Bugs eating my tomatoes - Knowledgebase Question

tampa, Fl
Question by bakcon
June 30, 2010
What bugs eat tomatoes? My big beautiful tomatoes have holes eaten in them. They also seam to rot from inside out.What can I do.Also my squash get some kind of mold on the new vegies.If you touch the baby squash it is mushie.What should I do about these problems.


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Answer from NGA
June 30, 2010

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Tomatoes: From your description, it sounds like blossom end rot, which appears as a dark, rotten-looking bruise on the tomatoes. Blossom end rot is basically an imbalance of calcium in the soil, often aggravated by varied watering schedules. Tomatoes are moisture sensitive and need a regular supply of water to thrive and produce fruit. There are several factors which can lead to blossom end rot: insufficient available calcium in the soil, rapid early season growth followed by extended dry period, excessive rain which smothers root hairs, excessive soil salts which "lock up" calcium uptake (usually caused by a fertilizer which is too high in nitrogen or is applied too often and nitrogen builds up), and, cultivating too close to the plant which kills rootlets. Keep blossom end rot at bay by providing uniform soil moisture, avoid high nitrogen fertilizers (and, follow application rates carefully no matter what you use), plant in well drained soil, and, when cultivating within 1' of the plant, do not cultivate deeper than 1". When fertilizing, look for a reliable brand, high in calcium or an amendment such as lime, gypsum, or bone meal will help. Both rotten fruit and tomatoes could attract alot of eaters, but since you describe them as holes, it could well be birds pecking at the fruit.

Squash: A few possibilities come to mind. If the baby squash are just emerging, it could be that the female blossoms weren't pollinated. This sometimes happens early in the season, before the male blossoms appear. It can also happen during cool spells when pollinators are less active. You can hand pollinate the blossoms yourself by taking a small artist?s paint brush or Q-tip and rubbing the pollen from the male (without a small fruit behind the flower) and into the female (with a small fruit behind the flower).

Also, plants need phosphorous to produce flowers and fruits. You didn't say if you have fertile soil, but you might want to use a side dressing of fertilizer high in phosphorous (the middle number) or an organic source, such as bone meal. Scratch it into the soil to the side of the plant's roots.

The wet scar formed when the flower detaches from the fruit is a prime site
for infection if conditions are right. Cultural techniques like not overwatering, using a drip watering system rather than constant overhead sprinkling (wet plants create a perfect environment for disease), and growing vines on a trellis to improve air circulation all will help significantly. Mulching with a layer of dry organic material, such as straw, can help reduce the problem somewhat but is not a 100% solution to this problem. Try these cultural practices and see if there's improvement. Good luck!


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