Blossom End Rot – What Causes It?

I received an email the other day from one of my subscribers and he said, “I’ve read that blossom end rot is caused by calcium deficiency and/or inconsistent watering, however I also believe I read that it can also be caused by improper or insufficient pollination. Am I right or was the pollination in reference to something else to do with tomatoes?”

I answered: There are several factors which can lead to blossom end rot: insufficient available calcium in the soil, rapid early season growth followed by extended dry period, excessive rain which smothers root hairs, excessive soil salts which “lock up” calcium uptake (usually caused by a fertilizer which is too high in nitrogen or is applied too often and nitrogen builds up), and, cultivating too close to the plant which kills rootlets. There are different types of “rots”, some are caused by lack of pollination so you didn’t just imagine that. Keep blossom end rot at bay by providing uniform soil moisture, avoid high nitrogen fertilizers (and, follow application rates carefully no matter what you use), plant in well drained soil, and, when cultivating within 1′ of the plant, do not cultivate deeper than 1″.

If you have a problem now, you might want to buy a product that deals with blossom end rot. In the Midwest, we have had 10 times more rain this summer than normal, which is what caused this in my area.

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4 Ways to Preserve Sweet Corn – For Eating or Planting

Do you know the ways to preserve corn? Every ear of corn is used in some form or fashion whether for eating or for planting. All the husk and hair goes into compost pile as do the stalks. I say waste not, want not.

Keep newly picked sweet corn fresh by keeping ears cool. Picking early in the morning is the best, but I still pick at night as well. Husk and place the ears in an ice bath, adding 2 drops of liquid bleach per gallon of water, cooling ears to 37F.

The two best ways to preserve corn long term are to freeze or can the corn. In canning corn, simply shuck the corn and shave off the cob with a flat bottom of the cob on the table while running a knife down the cob. Then, follow canning instructions on cooking the corn and then processing in jars.

To freeze corn, you could simply place your corn in freezer bags but they will get a little mushy unless you blanch them first. And yes, I know that from first hand experience. Blanch them in hot boiling water for a few minutes, then cool them off in a cold water bath. After cooling, then cut to desired lengths or leave whole and place them in freezer bags.

If you have grown heirloom corn and some of the cobs really aren’t worth saving or if they have already started the drying process, let them continue drying until separated rows form. After the cobs have dried, give them the indian rub and the kernels will fall off. Put the kernels in a brown paper sack or some type of paper envelope. Label and store in a cool dry place until next season.

I save a ton of money by seed saving my corn. Those of you who plant corn know just exactly how much corn costs. On average, each cob gives about 300 kernels. If you have a small garden, you might only need one cob. I on the other hand need about 20 ears as my corn is planted in 15 rows, 300 feet long.

Check out Organic Home and Gardening, there is a propagation and seed saving eBook that can teach you how to save a great deal of money by not having to buy seeds or plants.

Happy Gardening!! Subscribe to my blog and I will keep you informed with all the good stuff.

Organic Garden Recipes—More on Fertilizers, Pesticides & Fungicides

Are you in need of some organic recipes to use in your garden? Instead of using chemicals, organic gardeners like to take a simpler approach to fertilizers, pesticides and fungicides. Successful versions of each can be mixed up using ingredients that are already in your kitchen along with the kitchen blender.

You can make garlic and water insecticide that can be kept in a frozen concentrate form and used later. The garlic mixture can also be added to a seaweed fertilizer, such as kelp, for an extra boost of nutrients every few weeks. A homemade pesticide can be made from habanero peppers (or any other hot pepper) and a homemade fungicide made from baking soda. Plus, tips on the use of eggshells to prevent blossom end rot and aluminum foil to ward off cutworms.

Garlic Tea concentrate:

Ingredients:

Liquefy two bulbs of garlic

1-1/2 cups of water

Directions:

Mix to create concentrated garlic tea, a good all-purpose insecticide that makes crops undesirable to pests. Strain any solids out of the mixture and add enough water to make a gallon. Use this concentrate right away, or freeze in 1/4-cup muffin tins to use later.

Garlic tea can be brewed in combination with a seaweed fertilizer:

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp. seaweed

1 Tbsp. vinegar

1 frozen garlic-tea cube

Directions:

Mix in a gallon sprayer. You can apply this application weekly in the spring and once every two to three weeks in the summer months. Habanero peppers also make a good contact insecticide when blended with water. It too can be frozen in concentrate form. It can be added to the seaweed-garlic mixture but should be applied only where an active pest problem is observed.

For curing black spot, mildew or brown patch make an effective fungicide:

Ingredients:

4 Tbsp. baking soda

1 tsp. gentle soap

1 gallon water

Directions:

Mix in a sprayer or watering canner. Use this mixture sparingly and keep it off the soil as it affects soil pH.

Tomato Tips: A few other items in your kitchen can help tomato plants. Aluminum foil can be wrapped around the lower 2 inches of the stems of the tomato plants and kept above grade at planting deters cutworms. You could also use paper towel or toilet paper rolls, and tomato sauce cans, with no top or bottom. Broken eggshells can be put in the hole with the tomato plants providing calcium to help prevent blossom end rot.

If you are in need of a good seaweed fertilizer, I have two links under my recommended link section for Gardens Alive! and Yardiac.com in the upper right corner of my home page.

And now I would like to offer you free access to my gardening journal when you subscribe to my blog, a 16 page journal that you can use season after season. Click on Subscribe to My Blog.

