Vegetable Garden Tips – The Best Ways to Stop Tomato Blossom End Rot

Vegetable garden tips on how to grow the perfect tomatoes are a dime a dozen. The good ones usually highlight how to choose the best soil and fertiliser that is needed to grow tomatoes successfully in your yard in addition to the proper water intake.

And that’s fine. However, there’s one crucial tip you shouldn’t ignore and that is how to stop the dreaded blossom end rot from infecting your tomato plants. If you fail to do that, you’ll most likely harvest a pile of rotten fruit at the end of the growing season rather than the juicy, delicious red tomatoes that you were expecting to feast upon.
The good news is that there are a few simple, easy to follow steps for you to take which will help you avoid blossom end rot.

Blossom end rot is fairly easy to recognise. It first appears as a dark brown area on the blossom end of the tomato fruit, which explains the name. As the fruit grows bigger, the spot will sink and become darker, eventually turning black and leathery. Other diseases and secondary conditions often take root in the same spot as well, thus magnifying the problems.

The cause of tomato blossom end rot is due to a physiological disorder resulting from a deficiency of calcium in the fruit. This might be due to low levels of calcium in the soil, or it could be due to excessive quantities of nitrogen or potassium in the soil as these properties can prevent the plants from absorbing an adequate supply of calcium. In addition, watering too much (high moisture) or too little (water stress) can also reduce the uptake of calcium to the plants and result in blossom end rot.

Now that you know what causes it, it is easier to understand what steps you need to take to stop blossom end rot from ruining your tomatoes. First, before you plant, you should test the pH of your soil. You want the pH level to be around 6.5, and if it is too acidic, you can add agricultural lime to the soil to make up for the calcium deficiency. Ideally, add the lime at least two months before planting, just to make sure that the lime has enough time to become incorporated into the soil. This in turn will ensure that the soil has enough calcium for the plants to feed on when they need it.

It’s important to remember that directly spraying the fruit with calcium after it has contracted blossom end rot is practically useless because the fruit does not have any entry points in its skin to absorb the calcium. However, it may help if you spray the leaves (as opposed to the fruit) before there are any symptoms of the condition.

Next, improper fertilisation, especially an excess of nitrogen, can also result in blossom end rot because nitrogen encourages more leaves to grow and less fruit. This tends to reduce the distribution of calcium to the fruit. However, an easy but effective method to ensure that you fertilise correctly is to use organic fertilisers that are especially made for tomatoes since these will already have the right combination of nutrients.

Thirdly, try to be consistent when watering your tomato plants. This means water regularly rather than drench the plants and then leave them without water for days or even weeks. They should get about one inch of water each week during the growing and fruiting phase depending on the type of soil and weather conditions where you live. The soil should be kept damp but not soaked. The idea is to prevent the moisture level in your soil from going up and down, causing moisture stress which can increase the likelihood of developing blossom end rot.

Finally, you should plant your tomatoes in soil that drains well. This encourages the plants to produce roots that are strong enough to take in enough calcium so as to reduce the chances of blossom end rot from forming on the fruit.

I hope you find these vegetable garden tips worthwhile because they make a lot of sense. If you follow them correctly, you should be able to stop blossom end rot from spoiling your tomatoes. The result? A bountiful harvest of delicious tomatoes for you to eat and share.

Final Tip

Use mulches to keep the moisture level in your soil constant. Choose something like straw or ground leaves. If you avoid severe fluctuations in the moisture level of the soil, you will reduce the chances of moisture stress occurring which, you’ll remember, can cause blossom end rot.

Gardening Plants – Stop your Mum from Killing Them

You can make sure that your mum’s gardening plants will succeed if you follow one simple tried and tested rule that will serve you well over many years. It’s just this: never over water your vegetable plants unless you want to kill them. Yes, it’s well-known but you’d be surprised how many would be gardeners, especially beginners, forget to observe this rule and end up frustrated when their vegetable plants eventually die. You may also be surprised how easy it is for the unwary gardener to over water.

How do you tell when your vegetable plants are getting too much water?

They can be:

  • Yellow/brownish leaves
  • Drooping or wilted plants
  • Stunted or rotting roots
  • New leaves are absent

These are generally the main signs but note that these signs are also common to other problems such as not enough water. However, there is absolutely no need to over analyse this. It’s not rocket science. The easiest way to check is to dig under the soil about an inch or so deep and take a good look. If the soil is dry at that level, you obviously need to water your plants. On the other hand, if it’s really wet or waterlogged, you need to investigate and find out what is the reason.

Two explanations come to mind immediately. One is that you have been too keen and been watering too frequently. That’s easily fixed. I don’t have to tell you what to do, right?

Most plants like water but not to excess. As a general rule, they should get more water when they are young but, once they are set, they require less water. In fact, if there is enough rain in your area, established plants probably do not need that much extra watering at all. Of course, if rainfall is inadequate, then you have to compensate and supply them with additional water. The rule of thumb here is about an inch each week or as needed.

Remember to water slowly at the root level. This is to ensure that the water enters the top soil and travels deeply to the root system where it’s needed most. Watering quickly may have the opposite effect. Instead, the water may form a puddle on the surface of the ground and eventually evaporate or it will just run off harmlessly.

