Blossom-end Rot on Tomatoes and Cabbage Browning

I opened up a Brunswick cabbage when I was preparing to freeze it and to my surprise this is what I saw – brown streaks.


I began dissecting the head and I could see that the cells had died. The damage was so extensive that the cabbage was useless. I could not even feed it to the stock. I panicked a little. I have a LOT of cabbage growing. Would a large portion of my crop prove to be damaged also?


So to check, I cut open a different cabbage and it was fine. All my purple cabbage have been fine but what happened to this solitary one I could not help but wonder? So I (you know it), I hit the Internet and found out it was due to a lack of calcium.


Coincidentally my tomatoes in the same area had blossom-end rot which can also be a calcium problem. So is it a lack of calcium? ——– Or is it something else? I’ve learned that too high a PH keeps plants from utilizing available nutrients so is that keeping the tomatoes and this cabbage from using the available calcium in the soil. What should their soil PH be? It just happens to both be optimally 6.5, with cabbages ranging between there and 6.8.

We have a Mystery theater here for sure folks. So I looked around for more clues. There is a lot of thistle that grows in this south garden. Now thistle is a sign of soil disturbance, well, duh, it is a garden, and a also a sign of high PH levels. Wyoming by nature has alkaline soil in general.

To clarify, blossom-end rot occurs when cells within the bottom of plant die within periods of rapid growth. It can be induced by low calcium, high magnesium, high nitrogen, low phosphorus, high potassium, high salinity, drought, water logged roots, too much light or heat on fruits. As with the cabbage the blossom-end rot is not throughout the tomato population but just here and there.

Lots of suspects for sure. So who really done it? I needed to look further. My gardens due to neglect have suffered drought, water log for sure. But what about their neighbors? Were they affected? Hm… The asparagus next to the tomatoes are thriving. True they are brand new plants but they look really good. They like soil in the 6.5 – 7.5 range so of course they are happy as they aren’t as fussy. [A lesson can be learned from that.] This spring’s transplanted of strawberries are huge. Then again they are next to the thistle loving end of the garden and I’ve applied sulfur several times to them and this area this summer to lower the PH, acidifying the soil. Strawberries love a soil between 5.5 – 6.5. The thistle I pulled have not returned after all the sulfur. They did at first. So I’ve won for now in that part of the garden with applications of sulfur but the other end received treatment only once.

As for the water issues, I can’t mulch though it modifies the differentiation in moisture of the ground but it cools the soil too.  Tried that with tomatoes once and it chilled them too much retarding their growth. It is hard enough to get tomatoes in this cool climate.

So who done it? Low calcium, high magnesium, high nitrogen, low phosphorus, high potassium, high salinity, drought, water logged roots, too much light or heat on fruits. Or did the PH do it?

The verdict is in. Granted just a guess at best but I believe it is soil PH and lack of calcium — co-conspirators. The high PH probably cause the inability of the plants to uptake the available calcium but it also may be that the mineral is in short supply. The verdict leans this way because of the cabbage plants testimony which is toward lack of calcium. Watering issues probably stressed the plants and made them more vulnerable but were not the main culprit because all the plants are huge.

I believe the plants have spoken and hopefully as judge and jury I have found the criminal. It happens to be me!

A case of neglect and ignorance. It is the way of all gardens – a learning experience that humbles us and motivates us if we allow it to do better next time around.

When I clean out this area of the garden this fall I’ll apply sulfur and again in the spring. I’ll pour my excess milk in that area. Milk is a really good fertilizer. You can also add egg shells but they take a long time to break down and I feed them back to the chickens. So listen. Your garden is talking if you’ve an ear to hear.

2 thoughts on “Blossom-end Rot on Tomatoes and Cabbage Browning

    1. The recipe I will for sure try. Never thought about using cabbage instead of noodles. It would up the nutrition. I have used zucchini and carrots in lasagna. I loved it, hubby did not. I am anxious to see how this changes the flavor. As for lime. Lime alkalizes the soil. I use 4 to 5, 5lb bags a year of farmer’s fertilizing sulfur and that is not nearly enough between the trees and gardens to acidify the soil. We are very alkaline which is why the thistle thrive anywhere the soil is disturbed but thanks for the thought.


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