Thursday, July 30, 2009

Blossom End Rot!

Here is a picture of a tomato with blossom end rot. (although since peppers are in the same family as tomatoes they can get it as well and just as easy)

Symptoms can occur at any stage of development in the tomato. But it seems most common, when the tomato is one-third or half of its full size. The name sorta says it all, it starts only at the blossom end of the tomato. Starting with small water-soaked spots, which get bigger then turns dark quickly as the fruits develop. The spot may get big enough to cover one third or half of the entire tomato's surface! Basically at that point the fight is over, and that tomato is a goner. I usually pick them and toss them away.

If you have seen this tomato sickness, if you have it or had it last year. You know that it usually does not just effect 1 tomato on a plant. It was probably in the majority of your entire crop, and up to 90% of the tomatoes on each plant. The severity can vary, from very bad to maybe just a few bad tomatoes.

I personally have seen them both. I started out several years ago with just a small problem, but over the years it grew to almost taking my entire crop. That is when I decided to learn all about this disease. And I found a simple solution.

Now I could go over the long drawn out reasons of why, and all of that jazz. But it is just a lot of long words and yada yada. Simply said here is "easy" explanation, which probably wont do the disease justice. Basically the tomato plant is having a hard time getting adequate water and nutrition to the plant. Part of that could be due to clay soil. Soil can always be the culprit. Sandy soils will have the same effect. Could be periods of drought, then lots of water. Could be to much water, or inconsistent watering. But for some reason your plant isn't able to grow a good root system, thus making the plants susteptiable to disease.


If you have clay soil can I suggest you add lots of organic material? Clay soil is a common problem in vegy gardens. Clay soil just isn't great for growing, even weeds sometimes. The same can be said of Sandy soil. So add lots and Lots of organic material. Every Year. But that may only just start to solve this problem of Blossom end rot. Although I would hope it would end the problem.

Next make sure that you are consistent in watering. Make a schedule and stick to it. Now, I am not suggesting that you become a Nazi. Just water every other day on a drip system for 15 minutes, simple. In the real heat of the summer, I water every day. But I know lots of people that don't. Just watch your plants, don't let them wilt. (If they are wilting, re-evauate your watering entirely) Other watering suggestions for tomatoes and most all garden plants is, don't water over head. Meaning turn off the rain bird. I will explain more on that in my next post.

If you have taken care of everything else, meaning. Your soil is in good shape, watering is handled and you are taking the opportunity to possibly fertilize with a simple 4-12-4 or 5-20-5 fertilizer, every other week but still have a problem. Add lime. Simple powder lime from the garden department should end this problem entirely. Lime isn't bad for the body (through tomatoes) is organic and just promotes healthy tomatoes. Every year I add 1 tablespoon to the hole that I put my new tomato starts into. I would rather not bother worrying about whether blossom end rot will happen at all.

Several years ago, when I had blossom end rot for the last time. I added lime to the top of the soil next to the tomato, (because I didn't at the beginning of the year) then worked it in around the tomato. Watered as usual. I also plucked all the effected tomatoes off and chucked them. I ended up with a substantially smaller crop because of what I had lost. But everything started to grow 100% rot free after that. I cant promise that will be your experience, but if you remember: Soil, Water, Fertilizer, Lime I think you will have amazing tomatoes every year!

Happy Planting!

Wednesday, July 29, 2009

I am determined to explain

This will be a short post, but very important. I am putting the SMACK down on my kids with the house today, so I need to put my attention there. But at the same time, this is THEE MOST asked question I get at the greenhouse or at home from anyone about tomatoes!

What is the difference between Determinate & In-Determinate Tomatoes? The answer is simple, and I am going to give you a "cheat" so you wont forget.Both of the terms are simply how the tomato will grow and produce. So first ask yourself, "What am I buying this tomato for?" Are you canning, or just eating? This is important when purchasing one of the two different kinds of tomatoes. Here is the reason...
Determinate tomatoes will all grow and ripen close to the same time, within a few weeks. Meaning the plant grows to a certain size, then grows the tomatoes, then they ripen. Pretty much that is the end of that tomato plant. These are the best tomatoes to use if you are canning.
Indeterminate tomatoes grow and fruit and grow and fruit. The plant continues to grow throughout the growing season and produce tomatoes. Never finishing growing, never finishing fruiting. Pretty much that will continue to frost.. These tomatoes will often ripen earlier than Determinate varieties. These are the tomatoes you want if you are just eat'n, mak'n a little fresh salsa & not canning.

