Help! My first tomatoes are deformed

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My tomato plants have just made their first tomatoes. But they are deformed. The bottom is flat and black and I was told that is blossom end rot caused by not enough calcium. Do I use Tums or a calcium supplement? One gardener told me to use calcium chloride, but then he laughed. My four-foot tall Jet Star tomatoes are in very big pots that are almost 24 inches across and 18 inches deep. How do I get that calcium into the flowers so this doesn’t happen?
This appears a case if Weird Science at its most evil. Technically, blossom end rot is called a calcium deficiency, but there is way more to it than just that.

If you are growing tomatoes in soil in southeast Michigan, there is more than enough calcium. If you bought a potting medium, it has been blended very carefully to contain adequate calcium. So the calcium is there. The plant must transport the calcium through its roots to the fruit and then to the end of the fruit or blossom end.

Calcium in flowers has nothing to do with it. Plants can only transport minerals mixed in — wait for it — water.

This means the transportation system has failed. It could be not enough water or irregular water applications. It could also be a restricted root system that can’t spread out to take in enough water for the plant. Or, many tomato plants make a “plant mistake” with the first couple of fruit.

It takes a huge amount of energy to make fruit and after the first blunder or two, it corrects. You are growing an indeterminate tomato, which means it continues to grow until it frosts. The root system will extend 2 feet on each side to the plant. The means your tomato is a size 16 and you are jamming it into a size 8.

By the way, calcium chloride is a salt used on roads to suppress dust. It would kill your plants very dead.

I have and absolute giant heap of little green caterpillars with red stripes feeding on the leaves of my false indigo. I have looked online for a week and cannot identify them so I can spray them. How do I find out what these are?
You take care of the problem with the plant immediately so there is still some plant left. When you are done, then you do the intensive research on larvae identity. Right now, plant saving is No. 1.

Caterpillars or larvae are soft-bodied. That means products like insecticidal soap work very well. This is purchased and not mixed from ingredients from the cabinet under the sink. Insecticidal soap cuts through the waxy coating on the larvae and kills them rapidly. Or, you could use carbaryl or Sevin, but it should be reserved for bigger problems than little green guys.

If you are a gardener, you have to assume that you will have insect and fungal problems at some point. Whether you are a traditional or organic gardener, decide what kind of products you will use for insects and disease. Know where they are available.

A product like insecticidal soap is used by both traditional and organic gardeners. It can be used on aphids, spider mites and soft-bodied insects like larvae or newly hatched squash bugs. It does not work on hard-shelled insects like Japanese beetles. It should be one of the insecticides that you always have on hand. But any time that you see insects on your plants devouring the foliage, act rapidly.

But it is very important to make sure that plants are not wilted or drought-stressed when you are applying pesticides or the sun is shining on the plants. Strange and tragic things can happen to plants that are stressed and have pesticides applied. Keep watering well and spray when the plants are out of direct sun for the day. Your goal is to not let the larvae or your actions kill the plants.

About Gretchen Voyle 51 Articles

Gretchen Voyle is the MSU Extension-Livingston County Horticulture Educator. She can be reached at (517) 546-3950.