Small Footprint Family sustainability starts at home Mon, 27 Oct 2014 18:44:48 +0000 en-US hourly 1 30 Ways to Use Less Paper Mon, 27 Oct 2014 02:42:15 +0000 deforestationWhy should we care about our paper usage? Paper is pret […]

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Why should we care about our paper usage? Paper is pretty cheap and renewable, right? Unfortunately, paper is substantially more resource intensive than you would think. Here’s why, and how you can save a ton of paper (and money) at home, school and work… 

Paper’s Heavy Footprint

From cradle to grave, papermaking uses a tremendous amount of energy and natural resources. First, trees are cut down and the wood is chipped into small pieces. Then water and heat, and sometimes chemicals, are added to separate the wood into individual fibers.

The fiber is mixed with lots of water (and often recycled fiber), and then this pulp slurry is sprayed onto a huge flat wire screen which is moving very quickly through the paper machine. Water drains out, and the fibers bond together.

The web of paper is pressed between rolls which squeeze out more water and press it to make a smooth surface. Heated rollers then dry the paper, and the paper is slit into smaller rolls, and sometimes into sheets, and removed from the paper machine.

Americans are the heaviest paper users in the world. The average American uses about seven trees or an average of 700 pounds in paper, wood, and other products made from trees every year. This amounts to about 2,000,000,000 trees and more than 90 million short tons of paper and paperboard annually! This would be the same consumption for 6 people in Asia or 30 people in Africa. That’s a lot of demand, and that demand has a powerful impact.

40% of the world’s industrial logging goes into making paper, and this is expected to reach 50% in the near future. Paper production is the third most energy-intensive of all manufacturing industries, using over 12% of all energy in the industrial sector.  The paper and pulp industry is also the fourth largest emitter of greenhouse gases in the manufacturing sector. Yikes!

Paper plantations are better than outright deforestation, but because plantation trees are planted in perfect rows, sprayed with herbicides and pesticides, and then harvested before maturity, these trees offer no habitat to wildlife and no benefits to the environment.

If that weren’t bad enough, the use of toxic chemicals for pulping and bleaching paper, and the dangerous chemical pesticides and herbicides on fiber plantations lead to pollution that causes negative impacts on the health of paper company workers and communities downstream from mills.

In fact, the paper industry is responsible for the release of persistent toxic pollutants like chlorine, mercury, lead and phosphorus into the environment, resulting in a legacy of health problems including cancers, nerve disorders and fertility problems.

Chlorine bleaching is particularly widespread, which results in dangerous pollution, because chlorine is the building block of organo-chlorines, which include some of the most toxic compounds on earth, such as dioxins and furans.

In the U.S., in order to meet Environmental Protection Agency rules, most paper is now “elemental chlorine free” (ECF), which has led to a 94% reduction in dioxins, however the EPA’s own rules state that there is no safe level of dioxin. And the dioxins already created in earlier years can persist in the environment and in our bodies.

Dioxin is known to cause reproductive problems, including low sperm counts and endometriosis and is implicated in a range of other health problems including diabetes, hyperactivity, allergies, immune and endocrine system problems. 

Not only is paper-making a very toxic business, in some regions of the world, the land rights of indigenous peoples and rural communities are violated in the course of activities by pulp and paper corporations. When paper companies are granted concessions to log forests and/or establish fiber plantations without gaining the full and informed prior consent of local communities or indigenous peoples with customary rights on that land, this is an abuse of the land rights of those people and communities. Unfortunately these abuses are far too widespread.

All in all, paper has a very heavy footprint.

Waste Not, Want Not

Though paper recycling rates in the U.S. have increased in recent years, paper still represents one of the biggest components of solid waste in landfills—26 million tons (or 16% of landfill solid waste) in 2009. Approximately 1 billion trees worth of paper are thrown away every year in the U.S., and commercial and residential paper waste accounts for more than 40 percent of waste going to the landfill. 

When paper decomposes in a landfill, it releases methane, a greenhouse gas 23 times more potent than carbon dioxide. Eliminating this paper from our waste would greatly reduce methane emissions and nearly double the lives of current landfills.

Like food, paper has no business in a landfill.

