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High temperatures could be leading to blossom end rot

Dear readers: This past week I’ve been shown photos of a couple tomatoes and one bell pepper fruit that are showing signs of an illness.Tracey Fitzgibbon

The fruits have blackened, soft bottoms and look very yucky! I was offered info on the plants themselves and most are container grown plants, while the bell pepper and one tomato are planted in the ground. I know this to be a malady called blossom end rot. It usually seems to show up when the temperatures get really hot. And boy howdy, its been hot!

But I’ve got good news if your tomatoes are suffering. There are a couple of things you can do to prevent blossom end rot. My “Organic Gardener’s Handbook” suggest first to keep the plant’s soil consistently moist. When growing in a container this could be tricky, but give this a try. Instead of watering once a day, split the watering in half. Water in the morning and again in the late afternoon. Get into the habit of offering half as much, twice as often.

What happens to the plant is when it’s struggling in the 100 degree-plus heat, the soil dries out at just the wrong time and the plant “sucks” moisture from itself. The first place the plant will pull the moisture is from the fruit! That blackened, sickened spot on the fruit bottom is the aftermath. Your goal is to keep the soil consistently moist so the plant doesn’t have to pull water from the fruit.

My book also suggests that the malady could be caused by a “calcium deficiency in the fruit.” It suggests doing a soil test to determine if there is a need to add calcium and suggests adding “high-calcium lime,” but I want to caution that adding lime to containerized plants. You’ll want to skimp with the amount so there isn’t an overabundance of the mineral. My book also suggests spraying the plants with seaweed extract (it’s pretty stinky) when the blooms are first present and again when you can see baby fruit.

Now that we’ve come out of the wicked high temperatures the plants will probably set new blooms soon. The seaweed extract will offer the needed minerals to keep the fruit from hopefully developing the blossom end rot.

Until the weather hits the mid-80s for the long run, splitting your water is the most important thing you can do. If you decide to spray the seaweed extract be sure to invest in a sprayer meant to dilute the concoction properly. I’m confident any nursery would guide you to a good one. Here’s to everyone’s tomatoes and peppers regrouping soon!

Q. Earlier this spring I purchased the prettiest hibiscus plants and promptly planted them along the edge of my patio. They are doing great and flowering pretty often. My sister-in-law was over and told me that they would not survive the winter here! Is this true? – E.H., Albuquerque

A. Well I’m hoping you still have the tags the plants were wearing to get the proper answer. If the tags list them with the botanical name of hibiscus rosa-sinensis then yes, your sister-in-law is correct, they will NOT survive the winter here outdoors. But you still have plenty of time to pot them back up, place the pots at the patio edge and continue to enjoy them outside until mid-October this year.

Then you should/must bring them in and treat them as loved houseplants. Really, they are easy to care for in containers! Happy Diggin’ In!

Tracey Fitzgibbon is a certified nurseryman. Send garden-related questions to Digging In, Albuquerque Journal, 7777 Jefferson NE, Albuquerque, NM 87109, or to