Blossom End Rot

Argh.

Every year with the Blossom End Rot. So very frustrating. I've removed 8 paste tomatoes (all of the variety "Pompeii") and one slicer ("Copper River"). This despite my copious use of eggshells from our chickens. It's very discouraging.

I did some further research, and I think the UC cooperative extension explains it best. BER starts "when the demand for calcium in the expanding fruit exceeds the supply." Simple, right? What's not so simple is that my soil may have plenty of calcium available, but for some reason the plant cannot access it. Usually this is because of "severe drought stress or fluctuations in soil moisture." Well, we've had weeks of over-100 degree temperatures, and the sun just beats down in the area where I have the tomatoes. However, we have the drip system running regularly, every other day at the exact same time, for the exact same amount of time. It's plenty of water. All I can think is that the extremely hot afternoons somehow stressed the plants, and UC says "Fruits in the rapid expansion phase are very susceptible to water stress. Even a temporary water stress in this period can induce BER because water preferentially goes to the leaves, reducing calcium delivery to the developing fruit." I suppose we had a temporary water stress in that time, and I didn't even realize it.

Now nine bad tomatoes among the very many we have that are beautiful is no huge deal, but we lost a lot of tomatoes last year to BER, and I don't want that to happen again (hence my preparation with eggshells, so much for that).  So I went searching for a quick fix, and I found many. Epsom salts and pelleted lime came up over and over again. Many folks swear by a foliar spray, but UC says "Foliar applications of calcium are of little value as calcium is poorly absorbed by leaves and does not move easily in the plant." Ok, scratch foliar sprays. UC does say, though, that "liming may be useful to increase the ratio of calcium ions to other competitive ions in the soil." However that's only if you have a calcium deficiency in your soil, and I don't have time for a soil test right now, I want immediate help! These raised beds often do get a pine needle drift from the Monterey Pine next door, so it's not outside the realm of possibility that the soil is on the acidic side. Therefore I decided that a quick application of lime wouldn't hurt matters and might help an awful lot.

I dissolved a cup or so of this stuff in five gallons of water and applied those five gallons to six plants. I also decided to be proactive and added it to the pepper plants as well, because I had BER in those last year too. I'll let you know how things fare from here on out.

Meanwhile, as I said, most of the tomatoes look beautiful, though they are way too slow to ripen for this tomato-lover. We've had enough for a couple of Caprese salads, one Pomodoro, and even given a few away (a very few!), but hopefully soon we'll have scads of tomatoes and I can start canning. I've cleared off two big bookshelves just so I have room for all the quart jars I'm planning to preserve. 

 Cherokee Purple

Cherokee Purple

 Yellow Pear

Yellow Pear

There's lots of other fun stuff happening in the garden. The first planting of corn is above my head, now, and some of the leaves have a beautiful crinkling. 

The watermelons are far behind the cantaloupes, but are finally blooming.

Some interesting creatures have been visiting.

 A juvenile praying mantis on the potato pots

A juvenile praying mantis on the potato pots

 I can't figure out what this is, I think it might be a cuckoo bee

I can't figure out what this is, I think it might be a cuckoo bee

And the honeybees have been very busy in the garden. Here's one in the Gaillardia, covered antennae to bum in pollen.

I finally got around to collecting the coriander. Weeks ago I cut the first planting of cilantro down and hung it in a huge bunch upside down in a paper bag. When it all had dried, I spent a couple of hours teasing out the seeds. We'll use these in pickling projects this summer. 

My verbascum is finally blooming - I've transplanted this thing three times; somehow it survived all that, and finally has sent up its huge stalk of yellow blossoms. I love it.

 Verbascum nigrum 'Dark Mullein'

Verbascum nigrum 'Dark Mullein'

And a plant that I've been watching for ages in the South Pollinator garden, it just grew and grew and grew and I thought it might be a weed and I just kept waiting and I'm so glad I did! Turns out it's a Monarda! Chalk another one up to my bad memory. I must have scattered seeds of this at one time, but totally forgot. I'm not sure what kind it is, but my guess is Monarda fistulosa (or wild bergamont). Who knows. It's pretty! It forms rhizomes, so I guess we'll have it forever now.

I'm hoping the butterflies and hummingbirds find it soon!