Row by Row Episode 154: Talking Tomatoes: What Did I Do Wrong?

Wayne Odom from Lakewood Farms is back at Hoss HQ to discuss all things tomatoes. With the season going strong, tomatoes are one, if not the number one fruit that everyone likes to have in their garden. The varieties are endless and have the potential to produce a heavy harvest depending on many factors. One of the biggest issues for most gardeners with growing tomatoes is Blossom End Rot.

Garden Update

This year has been the best year for Wayne in harvesting asparagus. While it does take a couple of years to actually start producing heavily, asparagus is the vegetable that keeps on giving. The harvesting season for asparagus ends late spring/early summer. Wayne is also known as the “Bee Man”, this year so far his bees have produced 100 pounds of honey (2 – 5 gallon buckets), which will provide enough honey for well over a year for his family. The Benary Giant Zinnia flowers have also been a huge success at Lakewood Farms reaching over 4 feet tall, as well as having success with several different varieties of peppers, okra, and his olive trees. One of the biggest issues that Wayne is having in his garden this season is with his tomatoes and fighting Blossom End Rot.

Blind Taste Testing

With tomatoes, there can be many different color variances and of course, sizes. For instance, the Purple Boy tomato has deep hues of purple tones which are derived from the “grandparent – Cherokee Purple“. The purple boy has improved disease resistance for challenging growing conditions. The Lemon Boy, another indeterminate variety has a bright-yellow skin comparable to a lemon but will it taste different than the Purple Boy? Our Red Snapper (a great “slicing” tomato), determinate variety with heavy yields ranging from large to extra-large fruits. How will these three varieties compare to one another?

First tomato taste test – Purple Boy. While blindfolded, Wayne describes this variety as tasting like a “regular” tomato, not very acidic, the texture is mushy, overall taste – “average tomato taste. Second tomato taste – Red Snapper, the texture seemed better in Wayne’s opinion, not as mushy as the first variety, the flavor was less acidic. The last variety – Lemon Boy, Wayne describes this variety as juicy, great flavor, and a little acidic – definitely tastes different than the first two. Rating from 1 (the worst) to 5 (the best) for taste, Wayne rates the Purple Boy as a 4, Red Snapper as a 3, and the Lemon Boy would be a 5.

Cherry Tomato Taste Test

Mountain Vineyard – still blindfolded, Wayne describes this variety as having a firm skin, chewy texture but packs a punch! The Rosy Finch Tomato was described as juicy, the skin was not as firm as the Mountain Vineyard but definitely a favorite of Wayne’s. Rating these two varieties, Wayne gives the Mountain Vineyard a 3 rating and the Rosy Finch a 4.

Blossom End Rot

Many of our fellow gardeners on our Row by Row Facebook Page fight with blossom end rot quite often, we also get many customer service emails regarding this tomato issue accoring to Greg. There are a few misconceptions regarding blossom end rot that Greg has seen a lot and one is adding magnesium sulfate (Epsom salt), adding Epsom Salt doesn’t help blossom end rot whatsoever.

What Is It?

Blossom end rot is a complex problem that you have, commonly what happens is the gardener does not have the calcium. Calcium is a molecule in the soil that has a positive charge. Magnesium is also a positive charge, having too much magnesium will repel and push out the calcium in the soil. Having clay or organic soils/good compost have a negative charge so they will attract calcium and magnesium. A lack of calcium is what causes blossom end rot in plants. Once blossom end rot sets in, there is no way to fix this issue. A good comprehensive plan/preventative plan is going to help you in getting your soils rich in calcium and magnesium before you start your tomatoes. Soil samples also help in determining what is needed for rich, productive soils.

Must-haves to prevent blossom end rot is frequent water, calcium moves through the water, so in dry zones that frequent drought problems need to add a granular calcium fertilizer. You can also see blossom end rot on peppers (mainly bell pepper varieties) and watermelons can also have the potential for the blossom end rot disease.

Blossom End Rot Preventative Plan

Greg’s plan consists of first, add plenty of good compost to your soil or complete organic fertilizer (hen manure) which is loaded with calcium. You want to add this to your soil about two weeks before you plant. Second, always use drip irrigation. You want to irrigate near the root system and you will be able to also add any nutrients you may need. The third thing is alternating a balanced fertilizer such as 20-20-20 and then alternate to a straight nitrogen source (Calcium Nitrate), Greg also adds Microboost with each application. The last step is to broadcast Gypsum (land plaster in the South) at first bloom and every 10-14 days following with overhead watering. Sprays DO NOT work.

Product of the Week

1020 Microgreen Growing Tray

1020 Microgreen Reservoir Tray

Champion Radish

Drip Irrigation

Hoss Tomato Varieties

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