Match Made in Heaven

The fall gardening season is upon us in Florida and that means I’m ready to tackle tomatoes, figuratively speaking of course. You want to be gentle with these babies, careful. Unless you’re using one of those upside down bag “thingys” and then—all bets are off. From what I understand, you can’t kill the things when growing them in those contraptions!

But I’m an in-ground gardener, doing things the old-fashioned way. Now that it’s time to start my tomato sprouts it’s time to share a little secret, the secret to beautiful, healthy, blossom-end rot free tomatoes.  Epsom salts and eggshells.  Yep, just mix some crumbled eggshells together and Epsom salts into your potting mix and you’re good to go!

secrets to our tomatoes

This disease is the result of a lack of calcium.  Calcium’s most important function during the crop fruiting stage is its role in cell wall/cell membrane stability.  If Ca is deficient in developing fruits, an irreversible condition known as blossom-end rot will develop. Blossom-end rot occurs when cell wall calcium “concrete” is deficient during early fruit development, and results in cell wall membrane collapse and the appearance of dark, sunken pits at the blossom end of fruit so this blend does wonders to give your plants a head start.  The magnesium helps plants grow bigger, heartier tomatoes but go easy.  Too much Mg can cause trouble, too. More

Put an End to Blossom-End Rot

Finally!  The solution to blossom-end rot.  No longer will you have to suffer through unsightly spots.  No more will you find yourself spraying a problem that already exists.

Absolutely not.  We have discovered the secret.  Having endured the ugliness of blossom-end rot one too many times, I planted my tomatoes this spring with great care and foresight.  You know what I’m talking about.  After nurturing these tiny little beings from their tender beginnings, you refused to set them out in the harsh sun too soon. 

You watered and fed them on the patio waiting for that perfect opportunity, the moment they were ready to be hardened off.  Sounds so cruel when you put it that way but alas, it’s a fact of life.  Tomatoes want to be outside soaking in the full glory of Mother Nature’s sunshine.  But in transplanting them you must–absolutely must–include a dose of eggshells and Epsom salts

Yep. Because blossom-end rot is due to a calcium deficiency.  Magnesium too (I think) and these two ingredients are the secret weapon in the battle of blossom-end rot.  My tomatoes are here to prove it.  Just sprinkle a little bit of Epsom salts in the well around your plant, crumble in a few washed and dried eggshells and voila!  These babies were green and gorgeous as they developed and their skin remained this supple, smooth and unmarred all the way to maturity.

Sure we had other issues like cracking and worms, a few even “sun-dried” on the vine (I was busy on vacation) but we didn’t have blossom-end rot!  🙂  Lesson learned, mission accomplished. 

Of course, my compost tomatoes didn’t have this problem either, but I’ll be the first to admit:  I’m no match for Mother Nature when it comes to gardening.  She wins, no contest (though I do enjoy a good challenge).  The only other comment I have is regarding variety.  Now no offense, but this Pantano variety (mixed above with Romas) is not my favorite.  They’re horribly unattractive and thus unappealing to my palate.  Does that make me a bad person?

Besides, they were no where as easy to grow as my Romas.  And since my goal is sauce, I think I’ll stick with the Romas.  I also grew a San Marzano variety this spring, but they didn’t fare as well.  I think it was a water issue, as in, my sprinkler was malfunctioning (unbeknownst to me!).  Never good–especially with the heat wave we’ve been experiencing.

Live and learn.  And love those tomatoes!

Tomatoes, Eggshells and Epsom

I’ve decided to start my tomatoes, a little head start on the season, if you will.   Tomatoes, because I’m still reeling from the devastating loss of my gorgeous fall crop.  Nasty Jack Frost nipped them right before my eyes, days before they matured to peak perfection.  Bad Jack Frost.

But I will not be shaken from the garden.  My roots are grounded, my will is strong.  Granted the old man is still hanging around (blustering old fool), but I won’t be intimidated.  In fact, I will outsmart him!  I’ll start my tomatoes indoors, near a warm sunny window–where he can’t get to them.  We’ll laugh and we’ll frolic and we’ll watch the old blow hard scourge the landscape into a frightful state–while we’re snug and secure indoors.  My tomatoes soon will realize it’s safe to sprout, and will poke their tiny green heads from the soil, followed by their skinny little bodies.

And I will feed them eggshells.  The secret for beautiful, robust, blossom-end rot free tomatoes!  It’s the calcium, you see (in addition to even watering and good potting soil) that will set their fruits strong and sure.   Plus, for good measure, I’ll throw in some Epsom salt.  Read somewhere these were wise moves and I’m a wise woman!  I believe it has something to do with adding magnesium and sulfur to the soil.  Magnesium helps promote chlorophyll formation and sulfur helps activate plant proteins and enzymes needed for growth. 

Hmmm….  Very interesting.  I feel a lesson coming on (watch out students).  Elements found in the garden will be ones you never forget–not after the gardenfrisk is through with you!

Anyway, deep breath, back to my tomatoes.  They’re off to a good start.  Found a strange squash or cucumber sprouting in one seed cell (which was promptly removed).   Not sure how it ended up there, other than a case of mixing compost and potting soil.  Which can happen.  It’s busy around here come this time of year, what with seed saving and sprouting trays, compost buckets, potting soil, dog chasing, kid ruckus…I’m lucky I managed to save any seeds at all! 

My tomatoes and I are ready–let the spring games begin!  A tad early, but tomatoes are fussy.  They don’t like it too cold or too hot.  And while some of us may have forgotten what the summer heat feels like here in Central Florida, too busy heating their frost-nipped extremities, I have not.  Nor will I allow myself to believe the heat won’t really hit until July.  It froze twice in December, didn’t it?

Mother Nature and I are friends, but she does deserve a certain degree of my humble regard.  After all, she does reign queen when it comes to gardening.