For every ton of paper we recycle, we save

  • 17 mature trees
  • 7,000 gallons of water
  • 380 gallons of oil
  • 4,100 kilowatt hours of electricity—enough energy to power the average American home for six months!
  • 3.3 cubic yards of landfill space

It really pays to recycle paper and use recycled paper products! But let’s remember that recycling comes last in the triad of Reduce, Reuse, Recycle.

Recycling is a last resort. 

Recycling is what we do with something when we have exhausted all opportunities to redesign, reuse or repair it, or to simply do without it altogether.

As a last resort, recycling is better than a landfill or incineration for sure. But we shouldn’t believe for a second that recycling will turn things around environmentally.

Recycling is Not Enough

To make a difference for the planet and the climate—and to save a lot of money too—reducing your “paper footprint” is the only way to go. 

By using less paper, you can reduce your impact on forests, cut energy use and climate change emissions, limit water, air and other pollution and produce less waste. Reducing your demand for paper will also help lessen the social impacts and human rights abuses linked to paper production. 

The climate benefits of reducing paper consumption are significant. If the U.S. cut its office paper use by just a mere 10 percent, or 490,000 metric tons, greenhouse gas emissions would fall by 1.45 million metric tons. This is the equivalent of taking 280,000 cars off the road for a year.

Using less paper also helps ensure we use only our fair share of the earth’s resources. Think how much better the world would be if current levels of paper production were used to make books for schools in poor nations instead of wasted on unnecessary office printouts and junk mail.

Here are some ways you can cut your paper consumption for good and save a ton of money in the process.

30 Ways to Use Less Paper

Save Paper in Your Home

1. Use cloth napkins. They come in lots of colors and prints, and add an elegant touch to even the most modest of meals—besides, aren’t you worth it? I use a different color for every member of the family, and unless someone makes a big mess, I only wash them once a week.

2. Use rags or kitchen towels instead of paper towels. I’ve had the same set of 10 kitchen towels for more than 8 years now.

3. Avoid using paper plates and cups. Use durable, washable ones if you need something for a social occasion. (I keep a large set of cheap mix-match plates from the thrift store for BBQs and parties, but you can also ask people to bring their own plate and cup too!) If you must use paper plates, try to buy the type made with recycled content.

4. Buy bulk foods using your own reusable containers rather than buying packaged foods at the grocery store. Join or start a buying club and save even more paper and money!

5. Use your own reusable bag at all the stores you go to (not just the grocery store) and skip the paper bags. Here’s one way to remember your reusable bags.

6. Use reusable coffee filters (metal mesh or unbleached cloth) instead of paper ones. (Where to find online.) White-paper coffee filters bleached with chlorine are not only bad for the environment (the paper mills that bleach the filters dump wastewater containing dioxins into waterways), but some of the chlorine and dioxins can end up in your coffee.

7. Use a handkerchief instead of tissue.

8. Use recycled toilet paper. If every household in the United States replaced just one roll of virgin toilet paper with one roll of recycled post-consumer waste recycled toilet paper, 424,000 trees would still be standing. Now think of how many rolls of toilet paper you use every year…

9. If you’re feeling really gung-ho, switch to “family cloth” or washable cloth wipes in lieu of toilet paper. Using family cloth is not only a major money saver and tree preserver, but cloth wipes are way, way more comfortable tooHere’s how to do it in a way that isn’t gross.

10. And while your replacing paper in the bathroom, consider using cloth menstrual pads or a Diva cup in lieu of pads and tampons in paper packaging. These will save you hundreds of dollars a year, are usually a lot more comfortable, and have no bleaching toxins in them or risk of Toxic Shock Syndrome! (Where to find online.)

11. Use cloth diapers instead of disposable ones. The paper and wood pulp that go into disposables and their packaging make them not only a huge waste of trees, water, oil and energy, but they are also a vector for toxins against your baby’s skin and an incredible waste of money. Don’t worry about washing cloth diapers; it takes far, far less water and energy to wash cloth diapers than it does to produce, transport, and then dispose of billions of disposables every year.

