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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Tip: Keep Picking Those Vegetables

Do you know exactly when to pick some of the more popular vegetables? Pick vegetables to keep them producing. Pick green beans when pods are 3 to 4 inches long, but still smooth and smaller around than your little finger. Pick zucchini when it’s less than 5 inches long. Tomatoes are best when left to ripen on the vine, they lose flavor when picked to soon. Cucumbers are meant to be picked before they start turning white on the bottom, remaining all green. Pumpkin last several months when picked after the stem is brown and the pumpkin is mostly orange. If corn cobs feel full through to the top and the silk are dark brown, then grab an ear and snap downwards.

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Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!

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.

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Tomatoes – Caterpillars on Tomatoes

Do you know what to do if you find several large caterpillars munching on your tomatoes? What should you do to get rid of them?

It sounds like you are probably seeing tomato hornworms, which can grow to an alarming size! Like most caterpillars, hornworms can be controlled by using Bt, Bacillis thuringiensis. Bt is an organic way of taking care of those hornworms.

However, since tomato hornworms can do a lot of damage in a short time, you may want to remove the ones you see by hand. I use a beer bottle or the like to place over the branch where the hornworm is located. Then, you can commence to give the hornworm an all over body ache by bouncing if off the bottle walls until the hornworm lets go of the branch. The hornworm falls in the bottle and you can quickly pull the branch out of the bottle. Take the bottle and shove it neck first into the dirt. This is where it suffocates and puts nutrients back into the soil as it decomposes. In the late summer or early fall remove your bottles.

If you see a caterpillar with what looks like grains of rice all over it, feel free to relocate it elsewhere in the garden rather than killing it. It has been parasitized by a certain wasp laying its eggs on it. These small wasps are harmless to humans, but will help keep the hornworm population in check. At some point, the parasitized hornworm will die anyway.

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Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!

Tip: Tomato Blossom Drop

Do you know what causes blossoms to drop from your tomato plants? Tomato blossom drop is usually caused by above 90F or below 50F temperatures. To protect plants against heat, provide shade from the hot afternoon sun. To protect against cold temperatures, cover plants with a floating row cover.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by clicking on “Subscribe to Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog by Email”. I will keep you up to date with my blogs that will include great tips and information. I will also occasionally offer you free items like my Free Gardening Journal that you will receive when you subscribe.

Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!

Insecticidal Soaps – What is it & How to use it

Do you know what an insecticidal soap is? Does it differ from regular soap? Insecticidal soaps are specifically formulated to have insect-killing properties, while being safe for most plants. All regular soaps are made with a long chain of fatty acids.

Insecticidal soaps kill susceptible insects by washing away the protective coating on the surface of the insect and by disrupting normal membrane functions inside the insect. The insects must come into direct contact with the spray droplets for the material to be effective. Good coverage is essential and doesn’t affect your health.

The soaps have no residual activity toward insects. Note that repeated applications can sometimes have damaging effects on some types of plants. I normally dilute the insecticidal soap by matching the contents with water.

As with all pesticides, you should always follow label instructions carefully. Remember, with insecticidal soap, make sure you spray the insects. Spraying the leaves will not provide as a protective agent.

This is an organic way of controlling pests. More and more growers are turning to chemical free every growing season. Just remember, as with any chemical, too much is never good. Be sure to always follow the directions. Diluting is a good way to maintain, but on the side of caution.

Between my husband and I, unknowingly, we sprayed our potato plants in the spring with insecticidal soap for approximately four days out of a total of seven because the Colorado potato beetle was so prevalent. I didn’t know he sprayed and he didn’t know I had been spraying. Well, can you guess what happened? Our pretty potato plants went to potato heaven.

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by clicking on “Subscribe to Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog by Email”. I will keep you up to date with my blogs and occasionally will give you free items like my Free Gardening Journal that you will receive when you subscribe.

Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!!

Slimey Slugs – Controlling Slugs Organically

Are some of your vegetable plants and flowers being badly damaged by slugs. Do you think you should replace them in the fall or is there still a chance the flowers might come back next year? How can you control slugs organically?

Most perennials have reasonably hardy constitutions, so I wouldn’t give up on them yet. If you can control further slug damage, the roots should be able to generate new foliage this year. There are several ways to miminize slug damage. You can hand pick the slugs off of the plants.

Sometimes, you may not see them. In that case you can also use beer traps, or surround your plants with copper as a slug barrier. The slugs won’t cross the barrier as their “slime” reacts with the copper, giving them an electric shock. There are also iron-phosphate-based slug baits that safely and effectively control these pests. Some just dump salt on them. Your choice!

Don’t forget to subscribe to my blog by clicking on “Subscribe to Master Gardener Girls’ Gardening Blog by Email” . I will keep you up to date with my valuable information and occasionally will give you free items like my Free Gardening Journal that you get when you subscribe.

Happy Gardening from the Master Gardener Girl!! Enjoy!