Soil issues for vegetables

Asked March 26, 2019, 9:48 AM EDT

I tried a vegetable garden for the first time in a new yard last year, and all of my veggies ended up with blossom -end rot. My soil tends toward clay, and I am in the middle of 2 fields. I am assuming that lack of calcium is the problem? I hope to have a larger garden this year (at least 200 sq ft), so what is the best, cheapest option to correct this issue? Last year was such a disappointment after all my hard work!

Isabella County Michigan soil and fertility issues

1 Response

Blossom end rot on tomatoes, peppers, squash and melons is caused by a lack of calcium in the developing fruit. This comes from slowed growth and damaged roots, the result of any of several factors. 1. extreme fluctuations in soil moisture 2. rapid plant growth early in the season 3. Excessive rains that smother root hairs 4. Excess soil salts 5. Cultivation too close to the plant.

Solution: 1. Maintain adequate soil moisture 2, Avoid using high nitrogen fertilizers or large quantities of fresh manure 3. Plant in well drained soil 4. If your soil or water is salty provide extra water to help leach salts from your soil 5. Do not cultivate deeper than 1 inch within 1 foot of the plant

That said, soil moisture volumes are common to clay soils. Just adding organic materials is always helpful but the real issue is providing a way for excess moisture to drain off. Some gardeners combat this problem with raised beds.

You mention nothing about a soil test and that's where I would begin. There is no other way to know what's in your soil without such a test to determine soil type, nutrient levels, pH, etc. Submit a soil sample along with an explanation of your problem and they will make specific recommendations. Many vegetable gardeners have their soils tested every year. You can learn more here: https://homesoiltest.msu.edu

Good luck!