Friday, July 6, 2007

Blossom End Rot

It's been hot, hot, hot, but the raised bed veggies seem to be happy with it. Good thing since the WeatherLiar predicts more of the same and no rain. Fortunately we're fairly high up on the side of the mountain bench, so it doesn't stay as hot at night as it does down in the Salt Lake valley and tomatoes are still setting on.

I put black soaker hose in the raised beds and covered them with mulch. Even with the temperatures in the 100's, I've only had to run the hose once every five or six days. None of my little green tomatoes have blossom end rot, It's amazing how well the stuff I filled the beds with holds the water.
Since I don't have any blossom end rot for a demo photo, I snitched this picture from the University of Georgia web site. Pretty much anyone who's grown tomatoes has seen this ugly sight.

I've heard lots of theories about what causes blossom end rot and have tried all of the assorted cures for it. My highly scientific observations (do paper cocktail bar matches or wooden kitchen matches work better as a source of sulfur? -- or was that for peppers? do eggshells really help? or topical calcium spray?) have lead me to conclude that root development and moisture are what really make the difference when growing tomatoes.

Consider that most tomatoes are grown as transplants in relatively small containers. Though good practice is to remove the lower leaves and plant the tomato deep so that roots can form along the buried stem, it takes a while for those roots to form.

Because of this, I resist the temptation to allow the early blossoms to set tomatoes. I snip them all off.

At the point when I don't notice any midday wilting on the plants, I start allowing the blossoms to fruit. By then the plants have developed enough roots to support the growing fruits and, voila!, no blossom end rot.

I definitely don't get the earliest fruit around (I have a friend who's usually picking a few by the end of March; he's a fanatic), but I have fewer throwaways than most folks.

Once the tomatoes start to color up, I will post some photos, but until then, here are a couple of other garden denizens. The sugarbaby on the right's grown since its first picture two days ago. (Yay, hurray!)

For those of you interested in more scientific information about tomato problems, a friend of mine just had an article published in the Salt Lake Tribune. She's a county extension agent and college horticulture professor, so she knows her stuff.

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