Q. On a recent show, you were helping a fellow with an apricot tree and he made reference to really liking a tip you had given on a previous show about eggshells for tomatoes. I have a limited area in which I can plant tomatoes and always have a problem with some sort of virus that kills the plants early in the season. I usually only get a few good fruits. Can you share this tip again?
- ---Jo Amy in Ventura, California
Q. Mike: I have heard that pelletized calcium is effective against fusarium wilt.Where can I obtain this product? Thank you.
- ---Lou in Watertown, CT
Q. I live on top of a mountain with lots of sun and good soil, and can grow everything except tomatoes! They always turn black on the bottom just as they begin to ripen up. I have tried planting several different types, but to no avail. Can you help me?
- --John in Harrison Valley, PA (about a mile from the New York border)
- ----Mike; College ville, Pa
- ---Dan in Virginia Beach
- ---Marlene in Wilmington DE
And the Earth Boxes I've seen don't look like they hold enough soil to support a full-sized tomato plant. Certainly not two! So use those Earth Boxes for other plants and grow your tomatoes in big regular containers. A deep twelve-inch diameter pot is OK for a single small tomato plant; that's a well-behaved determinate 'bush' variety, like most paste (Roma) tomatoes. But a full sized beefsteak type requires a BIG 18-inch pot. AND only one tomato plant in that big pot. You can plant small things like flowers, salad greens, or nasturtiums around the edges, but only one love apple per container.
And whether it's in the ground or a pot, prevent blossom end rot by putting eggshells in the planting hole! Just return your empty shells to their egg carton and leave it sit out in the open so they can dry. When you plant your tomatoes, dig a deep hole, pull off the bottom leaves and plant half the stem in the ground, where it will grow auxiliary roots. Then crush the shells of a dozen eggs over top of the root ball, cover with compost or soil and that's it—no more blossom end rot. Guaranteed.
Not a disease, blossom end rot is what's called a 'cultural problem' (like this show). The tomato's hienie (the part that used to be a flower) turns black and starts to rot when the tomato plant sits in water or undergoes extremes of moisture. But calcium allows tomatoes to regulate their water supply so well they can take those extremes without rotting out. If you don't eat eggs, dissolve some calcium carbonate tablets and water them into the soil. Or add pelletized calcium at planting time. Or use a natural plant food that's enriched with calcium.
Adding calcium will also help your tomatoes develop the volatile aromatic oils that make love apples taste better. Calcium also makes cukes crisper—especially when you pickle them. And it keeps fruit trees happy and healthy.
Garcon! Another omelet!