I love getting back from a work trip, as I did this past Sunday, and finding our Roma and Cherry Tomato plants looking10 times the size they were when I left. That might be an exaggeration, but like anything you can't always grasp how big things have gotten until you don't see them for an extended length of time.
A few weeks ago:
We are getting closer and closer to being able to snack on these bad boys. Our tomato plants are thriving with many, many little sections of fruit sprouting up. So proud that these have been grown from seed. Here is that same one from above:
Of course, as I sort of expected, it is not all sunshine and roses. I first experienced "Blossom End Rot" when my brother in law was checking out his tomatoes and caught some bad eggs. Putting, "tomatoes rotting at the bottom" in a google search, we quickly learned what Blossom End Rot really is and luckily realized that all of our tomatoes won't be affected.
Blossom-end rot is caused by either a lack of calcium in the soil or the plant's inability to draw calcium from the soil due to stress. It can also be caused by inconsistent watering, which is very common when growing in containers.
During drier conditions, the plants have a more difficult time absorbing nutrients. Since calcium is normally low in content in most home gardens, the first few tomatoes will experience this problem. The good news is that it does not spread to other tomatoes and will normally correct itself after a few weeks. Even better news is that you can prevent the problem by using corrective measures in early spring.
Epsom salts, composed primarily of magnesium sulfate, has been proven to help prevent blossom-end rot. Simply mix one or two tablespoons of epsom salts to the soil when planting. Once the plant begins flowering, apply 1 tbs. epsom salts to one gallon of water and spray liberally on the plants. Then mulch the plants with 3" of straw or dried grass clippings to help retain moisture and keep down weeds. This should be sufficient enough to prevent this problem in the future.
One other trick for established tomatoes is to crush a few Tums and carefully work them into the soil around the plants. Tums contain calcium and will sometimes serve as a quick solution to BER.
My favorite quote from one of the sites was "Stay Calm." Because this usually affects some of the first fruits to sprout, I guess it is easy to freak out and ditch the whole endeavor!
Here's hoping by September we'll be ready to pick some of these guys!
In the meantime, our basil has been going strong and has proved quite useful in a few recipes. Try this latest easy-peasy recipe from Real Simple: Sauteed Spinach with Basil.