Blossom End Rot

Jul 4, 2023

Photo of blossom end rot

Have you noticed tomatoes that have round, water-soaked spots on the bottom? Blossom end rot (BER) is a frustrating problem that can be quite common in vegetable gardens, as it can affect tomatoes, peppers, and squash. You might notice it after a few very hot days. It usually starts on green fruit as a small, discolored spot on the end opposite the stem that might look water soaked. The spot enlarges and tissues dry out, becoming sunken, collapsed, and leathery.

Some tomato varieties, especially paste tomatoes, are affected more than others, but all varieties except cherry tomatoes seem to be susceptible if conditions are conducive. It is more likely to occur earlier in the season when plants are rapidly growing, but it can also show up later in the season when we have hot, dry weather.

Blossom end rot results from a low level of calcium in the fruit and a lack of water balance in the plant. Most of our soils have plenty of available calcium so there is no need to add more. Fluctuations in irrigation and/or heavy application of nitrogen are often the culprits in this condition. To reduce blossom end rot, monitor soil moisture to make sure the root zone neither dries out nor remains saturated. Follow recommended rates for vegetable fertilizers, using organic fertilizers.

Improvement in irrigation practices usually results in the problem going away. Rather than watering on a schedule, you should check the soil to determine its moisture level. Either by digging down into the soil without disturbing the roots or using a moisture meter, check to make sure the entire root zone is moist but not soggy. Use mulch around the plants to help maintain soil moisture, but make sure the mulch isn't right against the base of the plants.

Blossom end rot is not caused by a pathogen, so there are no pesticide solutions.

To reduce blossom-end rot:
• Use cover crops in the off season to increase water-holding organic matter in the soil.
• Irrigate before periods of hot weather.
• Don't disturb the root area.
• Don't over fertilize. Too much nitrogen during the early fruiting period can tie up calcium and make BER worse. Manure, especially poultry manure, can make it worse.

Vegetables affected by blossom end rot are still edible if they haven't begun to get moldy. Just cut away the discolored area.

More information about blossom end rot:

Information about growing tomatoes in the home garden:

Help Desk of the UC Master Gardeners of Contra Costa County (SEH)

By Help Desk Team

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