August 1995 - Indiana Yard and Garden - Purdue Consumer Horticulture

August 1995

Q. For three consecutive years I’ve grown tomato plants and lost at least half of my harvest because the tomatoes rot on the vine. I’ve purchased several gardening books, and none seem to explain the problem. The rotting area starts from the bottom and spreads through until the whole fruit is rotten. I’ve even changed varieties, but with no luck. Is this a disease, or could I be doing something wrong? – Greg Faucett, Tell City, Ind.

A. It’s probably blossom end rot, a disorder caused by low levels of calcium and often triggered by extreme changes in soil moisture. The rot, which is not an infectious disease, starts at the bottom of the fruit. Rotting fruits can’t be helped, but there is hope for newly developing fruits.

Environmental conditions interfere with the uptake and availability of water and nutrients. Water stress, root damage from infectious diseases, and excessive nitrogen fertilizer can all contribute to blossom end rot. To help prevent blossom end rot, maintain adequate soil moisture and avoid extended periods of either dry or saturated roots. Mulch will help you conserve moisture.

Q. You really helped me with a condition on my large elm tree. You told me to drill and insert a half-inch tube in the tree and let the fluid drain out. Now I would like to seal the hole, as a family of squirrels has moved in. Should I use regular cement, or would you recommend something else? – Elmer E. Tucker, Lake Geneva, Ind.

A. If I recall correctly, you wrote about a deep cavity in a mature tree that fills with water. Typically, neither cavity filling nor wound painting is recommended, but if water fills the cavity, you need to do something to avoid rot. Now that you’ve provided drainage, you can fill the cavity. Concrete is the most widely used filler. Make a dry mixture of two parts sand with one part cement or use “mortar mix.” Add water a little at a time until a ball kneaded in your hands will just hold together. Small cavities may be filled solidly, but larger ones shouldn’t be since it adds too much weight to the tree. Instead, make a facing or shell of concrete. You can paint the filling with brown enamel so it blends in.

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