THEN you can consider if any amendmenbts are needed. You mention
dolomite--that's a SLOW acting mineral supplement that breaks down over a
period of time. Dolomite limestone is often added to soils that are too acid in
the off season. Your soil may already contain enough calcium and magnesium so
adding more is a waste--but you don't know that since you don't know the
composition of your soil--so get a test and stop messing around and don't
listen to quacks with theri magic miracle cure alls
in article email@example.com, Frankhartx at
firstname.lastname@example.org wrote on 7/19/03 2:41 AM:
tomatoes need calcium and magnesium, they also like acidity. Dolomite will
make soil more alkaline. I use dolomite in my hydroponic nutrient solution
to increase pH on the rare occasions when the nutrient is too acid. t is
true that dolomite, like limestone, is not very soluble.
The supplier of my nutrient suggests adding Calcium and magnesium to the
nutrient during heavy bearing times. They recommend, and I use, calcium
nitrate and Epsom salt. The calcium nitrate I use has a significant amount
of water of crystallization as well as a bit of ammonium nitrate mixed in.
Because of the small amount of ammonium nitrate and water of
crystallization, I do not think that it can become explosive. Epsom salt
also has water of crystallization and is relatively cheap. Both salts,
because they are made up from a strong acid and a relatively weak base will
By the way, buying these inexpensive materials at a boutique nursery or
garden supply store can easily jack up their priced by a factor of five or
Your soil may already contain enough calcium and
No magic. No miracle. No cure-all. And absolutely no quackery.
Blossom End Rot (BER) is caused by a lack of calcium. This, in turn, is
caused by a lack of available calcium in the soil. Either there is an
inadequate level of calcium in the soil or pH / watering problems prevent
its uptake. If the plants are experiencing BER but the pH is fine, then
adding calcium to the soil and correcting the watering problems will
correct it. Given the seriousness of BER, I do not think the ~$1.00 per
year I spend on calcium supplement tablets for spot application in my
garden --about 9 cents per plant-- to be a waste. (A ~$3.00 bottle lasts me
about 3 years, thus ~$1.00 per year)
I believe I was the first poster (this growing season) to relate how I used
this product. The person who broke up the tablets and sprinkled water over
them did not do as I suggested. Different techniques yield different
results. I stated that I pushed 3 tablets into the ground near the tomato
and pepper plants at the time of planting. This allows natural processes to
dissolve and distribute them so that they are available by the time the
roots grow into the soil beneath where I pushed the tablets into a hole
made with my finger and then covered over to keep the birds from trying to
eat them. This process takes a long time to complete ... which is okay
because the plants need small quantities over the fruiting period, not
massive one-time washes of it. Colin applied crushed tablets to the surface
of the ground, then watered. When he did not see all of the material
disappear instantly, he questioned whether it was sufficiently water
soluble to be available in a form the plants need.
Colin, as you continue to water through the season, the particles will
progressively dissolve and leach down into the root zone. Some of the
calcium will be bound up chemically into other compounds and become either
unavailable to the plants or only slowly available. Oh well. Some will miss
the roots and continue leaching down past them. Again, "Oh well". Some will
be found by the bacteria living on the roots and used. Bingo!
I'm not a quack. I was getting BER, researched the problem online and began
adding the tablets as a convenient means of countering the problem in my
soil. I have never recommended this as a panacea but as a specific response
to a specific condition and only if that specific condition has manifested
itself in a particular plot previously. If soil is in the proper pH range
and calcium is present in sufficient quantities and watering is handled
properly, then BER will not occur. If the soil pH is wrong or the watering
is mis-handled, then all the calcium in the world would not be enough. I
count on other gardeners to know the approx. pH in their own soil and to
apply water properly. If they don't do these simple things then they
probably should avoid mucking about in the soil chemistry at all.
IIRC, only one other person chimed in stating that they were doing as I do
and getting the results I get. That certainly is not sufficient data for
anyone to follow our path blindly. It is, however, a cue that the answer
might lay in this direction. By NO means should the patter on a newsgroup
be taken as authoritative. This is an INFORMAL forum. Information is given
in a simplified form and is often anecdotal in nature and ALWAYS without
warranty of any sort except "it worked for me".
Soil testing, while laudable, is not as simple a matter as you imply. The
local extension service (Wayne County, MI) is a PITA to work with. I
imagine there are other areas of the country that give good service, but
Detroit isn't one of them. There is NO way that I can see that they are at
all interested in doing soil tests ... they seem to be much better at
erecting barriers than they are at providing services. Their hours are
extremely limited for sample carry-ins and all of them during normal
working hours when farmers might be able to slip away for a while but most
factory rats with a garden in the backyard are not going to have that much
liberty from their employers, they do not publish fees and addresses on
their web sites, (IMO) ignorant people answer the phones ... all designed
to discourage rather than encourage use of their soil testing services by
You are right ... it is important to have some sort of clue as to what the
soil contains before adding stuff willy-nilly. However, the presence of BER
is a valid indicator of a calcium deficiency. If the soil pH is correct and
the water discipline is correct, then the problem is a deficiency of
I'm no quack and a soil test is not the only means of getting a measure of
what's in the soil. Farmers corrected for deficiencies long before the
cow-colleges were ever created. There are indicator conditions and
indicator plants that tell the story in sufficient detail that a person
skilled in their reading probably has no need to pay for a soil analysis.
