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Friday, June 17, 2011

Container Grown: Tomato Black Bottoms and Pepper Sunscald Prevention

Q. These are my first 2 vegetables this year. All the others comming along appear to be OK. If I take down the fence, will the chipmunks still cut down the tomato plants?

Blossom end rot of tomato
A. The tomato looks like blossom end rot which is a mineral deficiency usually enhanced with irregular or somehow uneven applications of water. Watch your watering frequencies and if you can make sure your soil is enhanced with compost at the time of planting and use a surface mulch such as straw once they start blooming.

Sunscald of pepper
On the pepper this looks more like sunscald on the fruits. This is poor canopy development to shade the fruits and  having these fruits exposed to our extremely high sunlight intensities. You have two options. One is to focus on getting better canopy development through the use of fertilizers and soil improvement on a regular basis or grow them under about 30% shade. 

Those little varmints will eat the fruits of tomatoes and peppers. You need to keep the veggies fenced or get on a program of varmint suppression or control. A good product for this is a bait called Quintox and can be used under certified organic operations. However you should follow the directions for baiting quite closely which starts at the beginning of the season. There is a movement on to protect the Mojave ground squirrel but I do not believe the Antelope ground squirrel is protected or there is a movement to protect it.

Antelope ground squirrel
Another thing you should keep in mind. You are growing these plants above ground in black plastic containers. I could see them in your pictures before I cropped them. These containers, exposed to our sunlight, will generate surface temperatures on the containers of 170F. I have measured them with an infrared gun. Plant proteins begin to denature at 140F. You will kill significant numbers of roots with this kind of heat transferred to the soil inside the containers.
Pepper pic before cropping.
I could see the top of the black plastic container.

Two things you need to do with containers in our climate. Use double-potted containers. One container nested inside an outside container will take some of the heat from being transferred to the soil. Or plant the containers in the soil still using a double pot. This is actually best.

Secondly, irrigate about 9 am just before temperatures begin so soar. This will make sure the soil is wet going into the heat of the day. Wet soil can absorb alot more heat than a drier soil.

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