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Reader Question: Why Are the Bottoms of My Tomatoes Rotting?

By July 25, 2009

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Jocelyn from Indiana emailed me a couple of days ago:
"Hi Colleen. I have plenty of green tomatoes on my plants, but I noticed that a few of the tomatoes on one plant look like they're rotting on the vine. The bottom end of each tomato is dark brown. What's wrong? Does this mean I won't get any good tomatoes this year?"

Your tomatoes have blossom end rot. Blossom end rot is the result of calcium deficiency. However, that doesn't necessarily mean that you need to add calcium to your soil. Generally, blossom end rot is due to watering practices (your own or Ma Nature's.) A very typical situation is one in which the soil is allowed to dry out, and then the gardener waters when the plant starts wilting. The plant bounces back (tomatoes are resilient that way!) but some damage has been done. In dry conditions, the plant becomes unable to take up calcium in the soil through its roots. Then, fruit forms, and they soon start showing that telltale rot at the blossom end.

Another less common (but more common this year) situation is when plants are given too MUCH water. We've had a very cool, very wet spring and summer in many parts of the country, including my home state of Michigan. The plants are taking up so much moisture that the amount of available calcium is diluted, and, you guessed it: blossom end rot.

If the issue has been too much moisture, try side-dressing your plants with bonemeal to try to replenish the soil's supply of calcium. There are also a few brands of organic blossom end rot spray on the market. These are calcium sprays that you would spray on the foliage every week or so. It won't save any fruits that already have rot, but it may help prevent rot on future fruits.

If you have tomatoes with blossom end rot on your plants, simply remove them. They will keep growing and using the plant's energy, which would be better put to use producing new -- hopefully rot-free -- fruit.

I hope this helps! Anyone else seeing blossom end rot this year?

Comments

August 3, 2009 at 6:15 pm
(1) catlady3 says:

My tomatoes have been o.k. in regard to blossom end rot, but my squash didn’t do anything. I would have blossoms and the fruit would rot before it ever developed properly. I finally pulled up the plants.

August 6, 2009 at 9:28 pm
(2) Anna says:

I have the same problem. It has been unusually wet and cool in PA this year.

August 8, 2009 at 11:10 am
(3) Patricia says:

This is the first time I’ve seen blossom end rot and I’m very bummed out about it. First noticed it on the Mountain Fresh and now just found it on my Green Zebras! The tomatoes looked beautiful and then I picked one and it’s all rotten on the bottom…I’m in Southern New Jersey, could be a salt issue from what I’ve read…I live on the water, maybe the salt air? I’m going to try bonemeal to add calcium and also some dried moss around the soil. I have 16 tomato varieties going this summer and it will be a very sad thing to keep losing them to this funk!

August 8, 2009 at 12:49 pm
(4) Colleen Vanderlinden says:

Isn’t it annoying? The tomatoes will look perfect, and then you notice that patch at the bottom.

I just wanted to check back in to update you all on my tomatoes. I had B.E. rot on several of the first tomatoes that ripened in my garden, but the last couple of weeks I’m seeing it a lot less. It’s been warmer and not so wet here, so I’m betting that that has made a big difference. Hope you’re all seeing some improvement, too!

August 8, 2009 at 6:30 pm
(5) Shiree' says:

I have the same problem I think I over watered

August 11, 2009 at 7:41 pm
(6) Pamela says:

We purchased the Topsy Turvy holders for our tomatoes and hung them from our deck. This was the first time we ever tried growing our own tomatoes and I was so excited when I saw them starting to grow, until I saw huge black spots on some. We just moved to TN and I have never seen so much rain. It rained here alsmost everyday for months. I am so disappointed!

August 21, 2009 at 9:56 am
(7) kentucky gardner says:

THIS HAPPENED TO ME LAST YEAR

I FOUND THE FIX. I TOLD MY GREAT GRANDMOTHER ABOUT THE PROBLEM AND ALSO DID RESEARCH AT THE COLLEGE OF AGRICULTURE.

