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Stopping blossom end rot before it starts

POSTED: January 31, 2014 1:00 a.m.

I see it year after year in the extension office. Clients come in wondering what to do about their tomatoes or peppers being laid to waste by disease.

Many times the problem in question is part of fungal diseases. Other times, the problem is blossom end rot.

Blossom end rot is a disorder found on the fruit near the blossom end and first appears as a darkened, sunken and leathery scar. This condition usually causes the fruit to ripen prematurely and makes it worthless.

Blossom end rot can be caused by several factors and the severity of this condition can be compounded when two or more factors interact with each other. It is known that inadequate calcium levels in the fruit can cause this condition. A low soil calcium level, in combination with inadequate soil moisture, can compound the situation. And severely pruned tomato plants are more prone to develop blossom end rot than unpruned plants.

Proper calcium levels in soil and plants and uniform soil moisture throughout the growing season are critical in preventing blossom end rot.

To control blossom end rot, the home gardener will need to take several steps:

* Soil test early and apply dolomitic lime if needed. This should be done several weeks before planting.

* Broadcast five pounds of dolomitic lime per 100 square feet before planting and plow the ground six to eight inches deep in gardens where the condition has been severe in the past

* Use mulch around your plants to prevent moisture loss.

* Apply irrigation to keep soil uniformly moist throughout the season.

* Apply a calcium spray first when fruits are just visible to prevent some of the fruit from being damaged. However, calcium does not get absorbed well through the leaves, so this is not a surefire way to prevent all of the disorder.

Take special care to get the nutrient status of your garden right this winter to prepare for a good gardening season this summer.

Michael Wheeler is county extension coordinator for the UGA Cooperative Extension office in Hall County. You can contact him at 770-535-8293, www.hallcounty.org/extension. His column appears weekly and on gainesvilletimes.com/life.


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