Tomato Rot: How To Spot It Early And Save Your Crop

Many gardeners struggle to prevent tomato rot and are swiftly distressed when seeing the onset of dry and sunken decay on the blossom-end of their tomatoes as nothing is worse than pouring time and love into a plant to see it lost to this condition for which there are measures you can employ to help prevent.

Also known as Blossom End Rot, tomato rot is when the tissue at the opposite side of the stem begins to rot and break down due to a physiological disorder in which the fruit lacks the amount of calcium needed to thrive, this can be caused by low levels of calcium in the soil or the plant’s inability to intake the calcium.

Dry and sunken decay often show on the first tomatoes of a season and most so after days or months of none or little rain as low rainfall leads to drier soil, and since moisture levels affect plant growth in many ways, calcium deficiency in tomatoes is an issue for most gardeners that reside in low-rainfall territories.

Tomato rot occurs when the tissue of the tomato lacks the amount of calcium it needs to grow and thrive, and while the plant takes in calcium through its roots, at times, the calcium can settle in one part of the plant and not make it to the rest of it, so rot can surface even with calcium in the soil, stem, and leaves.

rotting green tomato

Ridding tomato rot, and the sunken decay it brings, relies on the plant having a steady source of calcium and nutrients which it may lack if grown in soil with inconsistent moisture levels, so if there is a drought or very little rainfall, the tomatoes will still grow and blossom but will be effected by calcium deficiency.

Causes of tomato rot vary but one cause is when a plant grows and forms too rapidly as the plant may be able to take in enough calcium to support itself but not enough to feed the fruit, so while it may be tempting to rush the growth process, it is best to not force it to blossom sooner than it naturally would.

Damage to the root system is another cause of tomato rot as it can cripple the roots and their ability to intake moisture, waterlogged soil and growing plants closely together are other causes of rot on tomato plants that should be dodged as it can further destabilize plants and affect their ability to intake calcium.

What causes tomato rot and how can it be prevented?

What causes a tomato to rot is it not receiving the amount of calcium it needs, and why this is the case can be attributed to a variety of causes, if you happen to see rot on your tomato plants, you may have:

  • Soil with low levels of calcium.
  • Inconsistent watering schedules.
  • Plants rapidly grew due to over-fertilizing.
  • Waterlogged soil or plant stress due to heat or drought.
  • Crops with damaged roots or low levels of PH in the soil.

Once tomato rot forms on the fruit, there is no way to rid it but if the lesion is small, you can let the tomato ripen and shave the rot from it when it comes time for eating but do not be let down as while you cannot save the ones that have rot on them, there are ways to avoid this from showing on others.

Preventing Tomato Rot and Decay

Blossom rot is a common issue faced by those growing tomatoes that may see their fruit growing larger by the day to one day seeing soft spots on the bottom of their fruits that soon grow black, this is a sign that tomato rot is in effect and full force, but fortunately, there are ways to prevent this in your garden.

Rotting tomatoes

As covered above, the culprit of tomato rot is not a bug or mystery but rather a lack of calcium caused by dry environmental conditions, and as with any plant, tomato plants need calcium in all growing parts (from roots to the fruits) to thrive, and when it lacks the water it needs to transport calcium from one part of the plant to another, the calcium the tomatoes need will not arrive and decay can start to set in.

Most gardeners seeking ways to prevent tomato rot have come across home-made, calcium-boosting remedies, such as planting the plant with egg shells or antacid tablets, but these often do not work as, most times, the issue is not calcium in the soil but rather a lack of enough water to carry it to the plant.

Tip: Soil tests show if the soil lacks nutrients, perform one in your garden to rule out deficiency as the cause.

The time to look out for tomato rot is at the start of a new growing season as in the early life cycle of a plant, calcium is in high demand, and as it moves up the plant from the roots, stems, and leaves consume it first so in some cases, the tomatoes do not get the calcium it needs and will fall victim to rot or decay.

Tips for Avoiding Tomato Rot

Fixing tomato rot starts with removing tomatoes that are affected from the garden as once bottom end rot sets in, the issue will not go away on its own so if see rot or decay, gather all crops that are impacted, put them in your compost, and then cut the losses so you can then focus on fixing the underlying issues.

Since the main causes of tomato rot are low calcium and inconsistent watering, you need to ensure more calcium gets to the roots, and while egg shells pack lots of calcium, the calcium will not make its way to the plant until it starts to decompose (which will not help for a few months when you need help now) so crushing the eggshells and adding it to your compost is the best way to add calcium to plants.

crushed egg shells for calcium

If you want to add calcium to tomato plants to prevent tomato rot from forming, here is how you can:

  1. Crush eggshells and add them to the soil, you can clean them if you like, and then add crushed egg meal or shell to the soil around the plants to help them maintain steady levels of calcium during the growing season.
  2. Add crushed eggshells to the plants and compost them to help enhance their yield and growth.
  3. Brew eggshell tea by adding ten, clean-and-dried eggshells to a gallon of boiling water, once it sits overnight, strain it, and then add the concentrate to soil on or around the tomato plants.
  4. Make calcium foliar spray, simply boil twenty eggs in a gallon of water and then apply the spray.
  5. Remove from the heat, give it time to cool off, strain the water, and generously spray the crops.

