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why do my tomatoes rot on the vine

When rotting spots form on the blossom end of ripening tomatoes, the condition is called "blossom end rot. " It may start out as a small spot, but it soon takes over most of the fruit. Blossom end rot is not caused by a pathogenic organism -- it is caused by environmental conditions that result in low levels of calcium and water in the fruit and plant. Tomatoes grown in sandy or low-moisture soils are most susceptible to blossom end rot. Blossom end rot will not be cured with any pesticide because it is not caused by a pathogenic organism. Prevent blossom end rot by checking the soil moisture of your planted tomatoes and water them when the soil gets too dry, but do not overwater. Adding tomato fertilizer will help prevent blossom end rot by keeping your plants vigorous and free of nutritional deficiencies.
When you have plenty of tomatoes on your plants, but some of them look like they are rotting on the vine, your tomatoes are suffering fromВ blossom end rot.

The first sign is a brown discoloration near the bottom end of the fruit. These spots grow and darken until they cover up to half of the tomato, and the rotting fruit becomes vulnerable to secondary bacteria and fungi. The affected tomatoes can t be saved, but the plant can. Blossom end rot is the result of calcium deficiency. However, that doesn t necessarily mean that you need to add calcium to your soil.

Blossom end rot is most often caused by watering practicesвyour own or Mother Nature s. In a typical situation, the soil is allowed to dry out completely, and then the gardener over-compensates by watering heavily when the plant starts to wilt. The plant bounces back, but the damage has been done to fruit in an early state of development. During the dry conditions, the plant was unable to absorb sufficient calcium from the soil through its roots. When fruit develops, it shows the telltale rot at the blossom end. Another less common situation occurs when plants are given too much water. If you have a cool, wet spring and summer in your parts of the country, the plants take up so much moisture that the amount of available calcium is diluted, and the result is blossom end rot.

If the problem is caused by too much moisture, side-dress the plants with bone meal to replenish the soil s supply of calcium. A few brands of organic blossom end rot spray are on the market. These are calcium sprays that you spray on the foliage every week or so. This doesn t save any fruit that already shows rot, but it may prevent rot on future fruit. Test your soil in the fall or early spring for calcium. If it is calcium deficient, as determined by a В kit purchased at your local garden center, add ground limestone before setting out the tomato plants. A half pound of ground limestone per 10 square feet of soil raises the soil pH by about one point.

If you can t locate a soil test kit that measures calcium content, contact your local cooperative extension service to learn how to collect a soil sample and send it to the lab for analysis. The report you receive alerts you to any mineral deficienciesВ in your soilвincluding calciumвas well as steps to correct the problems. After you, mulch the soil around the plants with sawdust, or grass clippings to prevent the loss of moisture. If you have tomatoes with blossom end rot on your plants, remove the damaged tomatoesвthey ll keep growing and use the plant s energy, which is better put to use producing new rot-free fruit.

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