Homegrown: Tomato plant rot, wisteria

For the past several gardening seasons, I have been beset with an unusually high incidence of blossom end rot on my tomato vines. I realize this is a physiological problem, but are there certain tomato hybrids that are more resistant to blossom end rot? I have been growing my tomato plants in large 24-inch diameter pots, which does require more frequent watering during the heat of summer.
— Dennis

I really don’t think that there are any truly “blossom end rot resistant” varieties of tomato. However, there are a couple things I’ve observed over time.

In general, I see the larger fruited varieties, the heirloom varieties and the plum type tomatoes fight problems with blossom end rot more often than most other varieties.

I’ve also never seen it in a cherry tomato. I suppose that it could occur in them, I guess it just takes more extreme “blossom end rot causing” (i.e., drought, water imbalances in the soil and soil temperature extremes) conditions to cause it.

It can be very difficult to grow tomatoes in containers without blossom end rot developing.

First, a container will dry out much more quickly than the ground, giving you less leeway in doing a proper job of watering. The soil going just a bit too dry, even for a short time, will result in blossom end rot when it’s hot.

I sometimes see people tending to lean too far the other way; keeping the soil too consistently wet which can have the same result.

The soil in the container also will get a lot warmer during the day and cooler at night than the surrounding ground. Roots don’t like extremes in temperature. When things get too far one way or the other, the roots can slow down, resulting in blossom end rot. 

I have three recommendations for people trying to successfully grow tomatoes in a container.

First, use a great quality potting soil. Using soil from the garden doesn’t work. Growing in a container is a whole different world than growing in the ground.

Good potting soil will provide the proper root environment to give your plants the best chance to thrive. Be a bit careful about some of the “bargains” out there, too. Some of it can be junk. 

Second, put your plants in as big of a container as you possibly can. A 24-inch container is pretty good, certainly better than average, but an even bigger pot will make growing your tomatoes less work for you. They’ll grow better, plus it will minimize your chance of developing blossom end rot.

Lastly, I like to put the container in a place where it will get a good six hours of direct sunshine a day but is shaded during those scorching hot hours of the late afternoon. This will help reduce water and temperature stress on the plant while still giving it enough light to grow well.

This spring/summer my wisteria bush will have been in the ground for three years. It’s really healthy and has rich green leaves and sturdy branches. I’ve fertilized it with Miracle Gro but I have failed to get it to bloom. What ideas can you give me to make this beautiful bush bloom? — Jerry

I’m afraid I don’t have any miracles for you. Chinese Wisteria (the common one around here) can be notoriously slow to bloom.

I have seen vines take as long as seven years to get started and have heard about instances where it took 12.

Now, before you go out there and dig up that good for nothing vine, know that those are extreme cases. Typically, I see Wisteria starting to bloom after three to five years.

As long as the plant is doing well, which sounds like yours is, just hang in with it. It will start blooming in its own sweet time. It’s just that some are “later bloomers” than others.

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Dennis Hill is the nursery manager at Bookcliff Gardens, http://www.bookcliffgardens.com. Send questions to Bookcliff Gardens, 755 26 Road, Grand Junction 81506; or e-mail .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).


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