12. Use a white board or the Notes application on your phone for household lists, notes or announcements.

13. Change your bills to “paperless” and pay them online or by phone. Most companies will make this easy for you to do since an email is a lot cheaper than postage. You can also set up automatic billing, which should be even lower stress (assuming that you can pay them) since it just automatically debits your bank account at billing time. Ask for paperless reports from credit cards and banks as well. Most banks offer this service through their websites or phone support.

14. Save online receipts in a folder on your computer. Print each receipt to a file (often PDF, RTF, etc.), then place all the files in a folder. There are many print-to-file techniques available, though they depend on your computer’s operating system and setup. 

15. Try to stop as much of your junk mail as possible. Junk mail is responsible for the waste of at least 100 million trees a year, not to mention all the water, oil and energy that goes into producing something that just ends up in the trash. Here’s how to reduce the junk in your mailbox. 

16. Re-use one-sided paper for notes, sketches, etc. You can even reuse paper from the recycling bin for this. Always use both sides of pieces of paper when you can.

17. Be frugal about magazine subscriptions, newspapers etc. Many newspapers and magazines have online versions, and often the online subscription is cheaper than the print version. 

18. Unless you need a particular book as a reference on your bookshelf (like a recipe or how-to book), consider buying only digital books and reading them on an e-reader. Digital book-reading devices and ebooks have come way down in price, making it possible to save trees and have a vast library without having to pack dozens of boxes of books every time you move!

Save Paper at School or Work

19. Bring a thermos or ceramic mug to the office and use it for coffee instead of disposable cups. Also bring a glass or water bottle to use at the water cooler.

20. Skip the paper bags, plates and napkins at lunchtime, and bring a reusable lunch bag, dish and cloth napkin to work.

21. When buying paper, buy recycled when you can. Try to get the highest “post-consumer content” percentage available. 

22. Think before you print. Do you really need to print it? Many people have the habit of just clicking the print button whenever they want to read something. This is incredibly wasteful. Reading on a screen isn’t perfect either, but it doesn’t waste paper needlessly.

23. If you only need one page of a document, only print that. This is often very easy to do in the “Print” menu of whatever word processor (or Internet browser) you are using.

24. When printing a web page, copy and paste the text into a word processor so that it is formatted correctly for printing. Some websites even have a print button that will format the page for you. Printing webpages “as is” often prints a lot of junk that you don’t want, and can also use up expensive colored inks.

25. Print on both sides of the paper using the “duplex mode” on your printer. Most modern printers will do this.

26. Adjust margins on your documents so they take fewer pages to print. A smaller margin of .75 inch is becoming more common.

27. Use Google Docs, Trello, Dropbox or other software that allows you to collaborate on projects digitally instead of using paper. It is even possible to do editing and collaboration using standard word processors. For instance, you can use “Track Changes” in Microsoft Word to put editing marks in documents, and view the editing changes that have been made by other people.

28. Use email rather than paper mail whenever you can. Store your files electronically, instead of on paper, and invest in good backups. Most businesses and even governments are in the process of transferring over to electronic services. This will drastically reduce the costs of postal service as well.

29. Use a USB data stick, also known as a “thumb drive,” to move around or share electronic documents rather than printing them. Encourage people to bring their reports to meetings in electronic format, and for attendees to bring electronic storage of their own (or share via an Internet-based document storage). Many companies are utilizing an “intranet” now, allowing them to securely distribute documents to company employees only.

30. Don’t put your mailing address on your business cards; only put email, website (if applicable), and phone. This forces people to contact you through these electronic mediums.

Saving paper in your home, school or office not only conserves forests, energy, soil, water and air, it can save you a ton of money too. How else are you saving paper in your home?

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Is Borax Toxic? Tue, 21 Oct 2014 21:21:07 +0000 is-borax-toxicMany people are concerned about whether borax is a safe […]

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Many people are concerned about whether borax is a safe chemical. There are many sites on the internet claiming it is toxic. I disagree with these sites and believe that borax is as safe as table salt or washing soda—in other words, the dose makes the poison. Here’s why…

History of Borax

Borax-150039Humans have mined and used borax since its discovery in Persia more than 4,000 years ago. Borax is a naturally occurring mineral found in concentration in dried salt lake beds, and consists of water, sodium, boron and oxygen. That’s it. The main areas where borax is mined today are in Turkey and California.

