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Tomatoes rotting

post #1 of 23
Thread Starter 
For the past couple of years, we have had bad luck with gardening. The first year, we planted at a friend's house and they gave away the tomatoes, peppers, etc. so we had to end up buying tomatoes to can. Last year, our tomatoes simply didn't ripen and would rot if we brought them inside to finish them off. We ended up buying several bushels again.

On to this year, we have lots of Early Girls (48 plants to be exact). We chose those because of the shorter growing season, hoping that the cooler temps in Indiana wouldn't be as much of a factor. July was the coolest month on record in our part of the state. Now we have tomatoes turning red but they aren't fully ripening and are starting to rot on the bottom. They don't soften and feel more like a store bought tomato instead of homegrown. I have no clue what is making them rot on the bottom, it doesn't matter if they're up on the vine and touching the ground or not. Can someone help me to save the rest of my crop? If we end up having to buy tomatoes after planting 52 plants this year, I am done with it and will not waste money and time to try again.
post #2 of 23
it's been a tough year for tomatoes - ours are running very slow as well....

"rotting" - can you describe this a bit more?

souft & mushy
hard stuff, looks like a scabby area? usually on the "bottom" of the fruit

are you familiar with "Blossom End Rot" (which isn't a rot, , , ,)
post #3 of 23
Oh dear, it sounds like blight. According to my book, theres nothing to do do but destroy the crop... Sorry
Blossom end rot isnt treatable either so it says. Caused by under watering

Hope i'm wrong

I had greenhouse whitefly recently, GUTTED. Thought i'd lose the crop, but i got a homemade remedy that has worked. For future reference, you take 2 bulbs garlic, 12 chillies 1/2 cup oil, and 1/2 cup washing up liquid. Then blitz, Fine strain and spray. after3 days spray again. if its working spray again after 10 days to get rid of remaining larvae

learn from my mistake and add the washing up liquid AFTER blitzing
"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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"If we're not supposed to eat animals, why are they made of meat?" Jo Brand
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post #4 of 23
Blossom end rot (BER) isn't fully understood. But the one thing we do know about it is that it's related to the availability of calcium in soluble form.

It normally is a problem associated with the earliest fruits on any particular plant. Later fruit on the same plant doesn't contract it.

This is understandable, because we tend to transplant seedlings into cold, often wet soil, which, while it does contain calcium, doesn't release it readily. Then, as the ground warms, the plant gets the calcium it needs.

This year has been strange all over, but particularly east of the Mississippi River. We've all suffered unusually cold nights (we had several in the 50s last month, for instance) along with unusual amounts of rain. Basically, the same cold, wet soil conditions normally found in the spring.

One result is that BER is showing up mid-summer, something that rarely happens. I suspect that's what you're seeing. Although it looks like rot, it really isn't. It's more like a hard, leathery patch on the blossom end of the fruit.

Two things to be aware of: BER does not affect edibility of the rest of the tomato. Because its a physical problem, not a biological one, if you cut the "bad" part away, the rest is perfectly ok to eat.

Second, although it doesn't apply to you, for those who save seed, BER tomatoes often are the best sources. Why? Because their seed is just as viable as seed from any other fruit, but the BERed one (in a normal year) has a genetic protensity for earlier ripening.

Bughut, not to minimize it as a problem, but blight affects the leaves and, sometimes, stems of plants. It wouldn't have any effect on the fruit.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #5 of 23
Thread Starter 
I do think it's the BET you're describing. (Googling gave me images to help identify it.) The rest of the tomatoes were edible and I cooked them the other night. They tasted good! I'm relieved to know that it shouldn't effect the rest of the crop. Our plants are loaded with green tomatoes. We have had some cool weather this year.....one night was supposed to only be 48 and the rest have been in the 50s.

I am sure it's not blight as everything is ok. We did go through about 4 days when our garden wasn't watered as it should be. Had to make an emergency trip to visit my family and had no one to take care of the garden while we were gone. However, everything else is looking good and I have cucumbers coming out of my ears now. lol The squash is just starting to get ready to eat and the green beans are ready to pick. Peppers are doing well, too.

THANK YOU ALL FOR YOUR REPLIES!!!!!!
post #6 of 23
In new england we have the same blight as the one that caused the Irish famine in the 1800's. One of the local food co-ops had to dig up all the plants and burn them. It's not known yet if the seed was contaminated or if the crappy, wet weather is the culprit.
post #7 of 23
mayb we could pick the little cucumbers coming out of Allie's ears and make cornichons.... :rolleyes:
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
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post #8 of 23
It has just been offically sited in Wisconsin also, but it is attacking tomato plants. Here they are telling people not to burn possibly blighted plants but put them into plastic and send them to the landfill. Wondering if burning might not help spread the spores?
post #9 of 23
Sorry to hear that Pete.

From what I understand, the problem originated with infected seedlings shipped to the Northeast by Bonnie---who then tried to control the problem with recalls and other means. Supposedly, only Northeastern shipments were affected.

