Q. For the past three
seasons I've had problems with my summer squash crop. I am hoping you
can advise me. The squash plants grow big, green, and healthy and
produce many beautiful large yellow blossoms. From the yellow blossom
emerges a nice healthy-looking squash. However, when the squash gets
to be the size of a small cucumber, the end of the squash withers,
rots, and dies. My zucchini squash is affected the same way. Only
about five to ten percent of them reach maturity and are harvestable.
The soil is a friable, rich loam, enriched with compost. I apply a
generous amount of cow manure and 10-10-10 fertilizer. Prior to
planting I apply lime. My garden gets plenty of sun and when it gets
dry I water it. What's the problem with the squash?
A. The problem you describe is most
likely blossom-end rot. It's a fairly common problem on squash, as
well as tomatoes, and it's called blossom-end rot because it occurs
at the blossom end of the fruit. It is caused by a lack of calcium,
irregular watering, early, rapid plant growth that is followed by dry
conditions, and excess nitrogen.
To prevent blossom-end rot this season, there are a number of things
to do. It's pretty easy to remedy once you know what is causing the problem.
First, add calcium to the soil. The best way to add calcium to the
soil is by adding limestone. Crushed egg shells in the bottom of the
planting hole are also an excellent source of slow-release calcium.
Avoid letting the plants dry out, especially as they are forming
fruit. To retain consistent soil moisture, mulch the plants and water
regularly. Plants should receive an inch of water a week, either
through natural rainfall or watering.
Avoid using fresh cow manure. It is high in nitrogen and contributes
to the problem. Compost fresh manure for a season and give it a
chance to leach out before putting it on the garden. Also, avoid
fertilizers high in nitrogen, the first number on the label. A
fertilizer with a high middle number (phosphorus) like Electra
Plant Food and Electra
Bloom Food will help promote flowering and fruiting.
Click here to read more about Electra
fertilizers and order them from Pernell Gerver's Online Store.