. Even though you can’t bring the afflicted plant back to its original state, you can prevent it from happening again.
But first you might need some background knowledge about blossom end rot and its reasons mainly being calcium deficiency in the plant.
Luckily this disorder is not contagious in the sense that it will affect other plants.
The Role of Calcium
Calcium plays a very vital role in the growth of the fruit. Water delivers the calcium in the soil to the roots of the plant which is then used to produce cell walls and root tips.
The calcium is actually responsible for holding the cell wall of the fruits/vegetables together.
If the roots don’t get the proper amount of calcium, the crops tissue start to break down, especially in the root or blossom end which results in the disease known as blossom end rot.
If you see a fruit/vegetable which already has the rot settled in, it’s best to remove it from the plant since not much can be done about it. At least removing it may provide the plant the opportunity to grow another one in its place.
A perfect solution that you can use to fix blossom end rot would be Calcium Nitrate Hydroponics Soluble 15.5-0-0 (2lbs).
Reasons for Calcium Deficiency
There are a couple of reasons for the lack of calcium in your plant and all of them have to do with your soil:
The soil has a deficiency of calcium
This is very rare for most soils. Mostly it happens where crops have grown again and again and the soil has not been properly maintained.
If the soil does not have any deficiency of calcium then the addition of more calcium might end up being counterproductive.
pH levels of your soil are disturbed
Most experts recommend that you should keep your soil’s pH level between 6.3 to 6.8.
A pH level which is higher or lower than the recommended level is bad news for the soil and by extension, the crop you’re growing.
These pH levels prevent the plant from being able to “grab” the calcium and use it.
The abundance of nitrogen in the soil
This abundance is mainly due to the fertilizer. It causes the plant to go through an accelerated growth.
It means that more nutrients are required then the plant is capable of pulling from the soil, thus leading to fruits that lack calcium and are hence afflicted with the blossom end rot.
The plant is not watered regularly
Water can’t carry the nutrients of the soil to the plant if you water your plants too much.
This leads to a smothering of the roots which becomes incapable of pulling calcium from the soil due to all the moisture in the soil.
The soil was too cold at the time of planting
Though this issue mostly occurs with gardens up north. The reason that the cold afflicts plants with the rot is that the cold actually interferes with the plant’s ability to absorb nutrients from the soil.
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How Can I Fix Blossom End Rot??
There is nothing more irritating or disheartening than to see that your lovely ripe veggies/fruits are rotting from the bottom.
It is a pain to see so many days of hard work, patience and persistence go in vain.
While there is nothing that you can do with those that have already been inflicted with blossom end rot, you can prevent it from spreading in other fruits/veggies as well.
Try some of these preventive measures to get started:
1. Check the pH Level of Your Soil
It’s best to check the pH level of your soil before planting. There are gadgets present which can instantly check the level of your soil.
You should try the following simple DIY method (shown below) that you can do using simple household items that can be found in any home.
Remember, the perfect soil pH level is 6.5.
DIY Vinegar and Baking Soda Test:
This DIY soil pH test is very simple and gives you the result right away and in a visual manner so it’s easy to identify the pH of the soil. Get a cup full of the soil from different places in your garden.
Get 2 separate containers and put 2 spoonfuls of the soil in each container. Add ½ cup vinegar in one container. If the soil starts to fizz then you have an alkaline soil with pH between 7 and 8.
If it doesn’t fizz then take the second cup and add some distilled water until the soil in the cup becomes muddy.
After that add ½ cup of baking soda. If it fizzes then your soil is acidic with pH between 5 to 6. If both containers have no reaction then that means that your soil is neutral, which is good news.
Some tips for Adjusting pH Levels
Now that you have found the pH level of your soil, you can adjust the calcium according to the test by putting some crushed eggshells in the soil.
You should use eggshells, as they have high calcium content. Also, add lime to raise the pH levels of your soil.
You should till some lime into the soil at a depth of about 6 to 8 inches in order to provide an effective change.
Other recommended materials include gypsum and bone meal. Do it only if the tests are positive and it would be best to consult an expert before taking any action.
Better safe than sorry.
Another recommended product to correct calcium deficiency for tomatoes is Southern STOP Blossom-End Rot of Tomatoes.
2. Avoid Using Too Many Fertilizers
As I stated above that too much nitrogen is also responsible for blossom end rot, so don’t use too much fertilizer on your soil, especially those that have high amounts of nitrogen in them.
That’s not to say that you should cut out the use of fertilizers completely, just use them less often and try to use ones where nitrogen content is less but phosphorus content is high.
