Have you ever planted tomatoes in your garden, lovingly cared for the little darlings and followed their growing instructions to the “T” only to have your hopes for a beautiful ruby-red harvest dashed by the unsightly appearance of rotten spots on your fruit? Large, ugly spots, that left unchecked, could entirely engulf your tomato.
It happens. And trust me, it’s a sad day when you visit your garden and discover there are holes permeating your tomatoes. It’s called blossom-end rot and afflicts many a garden. Unfortunately, this affliction is not limited to those gorgeous tomatoes you’ve been fawning over, but cucumbers, squash, peppers, even melons are susceptible. Ugh. Not good news. But what can you do? You did everything in your power to prevent it, right?
Maybe not everything. After years of distressing over this problem, I discovered that it’s preventable and the solution is easy. Blossom-end rot is not a fungus, as it appeared to me, but a nutrient deficiency; specifically, calcium. Granted, wet conditions can exacerbate the problem, as can the levels of nitrogen, salt, and pH in the soil, but they are not the cause. The plant’s inability to absorb calcium is the real culprit.
What’s the secret to eliminating those disfiguring spots?
Epsom salts and eggshells. It’s a combination that I’ve used for several years now and can personally attest to its efficacy. Now, I realize that many gardening sources will suggest that the solution is solely about calcium, but from my experience, simply adding the calcium alone to my plants did not solve the problem. However, when I combined a teaspoon of Epsom salts with 1-2 crushed eggshells, sprinkled the mix around the base of my baby tomato plant as I gently transplanted it into my outdoor garden, I haven’t had an issue since. Not once. Ever.
Experience speaks volumes. I’m not saying to ignore the other factors that lead to a tomato plant’s good health. Quite the contrary. Consistent moisture is key when it comes to a thriving tomato plant, as is the proper balance of pH and nutrients, and an ideal growing climate. Tomatoes like it warm. They prefer a heavier regimen of water during their early growth stage and appreciate a draw back during harvest time. Nitrogen is important, but too much will yield lots of beautiful green leaves, without so much beautiful fruit.
Nutrients for Success
As for macronutrients (the N-P-K listed on your fertilizer labels), phosphorous is the nutrient you’ll want to keep on tap for your tomatoes. In fact, it’s important for all fruit bearing plants, and of course, calcium. If you don’t want to use eggshells for your calcium, bone meal is a wonderful option because it combines calcium and phosphorous in one feeding. I do love a multi-tasker!
For me, the Epsom salts and eggshells solved my blossom-end rot problem. Completely. Lesson learned. Mission accomplished. Better yet, interplant basil with your tomatoes and you’ll discover an even more delicious tomato! It’s called companion planting and works wonders in your garden. Other good companions for tomatoes include: bush beans, cabbage, carrots, onions, and parsley. Happy gardening!