Ugly Smiles

These aren’t the kinds of smiles you want to see radiating from any of the plants on deck.

Blossom end rot
Turn this frown upside down and it's still a frown.

POD’s pretty sure this is a nasty case of blossom end rot. Which, essentially, is a calcium deficiency. The good news? It’s not contagious. The bad news, there’s a chance there’s not much to be done at this point.

So, in the hopes of avoiding this next year, what caused this nastiness? Well, external stress like lack of water and excessive heat could be a factor. (It was pretty brutal a couple of weeks ago and with a vacation nibbling into obsessive-compulsive gardening, the plants were only watered once a day, rather than twice a day). Honestly, that’s what we’re really, really hoping for. That can be immediately addressed.

Also worth noting, this is the only tomato planted in Miracle Gro Organic soil (the Isis Candy, Black Cherry, and Gold Nugget were planted in either Organic Mechanic or Coast of Maine — both of which seemed like much richer, less mulchy soil blends). And, because this fella’ was a rather late and unexpected arrival, I just can’t say for certain whether or not it received the crumbled egg shells its compatriots enjoyed. Next year, the soil can be gussied up with a shot of bone meal, too. And yes, maybe it’s time to invest in that Ph kit to make sure the soil’s around 6.0-6.5.

calcium deficiency in tomato leaves
Calcium, it does a body good.

Its slightly curled leaves add further evidence to the diagnosis. While adding milk to the soil and spraying with the powdery mildew mixture (which contains milk) is tempting, it probably won’t do much as calcium isn’t immediately absorbed. Which isn’t to say both “remedies” haven’t already been applied. It’s worth a shot.

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Walking on Eggshells

calcium enriched soilCome rain or shine, POD’s planting tomatoes this weekend. In an effort to prep the soil as thoroughly as possible, a few crumbled eggshells will lend some calcium to the mix. Just like healthy bones need plenty calcium to maintain structural integrity, so do healthy tomatoes (and peppers).

Tomatoes (and peppers) have a nasty habit of coming down with blossom end rot, a disgusting-looking rotting/fungus that rears its ugly head at the blossom end of the fruit or vegetable as its beginning to mature.

Now, the whole eggshell-into-mix may well be an old wives’ tale, but someday POD will be an old, old wife.

Drink Milk

Tomato Milk
Tomato Milk

Last year POD’s Nebraska Wedding suffered from (among other things) a nasty case of blossom end rot. Wherein the lovely half-formed fruits suddenly blackened at the, well, blossom end and rotted. Exactly as the difficult-to-parse name would suggest.

Since then I learned that tomatoes need calcium to keep their cell walls strong and healthy. So this Chocolate Cherry is soaking up a diluted mixture of soured skim milk (why use good milk?) and water. This particular batch was about 40% milk and 60% water but it’s not all that fussy.  Well, calcium and warm soil. So practice patience, if you can, and wait for temperatures to stabilize.

Supposedly tomatoes also enjoy a seaweed snack every now and again. Since South Philadelphia isn’t quite close enough to the Jersey shore to use seaweed as mulch, I ground up some dried seaweed from the Number One Asian supermarket, dumped it in the milk solution and called it a day. We shall see.