Boron is an essential trace mineral nutrient required for many functions in the body, like rebuilding bone and teeth, hormone regulation, absorption and metabolism of calcium, magnesium and phosphorus, and maintaining communication between your cells. 

In fact, boron is as essential for the parathyroid gland as iodine is for the thyroid. 

Boron is ubiquitous in soil and water, and is required for plant growth. Diets with a fair amount of fruit and vegetables provide about 2 to 5 mg of boron per day, but this also depends on the region where the food was grown and how it was grown.

The Evidence on Borax

All of the studies that showed evidence of possible hormone disruption in rats used ridiculously high doses of borax (many grams delivered intravenously). The reason it has this effect at high doses is because it is essentially an overdose of the element boron, which is a nutrient required for hormone regulation in small quantities. Iron and calcium are required by the body too, but an overdose of either will also harm you.

However, people could never possibly ingest anything even close to the amount of borax required to do harm—unless they worked unprotected for years in a borax mine or packaging factory. (However, you will want to keep your small children out of the borax, just as you would keep them away from the vitamins, etc.)

Borax is officially classified as non-carcinogenic and a mild skin irritant. The high alkalinity of borax (pH 9.5) is what causes skin irritation, which is the same reason that washing soda and even baking soda cause skin irritation, too. The alkaline pH of borax, washing soda and baking soda is what softens the water, and makes it possible for them to clean your clothes.

There are also several studies in the ToxNet database that show borax is only a very mild lung irritant and causes no lasting damage. If ingested, it is quickly excreted in the urine. In addition, it does not really penetrate the skin well, and is not bio-accumulative.

Finally, the Material Safety Data Sheet lists borax as a health hazard of 1—the same as baking soda and salt. In other words, borax is toxic in the same way that salt is toxic (Actually ounce for ounce, salt is more toxic): A small amount can do great things; a huge amount will kill you and other living things.

Uses for Borax

Borax is used in laundry detergents, hair potions and skin lotions. Like diatomaceous earth, it also can help kill fleas and dust mites in your carpet by dehydrating them. It is also used as a safer ant and cockroach killer.

Borax is also naturally anti-fungal and anti-viral (but not anti-bacterial), and—here’s the neat part—through a chemical reaction with water, borax produces hydrogen peroxide (the main ingredient in OxyClean) to brighten and sanitize your clothes.

Because borax is made of just sodium, oxygen, hydrogen and boron, many people even ingest small amounts of borax mixed in water to self-treat various health conditions that supplemental boron can really help, like arthritis, fluoride detoxification, osteoporosis, prostate cancer, menopausal symptoms, psoriasis, and candida

People should use the same precautions (gloves, dust mask or bandana) with borax that they would use around any dusty substance, like washing soda, bentonite clay, diatomaceous earth, or powdered soap. (Heck, even flour or powdered sugar would be irritating if inhaled!)

So, Is Borax Toxic?

In sum, borax is wholly natural and has no inherently toxic ingredients. It doesn’t cause cancer, accumulate in the body or in nature, or absorb through the skin. 

Because the dose makes the poison, borax is not harmful to the body or the environment any more than salt or washing soda is. In fact, the largest borax (borate) mine in the world—found in Boron, California—is considered to be one of the most ecologically sound and environmentally sustainable mines in the United States.

I consider borax a safe, effective cleaner, and I will continue to use it in my household green cleaning and safer pest control.

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Easy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup Mon, 06 Oct 2014 19:00:06 +0000 roasted butternut squash soupButternut squash is a type of winter squash. It ha […]

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Butternut squash is a type of winter squash. It has a sweet, nutty taste similar to that of a pumpkin. It has hard, yellow skin and orange fleshy pulp, and is an excellent source of nutrition during the winter months. This soup is one terrific way to enjoy it!

Winter squashes are members of the Cucurbitaceae family and relatives of both the melon and the cucumber. Winter squashes like butternut or pumpkin have hard shells that are difficult to pierce, enabling them to have long storage periods under the right conditions. 


