HERE’S THE DIRT: Getting to the Bottom of Blossom End Rot

It is always disappointing to see a tomato, squash, pepper, watermelon or an eggplant get blossom end rot (BER). It is not the end of the plant, though, just the fruit. We typically think a lack of calcium in the soil is the main reason our plants get blossom end rot and the truth is that most soil has adequate calcium especially if it is the soil that you have been growing plants in previously.

To sum up blossom end rot, it is a disorder of growing fruit that causes the fruit’s cells at the blossom end of the fruit to die. So what does this really mean? If a plant has inconsistent watering that is too wet or dry this will affect how the plant will receive calcium and that imbalance can result in blossom end rot. Other causes of why a plant may experience BER are over fertilizing with nitrogen which can promote leaf growth and deplete part of the plant in receiving calcium as the water will carry the calcium towards the new leaf growth and damage to small feeder roots can also affect how the plant takes in water affecting the calcium and contributing to BER.

Some ways to resolve BER once it happens in your garden is to remove the affected fruit and monitor your watering schedule and if the problem persists you should have your soil tested and/or you may consider planting a different variety of that plant in the future. Many times we hear of garden myths like adding tums or Epsom salts as a sure fire way to resolve the issue but they are just that, myths and people probably do see some results because they are watering and paying more attention to the care of that plant. So the big take away here is that water is a key factor in resolving blossom end rot.

Submitted by Donna Canino

Other reading:




The Zen of Gardening by David Wann

I marvel at the lush gardens I see on gardening shows and admit to a bit of
“green” envy. Unfortunately, those shows and gardening books for the humid
eastern U.S. do not help me much here in Montana. Instead I seek out advice
from gardeners who create successful gardens in our challenging conditions out

David Wann is one such gardener. David began gardening at 7000 feet outside
Denver in the early 1980s. He has faced the same drought, wind, heat, cold, hail,
poor soils and short growing seasons that we cope with here in Montana. He
has distilled decades of experimental gardening and many lessons from masterful
gardeners that he has interviewed and worked with into this book.

Mr. Wann covers a very wide range of topics from mulching, choosing natives,
starting seeds, growing garlic, producing food in the winter to planting trees,
shrubs and perennial flowers. The novice and the seasoned gardener alike will
find great information here. As I read the book, I started a list of useful tips that
I plan to implement in my garden, such as mulching potato plants with pine needles, feeding my strawberries with compost and bone meal, using different methods of seed-starting to meet the varying needs of seeds, growing hairy vetch as a cover crop and companion plant to tomatoes, and trying the adage “When cottonwoods bud, plant the spuds.”

This book is not a story that you can read through like a novel. It is more a reference book and can be read gradually or used as a go-to source for specific help. One philosophical approach I particularly like about Mr. Wann’s gardening is that
there are lessons in failures—gardens are an experiment that we learn from every year. That is one of the things I love about gardening—there is always something new and useful to learn. And I definitely learned a lot reading The Zen of Gardening.

Reviewed by Ann Guthals

Book Review – Permaculture…

Permaculture book summer 2016

Permaculture for the Rest of Us—Abundant Living on Less Than an Acre

By Jenni Blackmore


I loved reading this book!  It is so down-to-earth (appropriate for a gardening book!), practical and funny.  It leads you on and on from one garden topic to another with so much helpful information in every paragraph that you don’t want it to end.  It’s the first garden book I’ve read that reads as easy as a good novel.

This book is written by a woman who moved to a windswept island off of Nova Scotia 25 years ago to make a sustainable farm on poor clay soils facing challenging weather.  Sounds like Montana!  She learned by doing and along the way became educated in permaculture principals.  Permaculture was developed in tropical places but lucky for us Jenni Blackmore is here to apply these principals to places like Montana.

While providing much useful information, the book does not go into depth on any given topic.  As such it is very accessible and helpful to a beginning gardener.  But the information also validates and reinforces a more experienced gardener’s knowledge and provides many suggestions that even master gardeners may not have tried yet.  Two I am trying this year are: snipping the plants I thin rather than pulling them so as not to disturb the roots of the young plants I want to keep; and rather than trying to plant small lettuce and greens seeds in wet spring soil, broadcast the seeds on the soil, then cover with a thin layer of potting soil (or topsoil).

Jenni looks at her farm as a system, interlocking and logical.  She encourages looking at the whole system—the physical components, the interdependent functioning, and the development in time.  Her farm is less than an acre but she is able to provide much of the food for her family.  She has learned by doing and her knowledge may help the rest of us prevent some errors without having to learn the hard way.

To give you an enticing sample of Jenni’s writing, here is her description of the purpose of the book from her introduction: “My purpose here is to write an encouragement manual, an if we can do it then for certain you can kind of book, a book that might save others from getting bogged down by the same mistakes we made and which simplifies and elevates permaculture methodology to its rightful status….While not wanting it to read like a text book, I do want to supply enough concrete information to facilitate success…Whether it’s a speed read during the first heady days of spring planting or leisurely dreaming on a cold winter’s afternoon, read on.  And enjoy!”

This very enjoyable book is available by order from Barnes and Noble.

Book review submitted by Ann Guthals