Sounds like rather than getting it controlled quickly that it's spreading.:confused:

I'm surprised to here that burning is not recommended up there. Burning is one of the few ways of destroying spores, and is the usual method. Absolutely verboton is composting, because that's a sure-fire way of spreading them.

Katbalu, blight is not spread by seeds. It is soil- and wind-borne---and, of course, carried on the plants themselves. The problem is, once it's established in the soil, eradicating it is difficult. Among other things, it requires a strict schedule of crop rotation to assure that at-risk plants are not planted there for X years.

In the case of this blight, that could include tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, and eggplants among others.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #10 of 23
That is bad news about the spread of blight.

KYH - I take it most of the plants to be affected are from the nightshade family? Just curious, did a little read up on them because I thought the ones you mentioned were related. They're also a lot of my favorites.
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #11 of 23
That's correct, DC, they're all members of the nightshade family.

Although everyone involved in agricuture is concerned, it's doubtful that this blight will have anything near the effect of the potato famine.

The problem there was that there were only three potato varieties grown throughout northern Europe at the time. They were so genetically similar as to make no never mind. When the new blight developed there was no resistance. In North America, primarily Mexico, however, resistent varities had developed naturally.

There was a similar problem in the U.S back in 1970. Almost the exact circumstances, and virtually the entire Southern commercial corn crop was destroyed and 15% of the national crop.

Have we learned anything from this? Not hardly. In 1970 there were, essentially, 3 commercial corns being grown, all genetically similar. Today there are--are you ready---all of 4.

I could provide other examples. One of the benefits to the growth of farmers markets, CSA, and other alternative agricultural practices, and the skyrocketing interest in heirlooms, is that by their very nature they promote biodiversity. The broader the genetic base of a vegetable type, the less chance there is of it all being wiped out by pestilence or disease.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #12 of 23
Just a side-note about blight in general. The way it's mostly contracted is by soil splash onto the leaves. To minimize that, be sure and prune your tomato plants so that the stems are bare for at least a foot above ground level.

Mulching heavily also helps, because it prevents the soil from splashing upwards when you water.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #13 of 23
Just heard an interview with Dan Barber of Blue Hill and Stone Barns Center for Food and Agriculture here in NY where he said that 80% of Stone Barns' tomato crop was lost within about 24 hours due to late blight. Thankfully, he said they had lots of tomatoes growing in the greenhouse that were unaffected. He mentioned the problem as stemming from the Bonnie company that provides Wal-Mart, Home Depot and Lowes with their tomato starter sets. I still had trouble with my tomatoes, even though I started them from seed.
Of course, the heirlooms got it the worst and I had to dispose of all of them. Got a few Volkovs and Better Boys, but with all the unbelievable rain and cool temps (today is the first above 90˚ since April!), they taste kind of anemic and watery.
Surprisingly, the section of tomatoes that were planted later, and then neglected (not staked, suckered or weeded) are all doing very well. Just planted them and told them "Make it if you will, I'm too busy to fuss with you". No blight, no BER-just smaller due to all the competition from the weeds.
Go man Go little 'maters!
post #14 of 23

rotting tomatoes

Try this site: Tomato Problem Solver | Aggie Horticulture
post #15 of 23
That comment gave me a good laugh - its pretty much how I approach gardening at the moment. :lol:
 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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 Don't handicap your children by making their lives easy.
Robert A. Heinlein

 
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post #16 of 23
Thread Starter 
This is sure a crazy season for these tomatoes. Just after I posted this, we had about a week of temps in the upper 80s and lower 90s. The tomatoes started ripening well and I thought we were over the hump but then the temperatures dropped and we got a lot of rain. Ripening has slowed once again and I just have a feeling I won't get many more to can. So far, I've canned 10 quarts which isn't very good out of 52 plants!
post #17 of 23
I know this thread is a tad old, but something for the coming season: 

Often the blossom end rot is caused by a deficiency of calcium in the soil.  An easy way to compensate is to save up your egg shells, crush 'em very fine and mix them into the soil when you transplant your seedlings. 

Our breakfast service provides us more than enough egg shells.  We just toss them all into a bucket each day, give them a rinse in hot water and then drain them on paper towel.  When they are dry into a large jar they go, where I can sometimes vent frustration by attacking them with a wooden spoon to crush them down some.  To finish them off we pulse them a few times in the food processor, though that happens in the off hours 'cause it stinks a bit.  Slightly burning egg shells = yucky smell.

Coffee grounds also help by adding nitrogen to the soil.  Both egg shells and coffee grounds added regularly to your compost, or mixed into the soil, should help quite a bit.
post #18 of 23
Charron,

Let me address your last point first. Coffee grounds are, indeed, a good addition to the compost mix. And, despite their color, are actually considered a green, because of their nitrogen content.

However, coffee grounds also are highly acidic, so you want to balance their addition. You can actually use them directly on acid loving plants---such as azaleas. But you don't want to over-do it with most veggies. That's why adding them to the compost is a better bet than adding them directly.

Now, as to calcium and BER. While it never hurts to include egg shells as part of your organics mix, they rarely are a solution to BER per say.