SAVE YOUR EGGSHELLS. LET THEM DRY OUT. THEN CRUSH THE EGGSHELLS AND SPRINKLE THEM AROUND THE BASE OF THE TOMATO PLANT. THIS REPLENESHES THE CALCIUM DEFICIENCY AND ALSO KEEPS CUTWORMS AWAY!!!!

I HAVEN’T HAD ONE BAD TOMATO THIS YEAR!!!!!
THIS WORKS!!!!

September 2, 2009 at 1:18 pm
(8) Tammy says:

I’m in Minnesota, and I’m definitely seeing b.e.rot this year. Very cool summer, plenty of rain early, then dry, then rain again, etc. I’m interested in trying the egg shell solution…although, unfortunately, egg shells can’t regulate nature’s precipitation habits. Some of my tomatoes are fine as far as the rotten bottoms, but they have big scabby seams running from the stem to the bottom.

September 9, 2009 at 2:02 pm
(9) Liz from Indiana says:

I’m in Indiana, and I have blossom end rot this year too! I’ve only harvested a couple good tomatoes from 3 plants.

February 28, 2010 at 12:01 pm
(10) Chris and his tomatoes says:

I have to try that eggshell solution as well. My tomatoes just recently sprouted so it’s not for those, but I do have petunias that are showing some rotting. I should tone down on the watering then. I’ll also add the eggshells just in case.

June 19, 2010 at 4:35 pm
(11) yupergirl says:

I am also in Minnesota and am experiencing R.E. Rot. I am going to try to even out the watering so that they don’t wilt in between watering. It has also been very rainy. I am going to try the spray as well. I would hate to lose any more tomatoes.

June 27, 2010 at 4:56 pm
(12) joe says:

i live in b,ham ala, and i have 10 tomato plants and al the vines i have has rotten tomatoes on them , what should i do??????

July 7, 2010 at 12:01 pm
(13) Mike says:

Mine are doing the same thing. Looks like I have to find some bone meal.

August 6, 2010 at 10:13 am
(14) kathi says:

Can I stilleat the tomatoe that has blossom end rot?

August 16, 2010 at 10:05 am
(15) Larry fro Nova Scotia says:

Got this rot for the first time. We always use pots and this one has good drainage but I tried some organic Steer manure this year. Don’t know if that caused it to retain moisture. Likely we overwatered. We have tried tomatoe feed and that has not stopped it. Will try the egg shells or bonemeal and less water. Thanks for the tips.

September 6, 2010 at 2:06 pm
(16) Mr Green says:

Try putting whole milk in a sprayer and spraying your plants. The leaves will get immedite calcium.

June 6, 2011 at 5:27 pm
(17) MIsty says:

my first tomatoe plant ever this year is doing this, I will try out some of your ideas and hopefully actually have some success with this, I mean for gosh sakes the plant survived a tornado i think it can survive this lol

July 17, 2011 at 8:13 pm
(18) tamekia says:

So, my tomato plants started off perfect. Then they were ravished by a squirrel or raccoon. Then the tomato caterpiller tried its luck this year but was no match for sevens powder. Now, they are rotting on the vine. Truly a learning year for me.

July 21, 2011 at 8:54 pm
(19) Joel Hills Sr. says:

I recently just joined the gardening thing and last year the crop was wonderful, beginners luck, cause this year I had two tomatoes with blossom rot. Freaked me out but I understand about the watering. But what if I have other plants that need water what do I do?

May 24, 2012 at 3:10 pm
(20) Angie says:

Eggshells can also be ground to a fine powder, mixed with water and used as a fertilizer when watering the plants.

July 30, 2012 at 1:48 am
(21) Doug says:

To repeat Kathi’s comment, can the green tomatoes with bottowm end rot still be consumed- just cutting off the rot? Would like to at least make some green tomato pickles with the good halfs…

August 4, 2012 at 8:15 pm
(22) Helen says:

just put a little lime around the base of the plant and it will be better in no time

August 7, 2012 at 4:10 pm
(23) SharSmit says:

I had bottom-end rot on one tomato plant but not on the others – I planted about half dozen plants this year. Arboretum guy told me sometimes a particular plant can be susceptible and it has nothing to do with “operator error.” Was he stringing me along?

