Thursday, April 9, 2015

Bunch of little rotters

This is the end, beautiful friends...
While last year the tomato patch produced respectable results - I still have half a case of salsa - one of the problems I encountered was called Blossom End Rot.  It happened first a few years ago and has grown steadily worse over time, though since I rotate tomatoes through the beds, its progress has been slow and unsteady enough that I suspected insects were to blame.  In fact, it is caused by a mineral deficiency in the soil. In this case, one of calcium.

America's favorite garden vegetable is hard on the soil. So we have to come up with a strategy to put back all the stuff it's taking out.  Just composting is not enough*; we are going to need calcium - squared, cubed, and loaded with gee juice.

I watched one video for creating a concoction that's supposed to address it.  The guy took a dozen egg shells, dried them in the oven on a low temp, then ground them up in a little hand-held coffee grinder.  To that he added 4 banana peels, likewise dried and ground. The resulting 2 heaping tablespoons of powder was guaranteed to banish Blossom End Rot from the garden patch forever.** My first thought was, even though guaranteed to make calcium immediately available to the plants, what a colossal waste of energy - both gas and electric - that was.

I asked DiggingDog about it, since she's buried enough cattle bones in my gardens to make the whole place swim in calcium.  She says the problem there is that the big bones in which she specializes take years, maybe decades, to release their accumulated calcium. The solution, she suggested, lies in between these two extremes.

So I talked to the chickens about it, not letting on that part about egg shells, obviously***.  They suggested that ground oyster shell might provide a slow, even release of calcium over the entire growing season, and pointed out that I had a 50# bag right there in the barn, since I mix it in with their food to help with... get this... healthy egg shell production.

So I dug a bunch into each bed with a double portion in the bed where the tomatoes will go this year and added a pint or so to the compost pile.  Maybe that will end the Blossom End Rot, maybe not.  If it doesn't, we'll take the Krugman route and double down on the failed policy next year. If something doesn't work, it's obvious that you're just not doing enough of it.

* The proof being Blossom End Rot.
** or at least until next season.
*** I don't re-use or even compost my egg shells, because I don't want my hens to get a taste of them.


  1. I have fed my chickens egg shells. Yes they eat eggs. But I think they were doing that first. If they are eating eggs, I think it's because I have given them too much corn and they aren't getting enough protein. Right now I have pellets in their feeder and they roam. They eat very little of the feed.

    On the down side, I don't get many eggs, mainly because I think they find other places to lay them. So I shut them in the pen for a day or two to remind them there is a nice cozy spot in there.

    All in all, I think there is a lot of efficiency I could be gaining on my chicken operation.

  2. But I think they were doing that first.

    I had a batch of hens that did eat them before, and once they get the habit, there's not much you can do to stop it. My present group has no egg eaters at all, and I've worked very hard to keep that going.

    If they are locked up for a couple days (where protein might be a problem) I take a scoop of dead beetles from the water-collecting trash can right beneath my farm light and toss them, both dead and alive, into the cage. I think that has convinced them to forgive me for the trauma caused by last fall's Great Rooster Massacre, which I might have forgotten to mention at the time.