Modern day squash developed from wild squash that originated in an area between Guatemala and Mexico. While squash has been grown and eaten for over 10,000 years, they were first cultivated specifically for their nutritious seeds because early squash did not contain much flesh, and what they did contain was very bitter.

As time progressed, squash cultivation spread throughout the Americas, and varieties with a greater quantity of sweeter-tasting flesh were developed. Christopher Columbus brought squash back to Europe, and like many other native American foods, their cultivation was introduced throughout the world by Portuguese and Spanish conquerers.

Today, there are hundreds of beautiful varieties of squash, and the largest commercial producers include China, Japan, Romania, Turkey, Italy, Egypt, and Argentina.

Culture and Cultivation

Butternut squash need warm soil to germinate so either start your seeds indoors or direct seed outside once the weather warms up. 

If starting indoors, plant your seeds in 3-inch seed pots rather than flats, placing the seeds about an inch under the soil. You can plant 2 or 3 in each pot, to transplant together in hills.

Keep your pots somewhere sunny and warm or they may take a long time to sprout. Get them started about 3 weeks before your last frost date.

Each butternut squash plant will produce several large squash, so you won’t need more than 3 or 4 plants. Transplant your seedlings about 2 weeks after your last frost has passed.

If you are putting seeds straight into the garden, plant them at the same time as you would put out your transplants. They will not germinate or sprout in cold soils. Plant 4 or 5 seeds in a small hill, and thin down to 2 or 3 after they have sprouted.

Winter squash like a fertile, well-drained soil with plenty of compost. Plant them in a location that will have full sun and allow a lot of space for the vines. Each hill should have 3 feet of space around it. Mulch them well with straw to keep the soil from drying out too fast.

Butternut squash can be grown upward on a fence or trellis if you don’t want to have vines all through your garden. If you plan on training them up this way, you can plant your seedlings just 2 feet apart. In this case, don’t plant them in little groups, but rather just one plant every 2 feet. 

Butternut Squash PlantsOn trellises, the plant won’t be able to support heavy, mature squashes up in the air on its own. So get creative and support those fruits with slings or nets fashioned from pantyhose, old t-shirts, or mesh produce bags. Just be sure to tie them to the trellis, not the vines.

Like cucumbers, squash vines will first have a round of male-only flowers come to bloom before the female ones do. So don’t be alarmed if none of the first blossoms set any fruit. They aren’t supposed to.

As the season comes to a close, you can help the plant divert its resources to finishing off the larger squash before winter by pinching off any new flowers and removing very young squash.


No single food provides a greater percentage of certain carotenoids (like alpha- and beta-carotene) in the diet than winter squash. The phytonutrients, complex carbohydrates and polysaccharides in winter squash are anti-inflammatory and help regulate blood sugar, too.

Butternut squash (and all winter squashes) also contain a great amount of vitamin C (about one-third of the Daily Value in every cup) and a very good amount of the antioxidant mineral manganese as well. 

One cup of baked winter squash contains approximately 340 milligrams of omega-3 fats in the form of alpha-linolenic acid (ALA), and also provides a good amount of vitamins B1, B3, B6, pantothenic acid, and folate.

Selection and Storage

Winter squash is easily prone to decay, so it is important to carefully inspect them before you buy them. Choose squashes that are firm, heavy for their size and have dull, not glossy, rinds. The rind should be hard all around. Avoid those with any signs of decay, which shows up as areas that are soft, water-soaked or moldy.

Depending upon the variety, winter squashes like butternut can be kept for one month to six months. The thicker the rind, the longer they tend to keep.

Keep winter squash away from direct exposure to light and do not subject them to extreme heat or extreme cold. The ideal temperature for storing winter squash is between 50-60°F (about 10-15°C).

Once it is cut, cover the pieces of winter squash in a glass storage container and store them in the refrigerator, where they will keep for a few days. The best way to freeze winter squash is to first cut it into pieces of suitable size for your individual recipes.

All winter squashes need to be peeled and de-seeded before cooking. Save the seeds though; all winter squash seeds (not just pumpkin) are outstandingly nutritious, and can be dried, roasted and salted or seasoned with cayenne, cumin, ginger or other spices for a delicious snack!

