A Gardener’s Diary: Tips to prevent blossom end rot

Jocelyne Sewell says there are things that can be done with soil to prevent this common garden irritation in tomatoes

The much-needed rain we had last Saturday was enough to fill all the rain barrels and more. I was down to about one jug of water. What a difference it made in the garden. Everything was greener and the plants looked a lot better.

Someone phoned me to ask about bottom end rot in her tomatoes. I wrote about it in previous years but here it is again. This text is taken from Twin Oaks Nursery on their website:

“There are several issues that a gardener has to be vigilant about regarding growing healthy tomato plants, and one of those is blossom end rot, which strikes just prior to the maturity of the tomatoes. Quite a disappointment for the gardener who has tended to tomato plants for weeks and greatly anticipated eating the fruits of his labour. Blossom end rot can be prevented, even stopped after it has already begun to attack a tomato plant, with several applications of epsom salt.

“Blossom end rot is caused by a lack of calcium in the garden soil. The calcium- deficient soil is just not able to bring the tomatoes to the ripe stage before the fruit rots. Blossom end rot starts out as a small dark circle on the tomato’s blossom end and will spread through the green or partially ripe tomato.

“To prevent blossom end rot, work epsom salt into the garden soil before planting tomatoes. Apply one pound of epsom salt to the standard sized raised bed garden (4 x 6-8’) or one cup of epsom salt per container that tomatoes will be grown in and work into the soil. The epsom salt will then be a readily available source of calcium and magnesium for the tomato plant.

“Epsom salt also promotes root growth and development for all garden vegetables and flowers and should be worked into the soil along with organic matter at the beginning of spring. A side dressing of epsom salt or watering gardening vegetables with a mixture of ½ cup of epsom salt dissolved in one gallon of water a couple of times during the growing season will keep plants healthy and growing vigorously. When applying dry epsom salt as a side dressing, be careful not to allow the epsom salt to touch any part of the plant.

“If blossom end rot strikes tomato plants, it can be stopped and the plant can go on to produce healthy tomatoes. At the first sign of blossom end rot, remove all affected tomatoes from the plant and discard. Begin watering the tomato plant with an epsom salt mixture once per week. Dissolve ½ cup of epsom salt into a gallon of water and slowly pour the entire gallon around the base of the tomato plant. The epsom salt mixture will go directly to the plant roots, and will be absorbed by the plant and stop future developing tomatoes from being afflicted by blossom.”

After thinking I was free of it, I got some BER on some of my tomatoes but only the paste tomatoes. Over the years, I found that I had the most trouble with them. After I loose a few tomatoes, the rest usually are free of it and still gives me a good crop. I never had it on cherry tomatoes. I might not have put enough epsom salt in the holes. I did put some when I transplanted the peppers and the plants are the best I ever had in years. They are big, with dark green leaves, large fruits already on them and lots more coming up.

For more information: 250-558-4556 plantlady1@shaw.ca

Jocelyne Sewell is an organic gardening enthusiast in the North Okanagan and member of Okanagan Gardens & Roses Club. Her column appears every other Wednesday.