Tag Archive | Viva Italia

Thwarting Tomato Blossom End Rot

“For years I have bought Viva Italia seed to raise. The last two summers have been hit with blossom rot in all plants late in season.  What information do you offer that can prevent this plants or otherwise??

Thank you,


Zone 5

In The Russet Potato Capital Of Idaho”


Hi Clarus,

Thank you for your question regarding Blossom End Rot on Tomatoes.

Blossom End Rot on Paste Tomato

Blossom End Rot is caused by a calcium deficiency in the soil in relation to uneven moisture levels or excessive fertilizing.  Calcium is required in relatively large concentrations for normal cell growth and development.  It is moved from the soil through the roots to the meristem (tips of the plant where active growth occurs) via differentiation in water potential and pressure in the xylem of the plant.  When there is not a steady flow of water to the plant, the areas of the plant that growing will have a deficiency.  If the active growth point is a fruit, it will show up at the tip (end) of it.  What is actually happening to the tomato is that the cell walls are weakened by not having enough calcium.  The cell ruptures and discolors as it dries out.

Overfertilizing with nitrogen can also cause problems.  Extra nitrogen increases the speed at which the fruit grows and its size.  Calcium uptake by the plant remains steady in relationship to what would be the normal rate of growth.  Essentially, this means that the calcium uptake is almost ‘lagging’ because everything else is accelerated.  As a result, the fruit lacks calcium. Once the problem develops, quick fixes are difficult. Stabilize the moisture level as much as possible.  Remove the fruits that have been damaged. Feeding with manure or compost tea is recommended by many if this occurs in a garden plot.  You can also do foliar applications of calcium, but I’ve read that the results are not always the best because Calcium is a rather bulky element (larger than Nitrogen and others that are normally used in foliar feeding) and not easily absorbed through the leaf tissue.

In my own garden, I have found the best success with using an application of Epsom salts.  These can be found at your local pharmacy — usually in either the laxative/digestive health area or with things like bath salts/bubble bath. You want to get the plain, unscented type and make sure that it is not mixed with other additives like sea salt.  I use an old scoop from Lipton’s Ice Tea  (about a 1/4 cup measure) and give each plant a heaped scoop – sprinkling it in a circle around the base of the plant and with about an inch or two between the stem and the ring..  Repeat again in about two weeks for sandy soils, four for clay soils.

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.


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Early Blight and Sunscald on Tomatoes

“What are the best varieties for the low country of South Carolina?  I have problem with what appears to be early blight and due to the heat, sun scalding.  I want hybrids and fungicides I can use.

thanks for your help,



Hi Ron,

Thank you for the email regarding your tomato problems.

Sunscald on Tomato

First of all, no matter what tomato variety you select, you are going to want to make sure that it is a variety with a good range of disease resistance.  One of the easiest methods to combating Early Blight and Sunscald is making sure your plants are as healthy as possible.

Seed companies don’t sell any tomato varieties that are particularly noted for having wonderful Early Blight resistance, and there are a couple of reasons for that.  First of all, research really hasn’t been done at the level of seed development for the home gardener in that respect.  Plant breeders have been gear more towards late blight because it is a more devasting disease and there are few cultural options for controlling it.

However, don’t be discouraged.  The solution to lowering your risk of having Early Blight starts right in your garden.  Early blight tends to get off to an early start in the spring when wet weather is experienced soon after transplants are set. These type of conditions are ideal for infection of young tomato plants by the early blight fungus.

Growing a crop in the same area for several years often leads to increased disease problems.  Early Blight control is based on crop rotation, removal and destruction of crop debris from previous crops, staking, mulching, and timely application of fungicides.  What I do at the end of the gardening season is pick up every stem, leaf, and fruit (no matter how small) and burn
them or put them in a garbage bag for the dump.

Staking and mulching are important in an Early Blight control program, since staking keeps foliage and fruit from contacting the soil surface, and mulching cuts down on “soil splash” onto lower parts of the plant. Since soil particles often contain the early blight fungus, this is a good way of keeping the fungus from invading plants. Plastic, or organic mulches (pine straw or even newspapers) are equally effective.

Application of fungicides is also generally needed for Early Blight control, if you are into that kind of thing.  Field tests have shown that chlorothalonil, maneb, and mancozeb fungicides –
all available at gardening supply stores under a variety of trade names –  provide effective early blight control when used according to label directions and applications are started early in the season. As an added plus, any of these fungicides may be “tank mixed” with an insecticide such as malathion or Sevin (or newer formulation, Eight), thus allowing a single application for control of disease and insects.

Begin fungicide applications as soon as possible after transplants are set out and continue at 7 to 10-day intervals throughout the season. Also, applications should be made after a rain. Other leaf diseases such as leaf mold, gray leaf spot, and Septoria leaf spot are controlled by these fungicides.  Make sure to read and follow label directions concerning rates, application intervals, and the number of days required from the last application until fruit can be harvested.

As for the sunscald, this comes from not having enough leaf cover over the tomato as it is developing.  UV rays damage the pigments inside the tomato — just like it does to human skin.  In turn, the ‘pigment initials’ for lycopene and other carotenoids that are present in a ripe tomato to give it color are damaged enough that they will not have color.  Natural enzymes and plant hormones ripen the tomato so it is soft and deteriorate the chlorophyll so it is the ripe color.  However, with no lycopene or other carotenoids there, it’s just whitish and lacking pigment.  Controlling the
Early Blight so you are not losing foliage and staking your plants will aid in controlling the sunscald.

As for some varieties that are good for South Carolina, I recommend:

–Large:  Better Boy, Better Bush, Big Beef, Celebrity, Early Girl II, Park’s Whopper
–Cherry:  Juliet (these are the best I’ve had against Early Blight in my garden and they are really good with Late Blight too), Small Fry, Super Sweet 100, Sweet Million, Tomatoberry Garden
–Plum:  Viva Italia

I hope this information helps you out.  If you have any other questions, please feel free to ask.