Tomatoes grown in pot prone to blossom end rot

For the past several gardening seasons, I have had 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 that require more frequent watering during the heat of summer.

— Dennis

I may be wrong here but 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 (BER) 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, as you are already aware, a container will dry out much more quickly than the ground, giving you less leeway for 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 also 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 to 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. A 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, 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.

How do I stop a willow hybrid tree from blooming and dropping its blooms and then its berries?

— JoAnna

Are you sure what you have is a willow? Willows do bloom (it’s usually greenish yellow and small and inconspicuous) but they don’t set a berry.

If it’s something else, the only thing I can recommend is a product called Florel. It’s used to keep fruit from setting on trees. It won’t stop the flowers, but that’s usually not the biggest problem for folks. You spray it on when the plant is in full bloom and then repeat it two weeks later.

It’s not perfect — some years it’ll eliminate 98 percent of the fruit and other years you wonder if it did anything at all — but it does help.

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 email .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address).

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