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.

For more great tips and information, Subscribe to my Blog.

Advertisements

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.

Remember to “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!!

Organic Container Gardening Secrets – How to Garden easily from a Container

Do you want fresh organic veggies but don’t have space for a garden? It is your lucky day because I have the solution for you. Organic container gardening fits just about anywhere, and it’s even easier than having an organic garden plot.

Containers

Anything that you can put soil in can be a garden container. Some organic gardeners prefer to use natural containers, such as those made from wood or clay, but you can use anything. You can put a plant in an old toilet, a worn-out shoe, a milk carton or any other container that will hold dirt and won’t fall apart when it gets wet.

Make sure the container will drain; few plants like too much water. If necessary, you can drill a few drainage holes in the bottom of almost anything. Add about an inch of gravel or broken clay pots to the bottom of the pot. If you want to, you can put a layer of torn up newspaper or leaf mold on top of the gravel. The gravel helps ensure good drainage, and the leaf mold helps retain the water so the soil stays slightly moist.

Soil

Organic container gardening relies on organic, living soil. With a regular garden, you start with the soil you have and add organic material to it. With organic container gardening, you have to start out with organic soil.

Because you don’t have any subsoil, you need organic soil that will hold water without letting the plant’s roots get too wet. The best way to do that is to add peat moss to your organic soil. Compost and composted manure, mixed with peat moss, make great soil for organic container gardening. You can also use straight peat moss.

Plants

You can plant the same things in organic container gardening that you would in regular organic gardening. You can plant beans, tomatoes, peppers, lettuce, herbs, eggplant – anything you want to – just that they will be in containers. Make sure you have room for the plant, and that you use a container of the appropriate size. Zucchini takes up the same amount of room on your patio that it does in the garden – and it needs a pot big enough to contain the plant.

Technically, you should use organic seed and/or plants for organic container gardening. Unless you’re planning to sell organic produce, however, the choice is yours.

Organic Practices

Organic container gardening is well suited for organic gardening practices, especially where pest control is concerned. It’s much easier to pick tomato hornworms off of a container tomato than it is in a large garden. You can easily wash each leaf and stem of a plant with aphids when it’s in a pot on your patio. You will rarely have problems with cutworms in organic container gardening. Slugs will still go for your plants and diatomaceous earth will still deter them; just sprinkle it on the surface of the soil in the pot.

You can even use insect control with organic container gardening. Instead of buying a package of ladybugs or a praying mantis egg sac, just catch a few and put them on the plants that have insect infestations. Ladybugs will stay wherever there are aphids, and they will make short work of the aphids.

Organic container gardening will allow you to have plenty of healthy organic produce to feed your family. If you have a sheltered area and can provide enough light, you can have vegetables from organic container gardening all year round.

Check out my article below on Companion Planting, which also has a link to my companion planting list. This also works in container gardening.

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!!

Homemade Organic Fertilizer – Tips on How to Make It

Homemade organic fertilizer is healthier and cheaper. Here are a few tips and a recipe for making your own fertilizer and growing nutritious, delicious fruits and vegetables.

Best methods. For optimal results, treat your garden with a homemade fertilizer and compost. The two together make for excellent results and have been repeatedly successful.

Ingredients. The most important ingredients are bone meal, kelp meal, seed meal and various kinds of lime. It’s important when you’re making the fertilizer to measure by volume, not by weight. Meaning, by using measuring cups or a yogurt cup instead of using pounds. It doesn’t have to be exact measurements. The proportions can be over or under by 10 percent and still produce great results.

Recipe (mix uniformly with your hand or shovel,etc):
4 parts seed meal
1/2 part ordinary agricultural lime, best finely ground
1/2 part gypsum (or double the agricultural lime)
1/2 part dolomitic lime

For best results add:
1 part bone meal, rock phosphate or high-phosphate guano
1 part kelp meal (or 1 part basalt dust)

Cost. Buying your ingredients in bulk from farm or ranch stores, by mail order or online will often give you the most materials for your money. If you find a good source, like Yardiac.com
then go ahead and stock up once or twice a year. Garden shops, like Gardens Alive!generally sell ingredients in smaller, manageable quantities. If you can’t tell, I love those two websites…they have some of the best deals around.