You can also roast a winter squash and then peel the cooked, softened skin off or scoop out the flesh, which is often easier than peeling it raw. That is what we will do for this recipe.

This easy to make, roasted butternut squash soup recipe will nourish you well on cold winter days, and make the best of this healthy, long-storing vegetable.

Easy Roasted Butternut Squash Soup
Serves 4
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  1. 1 medium butternut squash, halved and seeded
  2. 1/2 sweet onion, peeled and sliced
  3. 1 Tbsp. extra virgin olive oil
  4. 2 cups chicken broth or stock
  5. 1 tsp sea salt (where to find)
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees.
  2. Place the halved and seeded squash on an oiled roasting pan. Roast in the oven for an hour or until a knife goes in easily.
  3. Let the squash cool a bit, and remove the skin. Leave any parts of the squash that have browned; it will add extra flavor.
  4. On medium heat, sauté the onion in the olive oil for 3 minutes.
  5. Add the squash and the broth or stock to the pan and simmer together for about 10 minutes.
  6. Place the mixture and sea salt into your blender or Vitamix and secure the lid.
  7. Blend on low or 1 and slowly increase the speed to high or 10. Blend for 20 seconds, until smooth.
  8. Enjoy!!
Small Footprint Family

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GIVEAWAY: 18-Piece GlassLock Storage Set {$40 Value!} Thu, 11 Sep 2014 06:59:43 +0000 glasslockIf you are trying to eat more whole foods and home cook […]

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If you are trying to eat more whole foods and home cooked meals, it makes sense to have a set of storage containers that can hold your leftovers well. So you’ll want to invest in food storage containers that are made of glass instead of toxic plastic, and which can also easily go from fridge to oven to microwave or freezer.

Well, you voted for it on Facebook, and here it is! This month’s giveaway is this very useful 18-piece GlassLock Storage Set!

Storing your food in glass containers not only helps you avoid the endocrine disrupting chemicals found in plastic food storage containers, but glass is also an easily renewable, low-footprint resource that, with care, is much longer-lasting than plastic, too.

I have had a set of these for years, plus several extra pieces, and I ADORE them!

The GlassLock 18-piece set features:

  • All-Natural glass vessels with BPA-free airtight lids
  • Ideal for serving & storing; safe for the oven and microwave cooking
  • Rectangular Containers: 1.6 cups, 3.5 cups, 3.5 cups, and 6.3 cups with 4 matching lids
  • Rectangular Containers: 1.5 cups and 3.3 cups with 2 matching lids
  • Round Containers: 0.73 cups, 1.6 cups, and 3.1 cups with 3 matching lids

I not only use these glass containers to store leftover food in the fridge, but I also use them as serving dishes, to reheat food in the oven, and even to freeze things. They are also great for taking soup or other liquid items to lunch, because of their leakproof BPA-free lids!

They clean up easily in the dishwasher, and the lids are resistant to staining. How does it get better than that?

These GlassLock containers are the crème-de-la-crème, and every kitchen would benefit from having at least one set!

Enter to Win this 18-Piece GlassLock Storage Set

Please use the Rafflecopter widget below to enter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Official Rules

  • No purchase necessary.
  • Giveaway open to residents of the U.S. Canadian residents will receive an Amazon gift certificate of equivalent value.
  • The giveaway begins September 11, 2014 and will end September 25, 2014 at 12:00am PST.
  • This giveaway is hosted and paid for by Dawn Gifford and Small Footprint Family.
  • The prize was selected by informal Facebook vote, and is one 18-piece GlassLock Storage Set, valued at $40. The odds of winning are approximately 1 in 300, though it depends on how many people enter the giveaway.
  • Prizes will be shipped directly from Amazon to the winner’s home, and any exchanges or returns should be handled by Amazon. Canadian residents will receive an Amazon gift certificate of equivalent value, which will be delivered by email.
  • Winners will be selected via integrated with the Rafflecopter widget. Winners will be announced within 1 week of the last day of the giveaway in a post on this blog.
  • Winners will have 1 week from the last day of the giveaway to claim their prize by contacting Small Footprint Family with your full name and mailing address.