The causes of BER are not, as yet, fully understood. But a major contributing factor is the inability of the plants to utilize calcium. This is a particular problem in early season, when the soil is cold, often damp. Most of the time it isn't a lack of calcium, per se, but an inability of the plants to utilize it in soluble form. That's why BER so often affects the first fruits, but not those that come in later on.

So the trick is to free-up existing calcium, as well as adding additional in the form of egg shells, powdered milk, etc.
 

One way of doing this is to add epsom salts to the planting hole. Again, don't overdo it. A tablespoonful is more than enough. As an aside, I add the contents of a book of paper matches at the same time. Cover these amendments with a handful of compost, then set your seedling. I also draw a circle of powdered milk around the seedling at this time, then set my tower in place.

The epsom salts have the effect of freeing up calcium. Since going to this method I have never suffered BER
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #19 of 23
As always, very coolness KYH. 

I was just passing on the info I got from the (abundant) farmers in my area after last year's abysmal tomato yeild.  Seems they didn't offer the whole story, so thank goodness there are people like you here that actually know what they are talking about.

I've never added coffee grounds directly to the soil around a seedling; perhaps it seemed like I suggested that  oops.  Over the winter I do spread the grounds and other compostables along the area of the raised garden that will be developed for height in the spring.  It gets the poop tilled out of it when it is fully thawed, then fresh triple mix tops it for about a foot thick.   That idea was spawned by Harrowsmith, and it has proven to be a great way to - get rid of/ make use of - the accumulated compostables over our long and frosty Canadian winters.

I was instructed to draw a circle around the planted seedlings with the powdered egg shell, similar to your milk trick.  No one mentioned the epsom salts, so if for nothing else I'm glad my post prompted that gem. 

I was also told to plant tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplant as far from each other as possible 'cause they share disease too easily.  Another wives tale?  Or should I take that advice to heart?    ... and how far is far enough?   I count myself lucky because I have about 300' of fence line available for developing raised gardens, so space isn't an issue.
post #20 of 23
I was also told to plant tomatoes, peppers, potatoes and eggplant as far from each other as possible 'cause they share disease too easily.  Another wives tale?  Or should I take that advice to heart?    ... and how far is far enough?

Aha! You have just put your finger on the entire myth of crop rotation. In the home garden it is a ridiculous practice. And even market growers have been discovering it's many nonsense features.

There are two reasons for crop rotation. The first is depletion of nutrients. Theoretically, if you plant the same thing, or related things, in the same spot each year, they will use up the available nutrients. The second is avoidance and/or elimination of soil-borne pathogens specific to that plant type.

Here's why rotation doesn't work---or at least is meaningless---in the home garden.

First, unlike monocultural factory farms, the home gardener is replenishing nutrients on an on-going basis. They are either using organic methods, such as you, or synthetic fertilizers. So nutrient depletion is a non-issue. It just doesn't happen.

Now then, as to pathogen avoidence, it's just not possible in most home gardens. You cannot get far enough away to make any difference. Let's pick one to serve as a common example: Tomato late blight. The spores are found in the soil. So you move your tomatoes. And, lo and behold, the next season you again suffer late blight. Home come? Cuz you don't have enough room to move them far enough away, and the spores just migrate to where you have them planted this year.

Now let's go to the following year. Where, in your limited space, would you move them anyway that doesn't impinge on space you've already grown tomatoes in the past five years? It just can't be done.

Every year there are thosands of gardeners driving themselves crazy over this. They spend hours trying to figure out how to move their veggies around because the myth of crop rotation has been driven into their heads. But they can save a lot of frustration by just ignoring that practice.

It gets the poop tilled out of it.....
 
Hey! The idea is to till the poop into it.

Sorry. I couldn't resist.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #21 of 23
I was instructed to draw a circle around the planted seedlings with the powdered egg shell, similar to your milk trick.

There are several functions served by this practice. First and foremost is the timed-release nature of the calcium in the eggshells. The calcium is released slowly, and is absorbed by the soil, and, eventually, the plants.

In addition, some pests are deterred. For instance, slugs are reluctant to cross the crushed shells because they get cut on them. Similar to using diatameous (sp) earth. Some authorities claim cutworms won't cross that line either. But I've a more assured way of controlling cutworms, so can't say one way or the other.

Because I'm using other methods, I merely add my eggshells to the compost pile. But there is no reason I'm aware of to not do as you are doing.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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post #22 of 23
post #23 of 23
FWIW, the purpose of bumping (i.e., repotting to larger pots) isn't to give the seedlings room to grow. It's to develop strong root systems. Overly large seedlings, in fact, are what you don't want.

Tomatoes have an interesting characteristic: if their stems get buried they will put out roots from it. So, the way you bump up, is to take your seedling and repot it so that you are burying it almost up to it's crown. First time to do that can be when the first true leave appear. Or anytime after that. What you're looking for is a pot with increased depth, not necessarily more width.

Personally, I bump tomatoes twice, ending up with a pot that's about 5 inches deep.

By setting seed six weeks before last frost I thereby achieve a seedling with a strong rootball, and which is close to the ideal size of six inches.
They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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They have taken the oath of the brother in blood, in leavened bread and salt. Rudyard Kipling
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