Burnett: Tomato plants need calcium in the Okanagan

Without calcium a condition called blossom end rot often occurs in tomato plants.

The Okanagan has perfect growing conditions and weather for growing tomatoes with one exception—calcium deficiency.

What, you say. The Okanagan has plenty of calcium with its high pH (alkaline conditions.) Yes it does. But because it is in rock form, it is not available to our tomato plants in the heat of summer.

The tomato plant needs calcium because without it, a condition called blossom end rot often occurs. Even though it is called a rot it is not an actual disease, it is an abiotic condition not caused by a pathogen.

Blossom end rot is evident by the sunken black area at the blossom end of the tomato. This is really just dead tissue that has turned black which renders the tomato virtually useless. The cell walls in the tomato are made up of mostly calcium. When this trace element is lacking the walls break down and degrade at the growing end of the tomato.

In order to prevent this from happening you need to get calcium to the tomato as it is growing. You do this by spraying the fruit when it is the size of a golf ball with food grade water soluble calcium. Powdered milk has been used, as well as liquid calcium from the vitamin store. Repeat periodically as more tomatoes form on the vine.


The hot weather we are having can take its toll on the garden. Use the water responsibly folks and by this I mean to recognize what needs it the most to survive through the heat. Lawns and many perennials can brown out somewhat without any long-term damage.

When the cool wet weather returns in the fall everything will green up again for the most part. Cedar hedges however can suffer irreversible damage if we let them get too dry for a long period so focus your irrigating there especially if they are providing an important function such as privacy.


Well it is time again for my old 1960s band to have at it again. We do it about every five years it seems and Sunday, July 21 we will be playing at Whiski Jacks Pub in West Kelowna. Jimmy LeGuilloux has generously given us the room where he regularly holds Sunday night jam sessions.

I’m looking forward to him sitting in with the band for a tune or two and my good friend (Capital News columnist) Charlie Hodge has accepted an invitation to MC the event.

My band was called Strange Movies Blues Band and we played all over B.C. from 1966 to 1970.

Don Burnett is a well-known Kelowna gardening expert.


Kelowna Capital News