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How To Stop Blossom End Rot Tue, 22 Jul 2014 02:28:51 +0000 blossom-end-rotYour tomato plants are tall and green; you’ve tak […]

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Your tomato plants are tall and green; you’ve taken the time to carefully stake or cage them to support their growth. Right now they are loaded with tons of green tomatoes, and some of them are just starting to blush red. And then three days later, it all goes horribly wrong. 

There is nothing more disheartening than to see that all of your ripening tomato beauties (or peppers or squash) are now rotting from the bottom—right on the vine!

What is Blossom-End Rot?

Blossom-end rot looks like a discolored, watery, sunken spot at the blossom end of the fruit, most commonly tomatoes. The spot will start out small, and grow larger and darker as the fruit continues to grow.

Blossom-end rot can quickly cover half the fruit, making it totally inedible. Secondary diseases or mold can also form on the affected areas, overtaking the entire fruit.

Blossom-end rot is more common if you planted in cold soil or when your garden experiences extremes in soil moisture levels—either too dry or too wet.

How to Stop Blossom End Rot

Blossom-end rot is caused by calcium deficiency.

While this may be a result of low calcium levels in the soil, more often than not, it is the result of erratic watering. When the plant is allowed to get too dry, or is given too much water over a period of time, its ability to absorb calcium from the soil is greatly diminished.

If your soil is low in calcium (determined by a soil test) the easiest solution is to add garden lime several times per year, according to the directions on your soil test results.

Over fertilization, especially with high nitrogen fertilizer, can also cause blossom-end rot. Over fertilization can cause such rapid growth that nutrients such as calcium won’t be able to keep up with the growth. Always soil test before fertilization and fertilize according to the results. 

You can also choose varieties of tomato that are resistant to blossom-end rot. Varieties of tomatoes that produce large fruit tend to be more susceptible to blossom-end rot, while varieties with smaller fruit are less likely to suffer it.

Blossom-end rot is much easier to prevent than it is to cure. Once it has set in, it can be really hard to reverse, but there are a few things you can do that have a good chance of turning things around.

Ensure Consistent Water Supply

If the issue is erratic moisture, here are some tips:

1. Make sure your soil isn’t allowed to dry out. The best defense against blossom end rot is a nice, consistent soil moisture level.

2. As the summer rolls on, it is easy to forget to water the garden regularly. If it is hard for you to be consistent, or if you plan to take a vacation, consider installing a drip irrigation system and a timer. Drip irrigation is a major time-saver, affordable, water-wise and an outstanding disease prevention method because it both keeps soil moisture regular and keeps water (and therefore fungus spores) from getting onto the leaves of your crops. (This is the system I use)

3. Mulch. By adding a three-inch layer of organic mulch, you can help maintain adequate soil moisture levels, even during dry spells. It is best to add the mulch after your soil has warmed in the spring.

4. Plant susceptible crops (such as tomatoes, melons, squash, peppers, and eggplants) in well-drained soil that has been amended with compost or well-rotted manure. Soil amended with plenty of organic matter will retain moisture better and supply plenty of nutrition (including calcium) to your plants.

Fortify Your Crops at Planting

In addition to making sure you have consistent moisture levels in your soil, you can fortify your plants when you put them in the ground to make sure they get plenty of calcium throughout the season. 

Many people use garden lime to adjust their garden pH and add calcium at the time of planting. This will treat the entire garden soil. You can also add 2-3 Tums or other calcium carbonate antacid to each planting hole to add extra calcium.

I personally like to use a teaspoon or two of eggshell calcium to each hole as I plant my tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc. This is a great way to use up a common food waste product. Here’s how to make it.

If you already have signs of blossom-end rot, you can add a couple antacid tablets to a glass of milk and water your plants with it daily to help prevent blossom-end rot from destroying more of your crops than it has to. You can also buy calcium sprays at the garden store. These might help turn things around, but aren’t foolproof.

Prevention is really the cure here.

Preventing Blossom End Rot is the Best Cure

Good, fertile soil and consistent watering can make all the difference in stopping this heartbreaking disease before it starts and ruins your crops. Get your soil tested each spring, and amend it accordingly. 

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