The other explanation for your waterlogged soil is you have a drainage problem. In that case, you need to address it fairly quickly. Often, this drainage problem is simply due to poor soil in your garden. The solution is to try and improve the soil structure and condition by adding lots of organic matter, compost or well-rotted manure. But, if this fails, you may be facing a much bigger problem in your yard. If it’s severe enough, faulty drainage can potentially undermine your house and other buildings, not to mention create a host of other complications. But, don’t panic. Just attend to it urgently.

By making your mum aware of this rule and telling her to go easy on the water, you can stop her from killing her gardening plants. Don’t forget to mention that, watering her plants only when they need it, requires less effort on her part and will bring her water bill down, saving her money. And, she will also do her bit for the environment by reducing her water consumption. We should all be trying to do that.

Feed the birds in your garden

Like most people, I get a lot of enjoyment out of watching the birds visiting my garden and from knowing that they are benefitting from my help at the same time.

There are several ways you can make your garden much more tempting to them, ways that will help them not only when food is scarce in the winter months, but all year round. One such way is to think long term and to grow lots of wildlife friendly plants and flowers which will provide the birds with a natural source of food.

At the time of year when these natural sources of food are less available to the birds we can help by providing them with food on a bird table or in some hanging feeders, along with some fresh water. In winter a high energy food is best as it helps the birds survive the cold temperatures and fat balls are ideal. Either buy them from the shop (remove the nets before putting out) or try making your own with our lovely easy recipe.

Nice and Easy Fat Balls Recipe

Ingredients:

  • A pack of lard (don’t use cooked fat)
  • Mixed pack of bird seed

For hanging fat balls:

  • String
  • Small yogurt cartons, coconut shells or pinecones

Method:

  • Cube the lard and add it to a bowl. Add a couple of cups of bird seed and mix together with your hands aiming for an even mix of seed throughout the mixture.
  • Either form into balls and then place in the fridge to harden. When ready just place on the bird table or in a hanging bird feeder.
  • OR press into a yogurt carton or coconut shell, place in the fridge to harden. Hang it of the bird table, trees or bushes with string.
  • OR use a pinecone with the scales opened up and press the mixture into the spaces between the scales. Tie some string to the top of the pine cone and hang!

Other foods suitable food for birds:

Sunflower (black if possible), nyjer seeds, millet, chopped peanuts (unsalted), oats, raisins (poisonous to dogs), hard cheese, bacon rinds, breadcrumbs, pasta, rice, boiled potatoes. Fruits – apples, pears, plums, soft fruits.

Hygiene:
To prevent disease, regularly clean out feeders and tables and only use fresh food.

Water:
Remember to always place fresh water out for the birds too.

Wildlife Friendly Gardening:

  • Grow plants which have fruits and berries. For example the berries of holly and ivy are an excellent source of food for birds in the winter months.
  • Avoid using slug pellets and pesticides.
  • Leave some fruit on the trees and bushes over the winter months.
  • Leave cutting back your herbaceous plants as long as possible so the seeds heads and berries remain for the birds.
  • Create a wild area in the garden and allow plants to grow such as nettles and brambles which will create great hiding areas as well as food for the birds

Now all you have to do is sit back and enjoy watching the birds from the comfort of your home!

Producing Tomato Seeds

Every tomato seed is enclosed in a small jelly-like envelope containing chemical substances which keep the seed dormant. This envelope prevents the seed from germinating in the warm, liquid interior of the fruit. A mature tomato retains a surprising amount of heat during the hottest Summer days. If left to nature, the fruits fall from the plant, rot, and the fermentation process destroys the jelly-like envelope.

This fermentation process must be reproduced artificially if you want to produce your own tomato seeds. This is very easy to do. Simply cut the fruit in two, remove the seeds and the juice, and place them in a jar. Water can be added, as in certain conditions it can help the fermentation process. This liquid is left for a few days until a white musty skin appears on the surface. The main agent of fermentation is called Oospora lactis, which helps destroy bacterial diseases.

The time needed for fermentation varies according to the surrounding temperature. Be careful during the hot Summer days, as fermentation can take place in less than 48 hours. In this case, if you wait too long you may lose the seeds. Freed of their jelly-like protection, they will happily start to germinate in very favorable hot and liquid conditions.

Therefore, when the fermentation process is complete, the seeds are cleaned by putting them in a fine strainer and running water over them, stirring vigorously while doing so. Waste and decomposed immature seeds will disappear through the strainer, leaving behind only the good seeds. They are then laid out to dry on a fine mesh (for example, a supple plastic mosquito net). Dry, ventilated conditions are necessary.

It is strongly recommended NOT to dry them on paper (they will stick to it, making it impossible to remove them), nor in the oven (even at low heat), nor in full sunlight. The key element of drying is not heat, but ventilation. This rule holds for all types of seeds.

During a hot humid period, it is strongly recommended to use a ventilator. You should also separate the little piles of seeds delicately by hand during the drying process. The dried seeds should then be placed preferably in glass jars or in small paper sachets, protected from humidity.

Tomato seeds have an average germinating lifetime of 4 years. This said, they can last up to 10 years or more.