Calcium: Essential for Bountiful Garden Harvests

Tomato blossom end rot.

Blossom end rot on a tomato usually starts as a dark, often squishy, patch. Supplemental calcium helps build strong cell walls and can often correct this problem.

As plants grow, they develop new cells with sturdy little walls that define the boundaries of that cell, corral its contents and separate it from its neighbors. Roots, stems, leaves and fruits all are comprised of individual cells. Calcium is one of the minerals needed for the development of strong cell walls.

Think about how plants develop; first the roots and stems, then the leaves and finally the fruits. Nutrients that are in short supply are often grabbed and absorbed by stems or foliage and don’t make it out to the branch tips where the fruit forms. This tends to be the case with calcium.

Fruit and vegetable cell walls that form with insufficient calcium are thin and weak, likely candidates for rot spots, specifically blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is just what it sounds like – a dark, squishy patch of rot that originates on the blossom end of the fruit or vegetable and spreads from there.

Many gardeners have experienced blossom end rot and seen the results on their fruits and vegetables. Still, lots of gardeners don’t know exactly what’s happening or how to address it.


Blossom End Rot in Tomatoes, Peppers and Eggplant

This disease is caused by insufficient calcium during the development of the tomato fruits and by the time the rot is evident, it’s usually too late to save that tomato. Don’t despair. For the crop of smaller tomatoes that is still developing, immediate action usually saves the rest of the season’s harvest. Add calcium. Nutrical is a liquid calcium supplement form that is applied as a foliar spray and is absorbed quickly. Black bottoms on peppers and eggplant indicate the same problem and are addressed the same way.


Blossom End Rot in Squashes and Melons

On summer squashes like zucchini and yellow crookneck, the deficiency translates into a soft, discolored end that grows progressively more pronounced. Pick off the rotting squash, discard it and treat the plant to correct low calcium levels. Future squashes will be fine. Melons are managed the same way.


Cavity Spot in Carrots

Patches of horizontal rot anywhere along carrot roots may be signs of the disease known as cavity spot. A significant problem for commercial farmers in many parts of the country, this malady also shows up in home gardens. Supplemental calcium has been shown to reduce the incidence of this disease, potentially by encouraging beneficial soil microbes that suppress the fungi that causes cavity spot.


Internal Browning in Potatoes

There are a number of potato diseases that result in brown or rusty patches in the flesh or centers of the tubers.  Collectively they are referred to as “internal browning.”  Again, supplemental calcium has been shown to help reduce the incidence of these in a number of scientific studies.


Corking/Cork Spot or Bitter Pit in Apples

Many apple growers are familiar with the symptoms of Cork Spot or Bitter Pit which appear as dimples or depressed soft spots that make the fruit much less appealing. Sometimes these signs are confused with insect or hail damage.


Reduced Stress in Plants

A variety of normal gardening activities can stress plants – transplanting is high on the list. Adding calcium helps reduce transplant shock and encourages plants to settle in quickly.


Nutrical to the Rescue!

Nutrical is a foliar spray that provides easily absorbed and efficiently transported calcium for garden plants. This liquid enhances disease resistance, extends storage life, is environmentally friendly and has been used by market gardeners for more than 30 years. An economical, broad use product, Nutrical belongs in every garden’s shed.

One more note: In addition to limited available calcium, other cultural factors may also contribute to blossom end rot. These include insufficient or uneven amounts of water, excessive nitrogen-rich fertilizer, high salt levels in the soil and soil pH that is very high or very low. If correcting calcium deficiencies helps but fails to eliminate problems, review these other possible contributors.


10/23/2013    Fertilizing: Feed Me, Plant Diseases: Identification & Solutions, Uncategorized