Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Second Planting at the Community Garden and Blossom End Rot

After last week's productive harvest of all the zucchini, squash and beets from the community garden, we decided to take out some of the spring plants entirely and re-plant new crops. Apart from the tomatoes and green peppers (and a few new tomato varieties that one of the families transplanted last week), the beds were looking pretty empty. So today the Wilmington College grounds crew planted four cucumber seedlings per bed and four different herbs: basil, thyme, sage and oregano. Tonight is the second 'Tuesday Harvest' since it's been voluntary, so hopefully there will still be a good number of families out tending to their plots and new plants.
In addition to the new cucumber seedlings in the community beds, Monte, Randy and the crew transplanted the rest of the cucumber seedlings out at the college farm, where the different varieties of squash and peppers are really fruiting nicely. The first batch of ripe tomatoes are days away from picking, and most of the banana pepper plants that have already been picked-through are ready again for a harvest.
One thing that I noticed today while walking around to the different beds was the number of ripening tomatoes that showed signs of Blossom End Rot (BOE), that frustrating physiologic fruit disorder that plagues calcium-deficient tomatoes, eggplants and peppers. The rot typically affects the first ripe fruit of the season, which can make it an even more frustrating find for the eagerly awaiting gardener. BOE means your plants are requiring calcium faster than your soil can give it, and thus the fruit develops a dark decay-spot on the blossom end (the bottom) of the fruit as the outer wall of the fruit continues to develop. The cause of the disorder can be found in several places, but most commonly in two: in acidic soil, where the pH level is less than 5.6, and in inconsistent watering patterns, in which the soil is allowed to dry out or flood. Both cases can be remedied (soil can be limed to balance out the pH level, and a consistent watering pattern will keep the soil moisture steady), but the fruit that is affected is almost always inedible, because it ripens too quickly.

I counted three tomatoes out of the 40 or so in the VISTA plot that had BOE or the early stages of it, so thankfully that's a relatively small number. I'm not sure if the soil has been tested recently, but that seems to be a logical first step in finding the root of the problem.

For more about BOE, check out Kelsey Swindler's post on the disorder over at the ECC Garden Blog.


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