The Q&A Archives: poor fruit set for vegetables

Question: On the zucchini, crooked neck, cantaloupe and cucumbers, the fruits look like they start to develop, but then just turn yellow and brown and drop. This happened only with zucchini last summer. This is happening to neighbors but not in the garden at the mountain summer home two hours away.

Answer: There are two possible causes - poor pollination or blossom end rot, a physiological condition caused by a lack of calcium at the growing tip of the fruit. While your soil may have adequate calcium, fluctuations in soil moisture content from dry to wet really increase the incidence of blossom end rot. It is especially bad on the early fruit each summer and in sandy soils. The damage occurs as cells die at the tip of the fruit. In time (and as the fruit grows) the spots enlarge and turn black. So, by the time you see it, the damage actually has already occurred some time back. Remedies include: having a soil test to make sure calcium levels are adequate, adding organic matter to a sandy soil to increase its moisture holding capacity, keeping plants evenly moist, especially during the development of the first fruits (mulch helps maintain soil moisture), and spraying plants with a Blossom End Rot spray (contains calcium) which can usually be purchased from your local garden center. Hope this sheds some light on the problem.

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