The person applying small quantities of dolomitic lime will reap some
benefits this year ... and more next year. No harm will have been done. It
would be another matter entirely if he were applying it by the shovel-full.
ANY deleterious modification of pH that he might be causing is limited to a
very small area and the soil directly beneath it and is mitigated by the
very slowness of availability you point to as a handicap and the very small
You told him "Your soil may already contain enough calcium and magnesium so
adding more is a waste--but you don't know that since you don't know the
composition of your soil"
Well, does it have enough or not? "May" doesn't 'cut it'. You don't know the
composition of his soil either. If he is experiencing BER, he has some
combination of a calcium deficiency or a watering problem. By adding
calcium to his soil he has taken one variable out of the equation and can
then isolate watering / pH as a source of the problem. However, he did not
state that he was experiencing BER, either. So neither of us can tell
whether adding anything at all was warranted. Or not.
Had he asked me about adding the calcium I would have asked him if he had
observed any symptoms in the past, the nature of his soil, its pH and so
on. Since he did not ask me directly, I would NOT have advised him to spend
anywhere from $12-$50 for a soil test or even the lesser sum for a soil
test kit (and less reliable results) from the local garden center. He
doesn't need that level of detail for this particular circumstance. I check
my pH and I watch my plants. I add a boat load of compost as a mulch all
year round. I would recommend he do this much blindly. More than that,
though, needs more information from him.
I don't have that information and neither do you.
Zone 5b (Detroit, MI)
I do not post my address to news groups.
On 19 Jul 2003 22:50:02 GMT, email@example.com (Frankhartx) wrote:
Partially true. My experience is that BER problems are more
pronounced early in the season and sometimes totally clear
up towards the middle of the season without doing anything
to treat the effected plants. HOWEVER, if the soil is treated
with any of the various "cures" that resulted in solving the BER
problem in the current season AND subsequent plantings
result in no BER then it safe to assume that the cure worked.
It would be interesting to see how plants responed to this
calcium tablet treatment if only half of the BER effected plants
were given this treatment. Anyone try that?
firstname.lastname@example.org (---Pete---) wrote in message
Hey, pete, I wonder where you are located. BER is almost exlusively a
late-season problem here in my garden in Tennessee. We have plenty of
naturally occuring calcium in our limestone-rich soil so I suppose it
is brought on by the sporadic moisture conditions here in August. Our
typical late summer weather is very hot and very humid. We sometimes
have a shower or two but it is generally drier than July. If we have
a really hot summer, It is hard to keep tender plants from cooking
altogether. I assume your climate and/or soil must be somewhat
different from what we have here to induce BER in the early season.
Thanks Bill, I had BER earlier in the season, so became interested in
I later read that Tomatoes (and I believe Okra) both thrive when they
have good access to Calcium and Magnesium. There seemed to be no risk
in trying some controlled experiments to see what difference this
I think I was being impatient! I'm quite happy to wait for that
"bingo" moment, if it comes. And if I don't get any more BER, I guess
I won't have lost out, whatever the cure was!
Yup, suits me. Thanks for the info Bill. If I get round to it, I'm
going to try and post some pictures on the web by the end of the
Summer, then we can compare notes.
Right now, the thing I'm most pleased about is that my outdoor
tomatoes (Sungold and Vandos) are ripening and so far there hasn't
been any sign of blight (which has ruined my crop for the past 4
In another week's time, we should be eating home made Gazpacho soup.
(Please reply via the newsgroup)
Most excellent post, Bill!
I agree, no quackery here, but rather it seems you are in tune
with the actual symptoms of the plants as a means of determining
the condition of the soil. While soil tests can be performed using
professional services or those do-it-yourself kits, there are so many
variables that can effect the test and give inaccurate results.
Don't get me wrong, I do soil tests but I don't rely 100% on those
results. I make some soil ammendments as a result of my soil test
but then I watching the plants carefully as a further indication of
soil condition is and what it may need.
Bill, did this technique solve your problem?
I'm located in New Jersey and over the years, I've had a BER (Blossom
End Rot) problem in my two 100 SqFt. plots to varying degrees but only
with my Roma tomatoes. Specifically for BER prevention, I've amended
the soil using compost enriched with eggshells, pelletized gypsum and
epsom salts and this definitely helped solve the problem but not
universally. Last year, there was still one small area that gave me
problems with BER so I gave that area a bit more treatment this year
Bottom line, is that monitoring the symptoms of the plants and keeping
notes is a major key to determining what soil amendments are needed.
Soil tests are useful but certainly not accurate enough to solely rely
If Bill is a quack then so am I, a quack with beautiful 5 to 6 foot
tall tomato plants with no signs of BER yet this year. (Keeping
my fingers crossed) <grin>
I only got blossom end rot one year, that year I grew plum tomatoes in all
most pure cow manure. now that I grow them in soil I have no problem. I do
not know if this throws any light on your problem but I hope it helps you
Richard M. Watkin.
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