Blossom-End Rot: Symptoms and Treatments

Blossom rot is a condition that needs to be addressed as soon you detect it. The key is having the right nutrients in your soil.
You're feeling good because your garden has blessed you with a bountiful tomato harvest. Then, to your horror, you notice that the bottoms of your tomatoes have been stained by large black or brown, rotten-looking spots. It can be extremely discouraging to see this condition affecting one tomato plant, let alone all of the ones in your garden. You pray that it's just a bad dream and Google the condition only to discover that your tomatoes are suffering from blossom rot, also known as blossom-end rot or BER. Unfortunately, this disorder isn't limited to tomatoes. Blossom rot has also been known to affect peppers, squash, and melons.
What Is Blossom Rot?
Blossom rot is a condition that occurs in flowering plants and causes a breakdown in fruit growth, giving fruits the appearance of rotting on the vine. It’s not caused by a disease, parasite, or pest like other garden problems but results from nutrient deficiency. When your soil is lacking in calcium, a lot of fruits have trouble growing correctly.
Signs of Blossom Rot

When it comes to blossom rot, there a few indicators you should be on the look out for. You may find that your green tomatoes have a "water-soaked" looking spot on their bottoms. As your tomatoes continue to grow, so will these spots. Typically, these underside lesions have a light tan color and become progressively blacker over time. If left to fester for an extended period of time, the spots can become sunken and grow big enough to consume a tomato's entire lower half.
Blossom Rot Vs. Inadequate Pollination
Blossom rot is very easy to confuse with inadequate pollination, as the two conditions bear similar symptoms. Nonetheless, you can tell your plants are suffering from BER if your tomatoes are still able to develop from small, green balls into fully fledged fruits and go through the color changes we all love to see. If inadequate pollination or fruit abortion is afflicting your plants, their fruits will not be able to grow normally and will show signs of rot while still very small.
Dealing With Blossom Rot

As soon as you’ve noticed a tomato is exhibiting signs of blossom-end rot, it will have to be picked from the plant and thrown out. There's no reason to let the plant waste more energy on growing a bad tomato. Luckily, blossom rot is not a disease and will stop affecting your fruits if the conditions causing it are properly treated. Once you’ve addressed the problem, your next batch of tomatoes should come out looking healthy and beautiful.
The not-so-great news is that there's no quick fix — it's going to take some time to treat blossom-end rot. To begin, you’ll want to invest in a product that will replenish your soil's calcium levels. There are a ton of commercial sprays and soil amendments out there that should do just the trick. Fast-acting lime is a popular choice that adds calcium to your soil without taking weeks to react. Epsom salts, compost tea, bone meal tea, and powdered milk can also help return your soil to its peak condition.
Preventing Blossom Rot

Blossom rot usually occurs in areas that get a lot of wet weather, where the rain can readily wash the soil's nutrients away. You may need to run a couple of tests to determine your soil's pH level and calcium content. Ideally, you’ll want the pH to be between 6.5 and 6.8. You’ll also want to reduce the amount of nitrogen in the soil, as it tends to tie calcium up.
Keep your soil evenly moist at all times, especially in the summer when it can easily dry out. This may seem counterintuitive since too much moisture can leach calcium away, but your fruiting plants are going to need plenty of water if they're going to produce big, juicy tomatoes. Try to give them about an inch to an inch and a half of water on a regular basis. Applying some mulch around your plants will also keep the water in your soil from evaporating too quickly.
Blossom rot damages the crops that you worked hard to raise and can make any gardener want to pull their hair out. It can take some time before your plant starts producing fruit that isn’t impacted by calcium deficiency, but you’ll be glad that you took the time to get rid of BER when it does.

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