Tomatoes and peppers need your immediate attention if you hope to harvest a bumper crop.
By now your tomato, eggplant and pepper plants have clusters of fruit clinging at the lower branches with flowers initiating new younger fruit in the middle branches. Now is the time to provide them with additional nutrition and prevent blossom-end rot.
If you are an organic gardener, apply one cup of gypsum and a cup of blood meal in a ring about two feet in diameter around the base of each plant. Cultivate to a depth no more than two inches to incorporate these nutrients into the soil to prevent denitrification. Irrigate well.
If you are a traditional gardener, spread one cup of calcium nitrate around the base of each plant, cultivate the soil and irrigate.
Once an annual plant begins to produce fruit while continuing to grow new stems, leaves and flowers, it requires additional nitrogen. By side-dressing the plants at this stage of growth, you’re providing a nutrient reserve. The purpose of the gypsum, which is calcium sulfate, is to minimize conditions for the base of the fruit to develop blossom-end rot, especially if the plants will be subjected to drought conditions. The calcium nitrate provides the necessary amount of calcium.
As soon as the plants start generating flowers and the vines begin to crawl, I use the same fertilizing practices for growing cucumbers and squash. However, to maximize the use of water, I irrigate my hills of squash and cucumbers through five-gallon pails filled with compost. In this method, place the fertilizers on top of the compost. Into each bucket bottom, I’ve drilled five three-eights-inch-diameter holes.
Fill the bucket with water. As the water soaks through the compost, it leaches the nutrients from both the fertilizer and the compost. Thus you are providing the plants with a nutrient-rich compost tea.
If you observe young developing summer squash rotting on the stems before enlarging, there is a good possibility your soil is deficient in calcium. Add a full cup of gypsum to the pail. The calcium in the gypsum is highly soluble and will become readily available to the roots of plants.
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