Now for the "cheat" I use. I say, the Determinate tomatoes are DETERMINED to all be ripe at the same time. Left over is the Indeterminate and they just don't care. How easy is that?
Next time you head to the Greenhouse to pick a tomato plant, I hope this will help with your selection. I will spent the next few post talking more about tomatoes. I will add my favorite varieties in the coming posts. I get so many questions about Tomatoes, seems like I should spend some time on them. For right now, I think I will head out to my garden, grab a nice juicy tomato and get back to the house.
Happy Planting...

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Ferns, I just cant get enough

Why do ferns scare so many people? I LOVE them, . Inside and outside. Often I think that many are afraid that ferns just don't belong in area's of the country that get hot. Or that ferns cant survive the harsh winters. Oh how I hope this post, of any other post I have ever posted will change you mind. I absolutely love ferns.Ferns are the most under used perennial out there. That to me is very sad. (they are actually on the endangered species list) People who come into my yard always say "I Love Ferns!" I always wonder why if they love them, they don't grow them. There are honestly over 1000 different varieties of ferns that live in temperate climates all around the world. (to bad that they have limited availability) Spread the word. Ferns are good, not bad! Then maybe we will all have better availability on new varieties.

Ferns do need Shade. Some of the information I have read indicates that Ferns can be grown in Full Sun. But I must say that none of the ferns that I have had would grow in Utah's hot sun. And that is the only place I have had them. I am going to say, stick to shade. My Shade isn't incredibly dense, but it stays shady all of the day. The parts of my ferns that hang into the sun actually get sun scalded. But thinking that Ferns MUST be in the deepest darkest shade just isn't correct. My shade is all along the front of my house.
Ferns emerge from their winter sleep all coiled up. They are called Fiddleheads! (great name) I love all of the stages of fern growth, but this one is my favorite. Leaves are called Fronds. If you purchase a Fern from a catalog to be mailed to you. It will most likely come in the form of a rhizomatous root. (really just a bulb of sorts) I had to throw out all of those names, because I think they sound pretty cool...

Growing Ferns-

Easy! Very little work! Part to heavy shade. Humus-rich, slightly acid, moist but well-drained soil. Mulch your ferns to hold in the moisture, it can also help with the early frost in the fall. Then again with the over wintering. Mulch, Mulch, Mulch! No real need to fertilize, as long as you keep organic mater in your garden and mulch. Although slow release fertilizer wont hurt. My Ferns get some every year because the rest of my perennial get some.

Propagation- Division, although I will admit I have never tried this.

If you plant rhizomatous roots, the crown should be just below the soil level. Dig the soil down 15 inches deep, then back fill. Add lots of organic material in the back fill if you can. Planting the crown to deep will cause the fern to rot. After planting make sure for the first year that your fern is well watered. If you plant a fern that is already started at the nursery, use the same instructions as above. You just have a little jump start.
I wouldn't plant any fern in your garden that you have just purchased until after the threat of frost is gone. Yes next year your ferns will survive the frost, but this year they are not hardened off. Don't take the chance. Also some of the fronds and stems may turn brown over the summer. No worries, cut them off. Let the fern keep growing. This is common.

I was going to post a list of Ferns to run out and get. But I decided that because the varieties are so varied, you better choose from things you see and like. Check the tag, make sure that the variety you like will survive in your zone. My honest favorite is the Japanese Painted Fern. (2004 Perennial plant of the year, just to throw that in) I just love it. And I have had mine now for 5 years, along with several other varieties. With really no other maintenance than watering. Yes, some of the ferns I have tried have died. But most, over 90% have lived! And they are doing great!
If you have shade, GO GET A FERN! Happy "Fern" Planting!