August 8, 2012 at 11:21 am
(24) Linda says:

I live in Ontario & have noticed it on my tomatos this season. Wonder if the ‘tomato food’ mixture I have will do the trick?

August 15, 2012 at 8:01 pm
(25) Trudy says:

It has been very dry here in eastern Washington state. I water my tomatoes by poking a hole in the bottom of gallon milk jugs. I give them a gallon of water almost every day. The first one to rippen has B.E. rot. I will pinch it off and watch the rest of them, but wonder if I should add the bonemeal mentioned above to the ground.

August 16, 2012 at 7:11 pm
(26) AnnieColorado says:

Absolutely! but for different reasons! Colorado has been very hot and unusually dry–only two or three significant rain storms since May…..and I try to make up for it with our sprinkler system or watering by hand…not the same as Mother nature—-our fair city caught on fire in June so we are ina severe drought and my tomatoes are suffering–will go get bonemeal tommorow THX!

May 20, 2013 at 10:27 pm
(27) bob says:

My mother insists that lime spread around the tomatoes is essential to prevent bottom rot. Where I live we have alkaline soil so I was reluctant and instead have been spreading tomato blend organic fertilizer. I just noticed a hand full of tomatoes on different variety s of plants have the rot, I am going to put some lime on them tomorrow.

May 24, 2013 at 1:13 am
(28) AZ Jack says:

In AZ lack of calcium and nitrates is an issue. Over watering is seldom an issue in the desert. I wasn’t aware that the BE rot I was seeing was lack of calcium. As routine I added bone and blood meal 2 weeks ago and have seen less sings of rot.

June 23, 2013 at 9:00 pm
(29) Kevin says:

I have never had my tomatoes rot on the vine like this ever before.. It’s been usually cool some good heavy rains when we get the rain. Could I be over watering them? I water everyday , I got them going in pots like I always do. I have put bone meal ,, organic food with a lot of calcium sheez . I have heard eggs shells are good ,,and coffee grounds .. Anything to that??

June 28, 2013 at 5:00 pm
(30) heather says:

I live in south carolina and i decided to grow some tomatoe plants .last year we did the same but this year they got that b.e rot.why this year??theyer in the same spot as last year….so much for my blt sandwich!

July 1, 2013 at 5:38 pm
(31) Brenda says:

yes! this is my first year with this rotten bottom tomatoes. I planted organic Roma tomatoes in a lasagna soil – alternating straw and chicken manure, with compost as the top layer. I’m in So Cal and its been very hot this last week, but it seems the rotten tomatoes began earlier than our recent heat.
I don’t know if I’m under-watering or over-watering?

July 18, 2013 at 12:35 pm
(32) Kyle says:

I have the same problem, thanks for the help. BTW, this is our first year growing tomatoes, this helped a lot!:D

July 18, 2013 at 12:37 pm
(33) Kyle says:

Also, I think it was underwatering… Thanx:D

July 23, 2013 at 8:13 am
(34) Bill says:

I am in Chicago. I am having BE rot only on some of my roma tomatoes. There are some on the same plant that seem to be doing fine.

July 23, 2013 at 10:05 am
(35) Gwen says:

THANK YOU!!! I am a novice and it is so exciting to grow tomatoes with my Garden Patch Grow Pots – huge plants now so I want to save the tomatoes. Some of them have calcium deficiency because I missed a few days filling the water basins not realizing that when the plants get large, you have to fill the basins every day…(not every 3 days or so that was true at the beginning.)

Thank you again!!!

August 13, 2013 at 2:53 pm
(36) DEB says:

I have blossom end rot on my two potted tomato plants. I live in Alaska and we have had a beautiful hot summer (hot for Alaska 70-80 degrees). I believe I have over watered, although when I don’t soak them everyday, the leaves start to wilt. They are outdoors on a sunny southwest facing deck with no wind. I will try the bonemeal addition to see if they perk back up. I have tomatoes on the plant that are forming that do not yet have the rot.

March 4, 2014 at 5:44 pm
(37) Amar says:

I have end rot on the other end–the end where the tomato is attached to the vine. what could be causing this?

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