Application. You can evenly spread 4 to 6 quarts of fertilizer per 100 square feet of raised garden bed (or for every 50 feet in a row, in a width of 12 to 18 inches) before planting each crop (or a minimum of once a year, spring being best). Work the fertilizer into the soil with a hoe or spade. For more demanding vegetables, such as tomatoes, sprinkle small quantities every few weeks around the plant after the original application.

If you think you will have extra, then premix in a plastic garbage can or plastic tote.

Happy Gardening!

“7 Great Tips for Huge Tomatoes & Healthy Plants”

I have got 7 great tips for growing the fattest tomatoes, but it takes a little work to coax your tomatoes into really packing on the pounds. First of all, you’ll need to provide your tomato plants with full sun, fluffy soil with plenty of organic matter, lots of space between plants, an inch of water per week, and support (stakes, fence or cages).

Second, wait to mulch until the ground warms up and the tomato plants begin to flower. Third, fertilize every two weeks with a diluted fish emulsion fertilizer, consisting of two tablespoons of fish emulsion to one gallon of water (but be careful not to provide too much nitrogen, or you’ll get a lot of foliage and few fruits).

Once the tomato plants begin to grow, the real training begins. Then, allow only one stem to develop, and pluck off suckers when the plants are very young. Suckers are the sprouts that form between branches and the main stem.

Next, remove all but two or three fruits from each plant. It’s best to eliminate developing fruits at the top of the vine and leave older fruits at the bottom.

After that, prune off tomatoes that develop farthest from the stem and leave one fruit per cluster. Finally, prevent branches from breaking by supporting the tomatoes with pantyhose or yarn when they start to get really big. You will now have a knock out tomato ready to break records.

As a bonus tip, click the link to get $20 off your $40 order…and buy TOMATOES ALIVE! PLUS 100% Organic Plant Food.  This is my secret to great tomatoes.

$20 FREE off your first order at Gardens Alive!



Growing the Best Tomatoes

“The most popular garden vegetable is the tomato. Varieties are available in a wide range of sizes, colors and shapes. Each having its own flavor and use.

Tomatoes can be propagated by seeds or clippings. They will germinate between 60F and 95F with optimum conditions between 75F and 90F. At 75F they will generally sprout in about 1 week. If you don’t grow your own seedlings and must buy transplants make sure you choose sturdy plants. The greener and shorter the plant the better, as they will grow best when transplanted. You should avoid plants that are tall and leggy, and those that have flowers on them already. If you do grow your own seedlings a grow lamp for supplemental light is a good idea. Even if you have a window that faces to the south the light the plants receive is not sufficient. Seedlings should be started indoors 6-8 weeks before transplanting them outside. The seeds should be planted 1/8 inch deep in a sterile seed starting mix in either cells or flats. After germination the seedlings grow best at 70F.

Don’t be in too much of a hurry to transplant you seedlings outdoors if the soil or weather is cold as the temperature can shock the plants. Hot caps and other protection can help the plants early in the season. All covers must be removed if the temperatures exceed 85F. Tomatoes do better if they are planted deeper than the original containers they were started in. They should be set in the ground just below the lowest leaf, allowing the plant to obtain a stronger root system. Tomatoes need a constant supply of moisture, and if you don’t receive at least one inch of rain per week, supplemental watering is necessary. Mulching will also help retain water, and drip irrigation is a good way to supple water without wasting it.

If you plan on staking your tomatoes do it right after you transplant your seedlings. If you wait too long the plant will have developed a mature root system, and the stakes may damage them. Tomato cages are an alternative to tomato stakes, but as these have short spikes as well it is best to set these up as early as possible. The advantage of a tomato cage is the fact that you don’t have to constantly tie up your growing plant to the stake.

Once the plants begin to grow they need to be pruned. Snap off “suckers” so that there are one or two vigorous stems. This should be done when they are about 2 to 3 inches long. If you are staking your tomatoes you should tie the stems to the stake with soft string. Form a figure-8 with the stake in one loop and the stem in the other. This will give the stem room to grow and prevent constriction. You should start tying about 10 to 12 inches above the ground and continue as the plant grows.

Avoid fertilizing your tomatoes with too much Nitrogen as this will lead to excessive foliage growth and not enough fruit production. Heavy rainfall or inconsistent temperatures also lead to poor fruit growth. Unfortunately we cannot control mother nature. For most soils, you can side dress a 5-10-5 fertilizer and work it into the top inch of soil. You should start fertilizing when the fruits are about 1 inch in diameter and repeat fertilizing again when the harvest begins.”