Is Milk A Solution For Blossom End Rot?

Question:

My zucchini is shriveling up. I've looked on the web and found similar looking issues for a problem called Blossom End Rot. The article suggested that the lack of calcium causes the problem. Do you think making up gallons of nonfat dry milk and "watering" the plants will solve my problem?

Answer:

  • As strange as it may sound, the calcium in milk is beneficial to plants. Plants thrive on THE calcium contents along with additional proteins and vitamin B. It also prevents blossom end rot, which a calcium deficiency can cause. Milk can be applied as a soil drench or foliar spray.
  • The biggest issue how much is necessary to correct the problem, and that is unknown. It is easier to add calcium to the soil as part of your soil preparation in the spring. Dolimite, Agricultural, or Oyster Shell Lime but not Hydrated Lime are the suggested products. The size of the vegetable garden will determine how many pounds are necessary.Bonide Rot Stop or a similar product is a liquid copper that can be applied during flowering.
  • That being said, the lack of calcium is not the primary cause of Blossom End Rot in Bay Area gardens. Irregular watering and poorly draining clay soil are.
  • Watering with a preset schedule from April through September doesn't work. Our temperatures are always in flux; hence, we need to vary the frequency weekly. There is no problem with watering more often when it's hot. Our problem is watering less often when it's cool.
  • There is no set formula because every yard is different; thus, every garden is water differently. Irregular watering comes from the changes in temperature, which affect the rate moisture is withdrawn from the soil. The soil preparation, exposure to the afternoon sun, and the utilization of mulch all affect how often we water. It depends on the soil preparation and the amount of organic matter that's added annually. The one constant in all cases is the volume of water necessary to wet the entire root system. It's just how often we apply the moisture that needs to change.
  • Another problem that complicates things is the plant groupings. Deep-rooted vegetables such as tomatoes and eggplants should be separated from the shallow-rooted varieties, such as peppers, squash as they will need to water more frequently. While the answer to the problem is easy, finding the right balance in your yard will take some trial and error.
  • And finally, the calcium in milk alone is not the long-term solution to Blossom End Rot. 

NOTE: Blossom End Rot is a common problem with many summer vegetables, but it doesn't look the same. With cucumbers, melons, pumpkins, and squash, the fruit form and then quickly shrivel and rot. The vegetables never mature. With tomatoes, peppers, and sometimes eggplants, tan to brown blotches form on the maturing fruit. These blotches are found on the lower section or the blossom end of the fruits. They do reach maturity and are edible with flaws.