Let’s Talk Tomatoes

Hello all! I took a break from this blog to focus on garden season but now I am back!  We are in mid-summer here in Wisconsin and it is time for tomatoes…  Lovely, lovely tomatoes.  I grow them in both raised beds and straw bales.   Both mediums have different advantages and challenges.

 I’d like to discuss two challenges that most gardeners face at one time or another;   Blossom End Rot (BER) and Tomato Horn Worm.

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What does it look like?  A dark spot appears at the bottom of the tomato ( also on eggplant and peppers) that spreads quickly and the tomato rots at the bottom.  Blossom End Rot (BER) is a condition that is a result of calcium deficiencies.   One would think that it is a result of not enough calcium in the soil (rare) and that by simply adding calcium (TUMS, Epsom Salts) will fix the condition.   Most often, however, the cause of BER is uneven watering. The plants are either drenched with water or allowed to dry out too much.  To fix it, we must engage in even watering and mulching to help retain water and get things back on track.

In the past years I had major problems with BER. I had lost at least half of my tomato crop each year.  It is easy to do when life gets busy and you drench the plant once in a while in an effort to get caught up because the soil is overly dry.  This is even easier to do when a tomato is in a container and you are watering straight from a hose.  What to do?

This year for Mother’s Day, my husband installed an amazing drip irrigation system for my garden that is attached to a timer system.  I do not have one single tomato with BER!  More about that system in future posts…

This brings us to our next problem which is Tomato Horn Worms.

YUK! Yesterday I was in the garden doing this and that. My daughter is away at camp and I had extra time to catch up on some chores. I noticed this brown stuff on one of the green tomatoes.

It did not look like normal bird poo. I quickly consulted my favorite gardeners on FaceBook, Raised Vegetable Beds, who identified the poo as from a Tomato Horn Worm.  The jerk in the photo ate half a plant and half a tomato and then pooped on the green tomato below it.  Thanks for nothing!

An adult hornworm is a large, heavy hawk moth that can be as big as a hummingbird.  They lay eggs, usually one on a leaf or plant that turn into the horn worm.   A full grown horn worm can be up to four inches long and take out entire tomato plants in the process.  The jerk found in my garden has poached his last tomatoes though.   I also let all of the birds in my yard know that they were a bunch of slackers and that I was going to stop feeding them and providing water if they didn’t look out more for the hornworms.  They seem to do a good job so far with the Japanese Beetles though…