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May 21, 2011 09:42 PM

Blossom end rot

I just wanted to pass along that somebody on another site recommended stuffing a calcium pill (like you would take) into the soil. I'm just sayin'. I plan to do that tomorrow morning, it's cheap insurance and I've had that problem here.

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  1. I save my eggshells starting late winter, and crush them very finely. I put a handful in the hole of each tomato plant and we've never had a problem with blossom end rot. Free and easy!

    I also use the remaining shells to scatter around all my tender greens to stop slugs and snails from eating them all.

    1. It may be better to crush it up into powder and dissolve in a watering can, then water the base of the plant.
      BER can also occur with inconsistent watering cycles. Is this in the ground? a pot?
      This is most problematic with plum style tomatoes but can also occur in slicing types.

      1. While inconsistent watering is often the cause, some gardeners do prefer to add calcium. I have seen people recommend sprinkling Epsom Salts around their tomatoes, others prefer crumbling up old sheetrock since the gypsum inside is calcium sulfate. But wouldn't it be easier to just sprinkle some Dolomitic Lime around the plant?

        19 Replies
        1. re: DonShirer

          Me too, Don. I lime my beds every other year in the fall.

          1. re: DonShirer

            We till calcium into the intended tomato beds in preparation for planting but we also drop a double handful of cheap outdated instant dry milk into each transplant's hole. We only see blossom end rot if we get a prolonged period of no rain in August and then it's a watering issue no matter how consistent we try to be with timing and watering through the drip hoses. However, we see very little of it and we attribute that to the calcium preparation.

            1. re: morwen

              I tried your technique with the dry milk when I put my tomatoes out a month ago. I have never had such deep green, lush growth! The look like an advertisement photo. Fruit is still small and green, but I am very optimistic.

              Thanks for all the sharing you do.

              1. re: meatn3

                Glad to hear it's working for you! I got that tip from a local geezer gardener. I always pay attention to their garden "home remedies". They've been around long enough to have tried and true results and almost all of their suggestions qualify as organic and readily available.

                Another tip was to get rid of the annual ladybugs all over the windows infestation: Put a couple bay leaves on each affected window's sill. Works like a charm! Placed the bay leaves 3 years ago, same ones are still on the sills, no ladybugs.

                1. re: morwen

                  Wish I had known about that trick when I lived in Asheville - love ladybugs, but not inside. Although they provided gruesome amusement for the cats.

                  Now I'm in Raleigh and we don't seem to have the ladybug winter guests.

                  An oldtimer saying in WNC that I found to be accurate was that every foggy August morning equals a snow storm in the coming winter.

                    1. re: jvanderh

                      Plant peas when the oak leaves are as big as mouse ears. That one I got in central PA.

                      I'll have to check out that foggy August morning thing. We're only an hour and a half or so north of Asheville.

                    2. re: morwen

                      How much powdered milk per plant? Just the powder, or do you reconstitute it? Added some this morning, so not sure I did it correctly. Thanks for the idea!

                      1. re: pine time

                        I just throw a double handful into the hole when I'm transplanting. Ok, I have really small hands. My husband who has really large hands throws a double handful into the hole when he's transplanting.

                2. re: DonShirer

                  I use Earthboxes and people on their forums recommend a teaspoon of calcium nitrate into the water tank when the plant starts flowering. I also heard a shortage of minerals, namely calcium was the cause for BER but there are probably more than 1!

                  1. re: DonShirer

                    Not sure how epsom salts would work. I would think it would actually hinder Calcium uptake.
                    1. Epsom salts is Magnesium Sulfate- no calcium.
                    2. Too much Magnesium in the soil can hinder calcium uptake. Too hard to explain why ;)

                    1. re: PSUhorty

                      Magnesium is required to make chlorophyl. One teaspoon of Epsom salts per plant is enough. For calcium I prefer bone meal or ground limestone, both are slow release. If BER has already started, I suspend the limestone in a bucket of water and use it to water the plant. A human calcium pill is a drop in the bucket, and far too expensive for a plant supplement. The powdered milk is supplying nitrogen from the milk proteins, and if it is still usable for food, it is too expensive for plants. JMHO.

                      1. re: therealdoctorlew

                        I think you've got a lot of plants, and the people using calcium pills and milk have a small number of plants.

                          1. re: jvanderh

                            We're back yard gardeners. We use the milk. We plant 4 different varieties and around a 150 tomato plants. Is that small?

                            1. re: morwen

                              Well, not to me. I've got 6. Do you have that much outdated dry milk around??