How to Prevent Blossom End Rot and Decay

Despite being a sight no gardener wants to see, BER is a treatable and avoidable, physiological disorder that is best treated early on in the lifecycle of the plant as even if tomato rot begins to show and set in, there are ways to prevent tomato rot you can use to save your plant and restore it back to full health.

Nothing is worse than flipping a nice and plump, beautifully ripened tomato to see decay or black spots, and if you happen to notice this, there are a variety of ways you can prevent blossom end rot on plants:

  • Sustain a six-and-a-half pH level in the soil.
  • Use low-nitrogen, high-phosphorous fertilizer like the Urea Fertilizer solution.
  • Let the soil in colder climates warm up prior to planting as colder soil is less able to uptake nutrients.
  • Use Tomato Rot-Stop to combat calcium deficiency, this garden fertilizer adds calcium to tomato plants and works on melons, peppers, and cucumbers too.
  • Sustain consistent levels of moisture in the soil during the growing season, and if the weather is dry, water the plant well once or twice a week to ensure the soil is moist six inches deep, which you can use drip irrigation or a soaker hose to achieve.

Tomato rot does not spell the end of your growing season as while you are unable to save tomatoes that have rot or decay, you can use the tips above to prevent tomato rot from forming and spreading to your crops, just remember, healthy soil and consistent watering during fruiting helps assure healthy harvests.

Does Blossom End Rot Spread?

The good news for gardeners is tomato rot does not spread from plant to plant through plants close to one another may affect them all since they share similar soil and growth conditions; spacing is important.

Can overwatering cause tomato rot?

It surely can, and too much water is just as bad as not enough, and you want to avoid swings between the two as too much or too little water can trigger bottom-end rot and lead to the onset of crop decay.

Are tomatoes with rot (BER) safe to eat?

If the spot is small, it can be removed from the fruit to make the rest of it safe to consume but be sure the rot is gone as the taste it leaves behind can spread to parts of the fruit where no damage is visible.

Does Epsom salt prevent tomato rot?

While often dubbed an easy solution for rot on tomato plants, Epsom salt is not a safe option to choose as it can worsen the decay and exacerbate rot even more, and too, it is a magnesium sulfate that has no calcium, and since calcium and magnesium ions go for the same spots in soil and plants, Epsom can take a toll on the tomato plant, and make it harder for the crop to get the calcium it needs to healthily thrive.

epsom salt

How do you prevent tomato and blossom end rot?

Once rot and dark or black spots form on the blossom end of a tomato, the fruit, in most cases, will need to be tossed as there is no way to heal or recover a damaged tomato, so if you notice rot or decay begin to form, control and preventative measures are what you should focus on to save the rest of your crops.

Tomatoes are heavy feeders so by having a balanced fertilizer and a consistent watering schedule, you can give tomatoes the water, calcium, and nutrients they need to grow and taste their best, just be sure the tomato seeds are planted in the soil of at least 60°F (15.5˚C) as this is the temperature they require to germinate.

Growing Healthy Tomatoes

Tomatoes are not hard to grow but insight will help you avoid common pitfalls and mistakes that may lead to tomato rot, and one of the best ways to prevent tomato rot is to grow tomatoes suited for your climate; you want cool-climate seeds for regions with shorter growing seasons and hot-climate seeds for warmer regions to ensure they can still blossom and produce tomatoes during the heat of the summer.

Some tomatoes are more prone to disease and deficiencies than others so when buying seeds, read the labeling to ensure it is resistant to diseases like blight, you also want to go with seeds that are known for great taste, high yields, and fast harvests so you can grow and harvest tomatoes with ideal genetic traits.

Conclusion on Tomato Rot Prevention

The ways to prevent tomato rot in this guide will help you to make the most of your plants and harvest, and from staying mindful of your climate and the seeds you use, and by ensuring plants get a consistent supply of water and nutrients, you can negate tomato rot and grow ones you will surely be proud to eat.

Growing healthy tomatoes is a sight to bestow and a great reward for the time and effort you put into your harvest, get ripe-and-ready, farm-fresh tomatoes and use the tips for preventing tomato rot in our tutorial, and in no time, and you will get sumptuous tomatoes with no rot, decay, or surprises along the way.