At this point, the best treatment for your plants is some good old compost or mulch.
You may also check out Dr. Earth Organic 5 Tomato, Vegetable & Herb Fertilizer Poly Bag which helps for more abundant crops and more nutritious and tasty vegetables.
If you want to know more about ideas on how to create homemade fertilizers, check out 5 Of The World’s Best Homemade Vegetable Garden Fertilizers.
3. Use Mulch
It would be best if you surround the soil around your plant with some mulch to conserve the moisture in the soil. It also provides your plant with some nutrients.
4. Keep Track Of Your Watering Routine
Blossom end rot occurs more due to erratic watering rather than calcium deficiency. Remember to water your plant regularly so that it can receive the much-needed nutrients.Click To Tweet
The dry season needs more water. Make sure that the soil is moist to a depth of 6 inches.
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5. Good Drainage
When watering, remember to provide the plant with some good drainage as too much water can have the opposite effect.
It means that the roots will not be able to get the proper calcium intake with all the water in the soil.
An awesome alternative that can be used indoors for under potted plants is this GOLDEN MOON Artificial Grass Turf Tile Interlocking Self-draining Mat. Highly recommended!
6. Don’t Let your Soil Dry Out
In times of drought, it is best to set up a uniform supply of water using an irrigation system.
This system used in conjunction with mulch traps the moisture and ensures that the roots of the plants don’t die out.
Do not water the leaves since it increases the possibility of disorder on fruits and vegetables.
A down-to-earth, complete manual for achieving great gardening results with your own rich, organic soil can be found here: Building Soil: A Down-to-Earth Approach by Elizabeth Murphy.
If you are a beginner and you need tips and ideas on vegetable gardening, check out 27 Tips for Beginner Vegetable Gardeners.
7. Fortify your Crops at Planting
Fortifying your crop at planting is another way of ensuring that your crop remains healthy and does not suffer from blossom end rot.
You can do this in various ways such as using garden lime or adding 2-3 calcium antacid and even Tums tablet to the planting hole.
This will give your plant a calcium boost right from the beginning.
Make every month a gardening month with The Year-Round Vegetable Gardener: by Niki Jabbour’s proven techniques for year-round growing and harvesting.
8. Commercial Products
You can find products to help you fight blossom end rot in gardening stores. Follow the directions on the label, but these products are not a permanent fix.
It will only save the remaining crops that have not been infected. This is when you use the methods mentioned above.
A cheap and recommended product to use is Calcium Nitrate 15.5-0-0 Fertilizer
9. Home-made Solution
If you see signs of blossom end rot appearing on your crops, you can try to hold it at bay with this home-made solution.
Just add 2-3 calcium carbonate antacid tablets to about a quart of pure water and 8 ounces of milk.
Mix it well and then irrigate your plants regularly with this solution. It will help prevent other fruits and veggies from damage.
While this is not a foolproof solution, but it may stop blossom end rot from spreading further and ruining other crops too.
Organic Pest Control by John Parker is an exceptional book full of suggestions, recipes and project instructions for doing away with the pests that attack your garden.
10. Test your Soil
Get your soil tested each spring before planting. This is a great way to avoid the trouble of having a blossom end rot.
Check out this innovative and inexpensive soil test kit here: Luster Leaf Rapitest Soil Test Kit.
How to Fix Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes
Tomatoes are highly known to have blossom end rot. Here are some tomato-centric methods of curing or preventing blossom end rots:
- Try to avoid cultivating or hoeing near the roots of a tomato plant as it might damage the root thus, hampering its ability to gather calcium from the soil.
- In case of the pH level is too high or too low, mulching or using compost is the best option. Avoid the fertilizer during the early fruiting; it is at this time that blossom end rot starts to appear.
- Overall, the plants need to have at least one inch of moisture per week to maintain their proper growth.
Some species of tomatoes are more susceptible to the rot than others.
Another great product that you can use is Bonide Rot-Stop Tomato Blossom End Rot Concentrate. Be sure to follow the instructions and it works really well!
When it comes to blossom end rot, prevention is really the cure. Store brought commercial products might just delay the inevitable but they do nothing to cure the plant.
You should take care of the roots of your plants, as this is the best cure for blossom end rot. Make sure to provide it with good fertile soil and take care of its watering need.
If you are an aspiring gardener, I would recommend developing a consistent watering routine. It will go a long way into giving you healthy and fresh crops.
By the way, if you want to grow the best tomatoes and needed help and tips, check out this article: Do These 9 Things To Grow The Best Tomatoes Ever!