earthtainers with lime in the mix, still some BER

jerryaMay 16, 2010

Looks like some of my earthtainer fruit are getting BER on smallish fruit, whereas other fruits on the same plant are fine. I did put in the recommended amount of lime. At this point, should I put in more lime and try to work it in from the top? Is there a foliar spray fix or other fix? Right now the BER is small and I'm thinking if I get on it, I may be able to turn these around. I'm certain this isn't water stress related, I've kept the tainers filled with water and they've never dried out. Thanks.

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rnewste(8b NorCal)

Hi Jerry,

Adding in Dolomite granular Lime right now won't likely do any good, as it would take a couple of months for it to be absorbed into the root system / tomatoes. I have seen "topical" sprays that claim to prevent BER, but I have no experience with them. What varieties are being impacted by the BER?


    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 2:55PM
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Hi Ray:

Stupice has some BER on the higher up fruit, whereas those about ready to ripen look fine. They are so prolific that if I lose a few, so what? I'm also seeing some in Goose Creek (you supplied seeds, thanks) which hasn't set very well so far, so this is what really bums me out.Seemingly unaffected at this point are black cherry, black and brown boar and Indian Stripe. They two affected plants are in the same tainer, so, I'm thinking I didn't get enough lime in the mix somehow. (though I did mix it all up at once in wheelbarrow and attempted to be very precise on measurements.

The only time I've ever had any BER when in the ground it was a watering issue (not enough in really hot weather) so I don't have a bag of tricks on this. I may post over in Tville too. Thanks Raybo.


    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 4:43PM
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dancinglemons(7B VA)

I am going to jump in here but first need to say I am no expert at anything. I read and ask questions and follow directions -if- what I learn seems plausible to me. Here goes.......

I have 25 brand name EarthBoxes and 5+ EarthTainers. Last year on the EarthBox forum one of the members introduced us to the 'snack'. Calcium Nitrate is the official name. Many of the newbies on the forum were having a terrible time with BER. This member had done some extensive research on fertigation and posted that he used one tablespoon of granulated Calcium Nitrate in a gallon of water each week to top off his EarthBoxes. Depending on how much is needed to top off the reservoir - you may use one gallon for 2-3 EB's. When I first read this I thought - nah I don't need this because I put the Lime in my EB's as recommended and any early BER will go away. Well on most of my toms I had no BER and the others with mild symptoms the BER did go away but on a few it was reluctant to leave. I began to use the 'snack' and was pleasantly pleased with the outcome. The BER did go away completely but that was not the only positive. My toms began to look much better and produce more blossoms/fruit. As I was using the snack in all EB's the other plants began to look better and produce better.

I will not attempt to give more information here but if you go to the EarthBox forum and type in search for either Calcium Nitrate or better still 'snack' you will find lots of info. I have a link below from another source about Calcium Nitrate. But just remember - as the bumper sticker says "BER happens....."


disclaimer: I recommend nothing. I am not an expert. It works for me - it may not work for you.

Here is a link that might be useful: Info on Calcium

    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 5:05PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Jerry - did you incorporate the lime or put it on top of the soil?


    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 5:42PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)


My Goose Creek were the most affected by BER. Just to confirm, for the EarthTainer volume of 3.2 cubic feet, I recommend 3 Cups of Dolomite Lime in the Guide. The "snack" suggestion looks promising....


    Bookmark   May 16, 2010 at 10:09PM
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Ray - check on the amount of dolomite (same brand too).
Al - put it in at about 4 inches from the top and mixed in at that level.

Dancinglemons - very interesting. I will check it out and report back. Thanks!

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 12:20AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

The Ca fraction of dolomite is almost insoluble. Availability of Ca via dolomite depends in large part on the size of the material and its disbursement in the soil. The 'prills' are not an indication of the material's size, btw. The prills are an aggregate of fine particles and they break down when in contact with water. The prills break down, but the product doesn't disperse. Unlike soluble nutrients in fertilizers, the Ca fraction of dolomite doesn't naturally reach a level of isotonicity or an even distribution throughout the soil - it tends to stay put, so it should be thoroughly incorporated into the soil.

Also, when you do not incorporate the dolomite, it has little effect on the o/a media pH.

Calcium nitrate is the only soluble form of Ca that suits our purpose for use as a plant nutrient. It should work just fine as Ca supplement, but you need to consider that with the Ca you get a considerable dose of N, so use it sparingly.

My suggestion would be to either thoroughly incorporate the lime into the soil before planting, or replace part of the lime with a little gypsum, which is still not all that soluble but is much more soluble than dolomite, and either incorporate that or scratch it evenly into the soil as deeply as is practical.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 9:29AM
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Thanks Al. Are you saying I could still incorporate the gypsum now or do you mean next growing season? Feels like to top 2-3 inches could still have gypsum worked in, if that would help. I appreciate you weighing in on this.

    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 11:06AM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

If you add gypsum, the Ca will be immediately available if you water from the top so it can disperse through the soil a little. Be careful because gypsum does contribute to the level of EC/TDS and you don't want that getting so high you burn your plants.

The reason BER occurs is because Ca is not mobile in the plant. The plant can 'borrow N, P, and K from other plant parts and translocate these nutrients to new cells, but since Ca is not mobile, it has to be continually present in the nutrient stream for new cells to form normally. The blossom end has the newest cells in each fruit, so anytime the nutrient stream is interrupted (cultural) or Ca is unavailable, the cells on the blossom end don't form normally. This can occur not only from an actual deficiency of Ca, but also from high humidity (usually coupled with clouds and calm winds), too much/too little water in the soil ..... anything cultural that interrupts the constant and sufficient supply of Ca to newly forming cells in the fruits.


    Bookmark   May 17, 2010 at 2:44PM
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oderus_urungus(7 OK)

Dancing Lemons - I just wanted to say I really appreciate your disclaimer in the post above. Perhaps a few others should adopt the same protocol.

tapla - that description of ber is the best i've ever heard. Thank you, I see more clearly now.

    Bookmark   May 18, 2010 at 2:58PM
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jll0306(9/ Sunset 18/High Desert)

I have ordered two kinds of these SWC boxes (Home Depot's City Pickers, and the Garden Patch Grow box) and am concerned about the recommended use of Dolomite with the alkaline water common here in the Southwest. Even though it comes from a water company and thus goes through a purification process, I don't think that changes its basic Ph. It seems to me that over the course of a long season the salts will build up in the soil.

Does anyone know if gypsum would be a better choice? From what Al has said, it seems that it would be.

Thank you,

    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 12:55PM
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tapla (mid-MI z5b-6a)

Call & ask for a water analysis. I'm sure they'll HAVE to have one.


    Bookmark   January 28, 2012 at 9:54PM
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