Happy Gardening! – The Organic Home and Gardening Gal & Master Gardener

Heirloom Tomatoes – How to know if your tomatoes are heirloom

Do you know what an heirloom tomato is? A particularly large number of heirloom tomato varieties are available today, mainly because tomatoes normally do not cross-pollinate. An heirloom tomato is a variety that has been around for 50 plus years.

Seed saved from heirloom fruits, non-hybrid varieties, produce plants fairly identical to the parent plant. Many of the odder colors and types that have resurfaced lately have their origins in these older, self-saved varieties. The plant type is usually large, sprawling and late compared to current commercial varieties.

Disease resistance may also be expected. If the gardener wants to try a few truly weird or tasty types of heirloom tomatoes, these usually mature some fruits almost anywhere except in the shortest-season areas in Northern states. Specialty seed houses and exchanges are a source of the widest variety of heirloom tomatoes imaginable. I also have seeds of many heirloom varieties mentioned below.

Heirloom varieties can include Green Zebra, Beefsteak, Mortgage Lifter, Arkansas Traveler, Brandywine, Bloody Butcher, Amish Paste, Stupice, Marglobes and Rutgers to name a few. These tomatoes made this list because they perform well under a wide range of conditions and delivering the flavor people want from homegrown tomatoes.

If you like them enough to start saving seeds, which is the first step toward cultivating varieties that are especially well-suited to your garden, you can save the seeds in a cool dry place for next year.

And now I would like to offer you free access to my gardening journal when you subscribe to my blog, a 16 page journal that you can use season after season. Click on Subscribe to My Blog.

Happy Gardening! – The Organic Home and Gardening Gal & Master Gardener

Homemade Organic Recipes – Insecticides, Fertilizers, & Fungicides

Are you into to Organic Gardening and are looking for some easy and inexpensive ways to take care of insects and fungal diseases? Well, I have got the solutions for you. I have 12 recipes for you.

Click here to see the list of organic recipes.

A lot of the items used in these recipes were found at Gardens Alive! They are also running a special right now where you can get $20 off a $40 order.

For those of you who don’t want to miss a thing, don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by clicking on “Subscribe to Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog by Email” .

Happy Gardening!! Enjoy!!

Be A Smart Gardener – Grow Organic!

Anyone can plant an organic garden whether the purpose is for food, for satisfaction, for sale or to help battle global warming. Notice, I didn’t say you needed to be an organic farmer to recapture carbon from the atmosphere. It seemingly begins with the soil.

Gardening Tip #1–Return organic matter to the earth

This is easily done through composting. Everyone has access to the raw ingredients, items that you can compost, of organic matter. These items include those you already have naturally around the house. You will need a mixture of browns and greens. Greens are grass clippings, garden and kitchen vegetable scraps, plant and bush waste, coffee grounds and filters, manure, sod, weeds, and hair. Browns include fall leaves, newspaper, cardboard, corn stalks, dryer link, pine needles and cones, and sawdust. Put them in a pile and mix them up with a rake or a shovel. The purpose of adding composted soil to your garden is to provide aeration to your soil and acts as a fertilizer.

Gardening Tip #2–Check your soil.

Most of your local county extension centers will test your soil for a small fee. The results of the test will tell you the soil’s pH and what nutrients your soil requires to make it the right balance for growing most anything. You may need to amend your soil with bonemeal, greensand or dolomitic lime, which all are derived from natural sources and each help to provide for a particular need.

Gardening Tip #3–Love and be kind to your insects.

The best defenses against insect attack are preventative measures such as efficient water use, beneficial insects, and companion planting. Plants like a steady amount of water, approximately one inch per week. Don’t let them be too wet or dry. Most importantly, encourage natural predators to hunt in your garden

like ladybugs, birds, frogs and lizards. These beneficial insects can eat quite a few of the bad insects. Companion planting involves planting certain flowers and herbs in and around your garden that are compatible and in effect, will deter pests through their scents.

Gardening Tip #4–Weed wisely.

Tackle weeds with persistence and the right tools – not chemicals. A nice, thick layer of mulch keeps light from reaching weeds and straw and grass clippings nourish the soil as they decompose. For even better weed protection, use several sheets of newspaper or cardboard under these mulches as these will naturally decompose into the soil for more nourishment. Early in the season, you can suppress the growth of weed seeds by spreading corn gluten meal over the area where they’re growing. During the season, use a garden hoe to sever weed stems from their roots.

And now I would like to offer you a Free copy of my Gardeners Journal so that you can easily document your gardening experience and track what you do. Click on “Subscribe to Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog by Email” and I will send you a copy of this file.

Harvesting Tomato Tips – Summer and Fall Harvesting

Do you know when to harvest tomatoes? Tomatoes should be firm and fully colored. They are of highest quality when they ripen on the vine and daily summer temperatures average about 75°F.

When the temperatures are high, at least 90°F, the softening process is accelerated and color development is retarded, reducing quality. For this reason, you should pick your tomatoes every day or two, harvest the fruits when color has started to develop and ripen them further indoors between 70 and 75°F.

On the day before a killing freeze is expected, harvest all green mature fruit that is desired for later use in the fall. If you wrap the tomatoes individually in newspaper and store at 60 to 65°F, they will continue to ripen slowly over the next several weeks. Whole plants can be uprooted and hung in sheltered locations, where fruit continues to ripen. Just don’t forget about your tomatoes sitting in a box in another room.

And now I would like to offer you a Free copy of my Gardeners Journal so that you can easily document your gardening experience and track what you do. Click on “Subscribe to Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog by Email” and I will send you a copy of this file.

Happy Gardening from Master Gardener Girl!! A special thanks to those who have subscribed to my blog, you won’t regret it.