Q: My squash are rotting on at the blossom ends. Is this the same issue I have seen on tomatoes and peppers? What causes this disease?

Answer: The squash have blossom end rot, an abiotic disorder caused by lack of calcium uptake in the plant. It is the same disorder that causes blossom end rot in tomatoes, peppers, eggplants, pumpkins and watermelons. Early in the growing season, we often see more blossom end rot because of uneven watering and an undeveloped root system of the plants. Calcium is taken up by the plant roots and moved to developing stems and flowers. When the water supply is inconsistent and roots are not established, especially on transplants, blossom end rot will develop because the calcium is taken up. Overuse of nitrogen fertilizer can also lead to blossom end rot. If the problem is persistent, it may be the result of low soil pH. Soil pH ought to be maintained around 6.5 for vegetable gardens. Have your soil tested to check the pH. To prevent blossom end rot from developing, mix a handful of ground limestone with the soil from each planting hole prior to transplanting. Keep plants well mulched and watered through the growing season. If the rainfall isn’t adequate, water deeply at least once per week. Avoid high nitrogen fertilizers like ammonium nitrate. When you first notice the problem, pick the affected fruit and dispose of it in the compost bin or chicken pen. Spray with a calcium chloride solution or sprinkle 3 tablespoons of gypsum around the base of the plant. Regular, deep watering will alleviate the problem if calcium levels in the soil are adequate.

Q: What are currants and will they grow here?

Answer: Currants are a berry in the Ribes or Gooseberry plant family. The plant has a shrubby habit of growth and is regulated in all states. According to the North Carolina Summary of Plant Protection Regulations which was just updated June 1, 2020, “the sale, growing, or planting of currants and gooseberries in North Carolina is prohibited.” Plants in the Ribes,spp. family carry the white pine blister rust, which could devastate an economic crop in our state. To read the regulations set by North Carolina Department of Agriculture and Consumer Services, visit https://national plantboard.org/wp- content/uploads/docs/summaries/north_ carolina.pdf.

Mary Jac Brennan is the agent for fruit and vegetable horticulture for small farms and local food for the Forsyth Cooperative Extension. Contact Mary Jac about commercial production, local foods, and sustainable agriculture questions. For information on home and gardening issues, contact the Forsyth Cooperative Extension office at maryjac_brennan@ncsu.edu or call 336-703-2850.

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