Thursday, July 26, 2012

Calcium deficiency in Peppers leading to Blossom End Rot

A Big Hello! to all you gardening enthusiasts! In this blog post, you will see how Calcium deficiency affects peppers and causes them to have Blossom End Rot, which results in fruits that are rotten. We grew one Red Pepper plant in a container, which had soil left over from an earlier tomato plant. I knew this wasn't a good idea as the tomato plant would have leeched out all the nutrients from the soil. But are nutrients really that important to replenish? Lets see what happened!

Blossom End Rot in all peppers
Blossom End Rot in all peppers

The pepper plant grew well but showed us how the most common problem - blossom end rot affects the pepper plants which are malnourished. The term blossom end rot refers to the pepper plant being unable to produce proper, fully grown fruits (The technical term when a flower changes into the edible part!). The peppers start growing and then there are not enough nutrients available for the fruit to completely form. This is how the peppers looked.

Blossom End Rot Close Up
Blossom End Rot Close Up

If you look closely, the fruit almost looks rotten (hence the name blossom end rot).

Malformed pepper due to calcium deficiency
Malformed pepper due to calcium deficiency

So what causes this? Blossom end rot is caused due to a deficiency of Calcium in the soil.

What do you do when you see peppers that have this problem? Pick them! That way you will let the newer peppers grow well as you nourish the plant. You can still eat the unaffected part of the pepper because Blossom End Rot or BER is not a disease.

To fix this problem, there are several solutions:

1. Add Garden Lime to the soil well in advance. Garden lime, which is derived from Dolomite, adds the most amount of calcium, but takes some time to settle in. We found Espoma Garden Lime to be very good nutrition wise and cost wise too. You can also use Gypsum.
2. Fertilize with a 'Tomato and pepper plant food". Again, we especially like the Espoma Organic Tomato and Vegetable food as its one of the most complete tomato/pepper fertilizers and also has beneficial microbes which make nutrients available.
3.Use a foliar spray -You can use Miracle Grow's Tomato Plant Food.Or you can use a Blossom End Rot Spray. For an organic option, use a fish fertilizer like Alaska Fish Fertilizer.
4. Always use some Epsom Salt when growing peppers. It contains Magnesium Sulfate which is good for the peppers (and tomatoes too). Bathe the plant with 1 tbsp Epsom salt added to 1 gallon of water.

That's it. Once you ensure that you have fixed the nutritional deficiencies, you will have healthy and excellent tasting peppers.

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