                              1. re: jvanderh

                                I bought the smallest quantity of milk powder (generic) I could find for $3.65. Used it for 8 tomato plants. It used just 1/3 of the milk powder. The plus side is I can use the rest of it cooking rather than have a bag of something sitting out in the garden shed.

                                1. re: jvanderh

                                  I buy one giant box a year to add to baked goods etc. By tomato planting time there's more than enough left to plant the tomatoes. Then the cycle starts all over. But, if during the year I see marked down must be sold now dry milk, I buy it up. Because for the garden, age doesn't matter and extra goes to the community garden.

                                  1. re: morwen

                                    Sounds like a pretty good system

                      2. Do you know if this also helps with rotting squash? My zucchinis and yellow squash get about 2 inches long and then rot from the blossom end.

                        11 Replies
                        1. re: AmyH

                          Mine too! It's my first year growing zucchinis. Lots of flowers and fruit but we've lost all but one because of the same thing. I thought zucchini was the idiot-proof vegetable! Would love to hear what's happening here from one of the more experienced gardeners here.

                          1. re: imsohungry

                            Wow, we have had the exact same experience. My first year also, lots of flowers and fruit, but only one zucchini to eat! I'm growing mine in grow boxes from gardenpatch
                            and they're supposed to be fool proof. Well, I guess they hadn't met me. Look at the photo of the squash plant on their website. Not what mine looks like at all!

                            1. re: AmyH

                              Well, it's sort of a cold comfort, but good to know that I'm not the only idiot/fool :). PS-mine are in a raised bed, if that helps anyone out there diagnose.

                              1. re: imsohungry

                                I gave mine some lime last night in the water in case it would help. I figured at this point it couldn't hurt.

                          2. re: AmyH

                            This occurs due to lack of pollination. An unpollinated or "poorly" pollinated zucchini or squash will rot on the flower end first, then work its way up the fruit.

                            Have you noticed a lack of bees or other pollinators in your area? If in doubt, you can always hand pollinate with a q-tip. just twirl it around the stamen of a male flower, then twirl that same tip into a female flower.

                            1. re: Novelli

                              Interesting.But if this were the case, the plant itself should look fine, shouldn't it? Most of the leaves on mine, the older ones, have sort of browned and have a white powder on them. Also, my plants are about 30 feet from my neighbors, and she has loads of beautiful zucchinis and the leaves are huge and green. Nevertheless, I'm not opposed to taking a q-tip to the naughty bits of my squash flowers. But how do I tell the male from the female ones?

                              1. re: AmyH

                                Here are two photos of my sad looking squash plants.

                                1. re: AmyH

                                  The white powder on your plants is called powdery mildew. It's a fungus that grows as a white "fuzz" on squash plants. This happens when there isn't enough room for air to move between the plants, which leads to humidity (especially if watering from overhead), and produces the fungus you have (stagnant air).

                                  Powdery mildew has little effect on the fruit unless its allowed to go completely rampant. Unfortunately, your pictures do not look so promising, but I'd say you have a combination of both...lack of pollination and a fungus disease.

                                  IMO, those squash plants are too far gone, but you can always try a milk solution to keep some of the fungus from spreading. Maybe you'll get a couple more fruit before the season's end.

                                  Mix a 10% milk solution with water and spray on the upper and undersides of the squash leaves very early in the morning. this will help combat the powdery mildew. then you can go ahead and hand pollinate and see what happens.

                                  best of luck!...and try to water the plants at their base, rather than overhead (if that is what you're doing).

                                  1. re: Novelli

                                    Actually, my plants only get watered from the bottom. If you look a few posts up, you'll see the link for the gardenpatch grow boxes that I'm using. The only water they get from above is rain, and it's been very dry here for the last month. I could try the milk solution you suggested. Would it be helpful to pull off the bad leaves, too? This morning when I was out putting water in the base of the boxes I did see bees buzzing from flower to flower, so pollination should be adequate. But maybe most of the flowers are female since almost all have a little squash at the base (as per Eldon's description below). The good news is that my neighbor went on vacation for a few weeks and said I could pick and keep her zucchini, so now I have plenty. But I'd like to solve the mystery of the problem with my plants so this doesn't repeat next year.

                                2. re: AmyH

                                  Female blossoms have a little squash (ovum) as the stem. Male blossoms just have a vine like stem.

                            2. I use ground up Tums - calcium. I put a ground Tum dissolved in 1 gal of water and sprinkle it on the foliage then stick a Tum between each zucchini plant - works for tomatoes too. At planting time, 1 TB Epsom salts in 1 gal water into the hole.