Non-Fat Dry Milk/Calcium

bluesky7November 9, 2008

Has anybody tried mixing non-fat dry milk into the soil around their tomato plants as an organic source for calcium? I think I read about this somewhere but not sure.

I actually think I tried this a couple of years ago and remember it preventing blossom-end rot, but drew ants.

What other calcium sources can I use instead of lime which neutalizes the soil too much? How about gypsom?

Thanks guys.


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--------bone meal, maybe?

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 4:07PM
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Several years ago I used the non-fat dry milk in with my Alfalfa tea mix for my roses. I don't believe it was used for calcium I think it was used for nitrogen...but I could be wrong. At anyrate I mixed it with water and there wasn't an ant problem to my knowledge.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 4:32PM
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Sheri, are these in pots or in the ground?

Any source like calcium carbonate is going to be slow to work. You could do that a little every time you work the garden, and eventually you'll get there.
Lime, sheetrock, dolomite, plaster of paris, gypsom, etc.

Be sure you are not letting them get too dry, then watering a lot. I found out that was one of my problems years ago. Now I just keep them sorta on the wet side in fast draining potting soil.

I discovered something else years ago too, totally by accident.
We have birds that need calcium, and the source I like for them is calcium gluconate. We use it for the birds because it will absorb into their fruits and vegetables.
I had BER one year real bad, didn't have anything else that was calcium, so I mixed some up and sprayed it on the plants.
The next set of tomatoes were perfect and I have never had BER go away that fast before.

Of course, I was checking them every day after I sprayed and keeping up with watering them too.

It might have been either one or a combination of both.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 7:13PM
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eileen_nv(Z9 Homosassa)

I save my eggshells and crumble them into the soil around my solanaceous vegs. I don't know if it helps much, but I didn't have BER. (This was in another life in Nevada.) The shells help the birds, too, in the spring when they are making eggs of their own.

    Bookmark   November 9, 2008 at 9:11PM
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Thanks to all you who replied with suggestions.

The plants are in large 5 to 7 gallon containers. They are in good healthly planting mixes and I mulched them with cypress. A couple of the mixes have bark mixed in with them. The plants are looking real good as of now. They're almost two feet tall. I've really been growing tomato plants for decades now, but one can always learn something new.

I did mix lime into the soil in past years and never had blossom end rot but I sometimes noticed a 'too sweet' taste in the tomatoes and/or white streaks inside. Wonder if this was due to the lime?

I might try the non-fat dry milk again or maybe crushed egg shells. Corrie22, where did you get the calcium gluconate?

The bone meal might be good or any of the other sources mentioned above.

Another question, every time I grow tomatoes, I pluck the little sprout that comes out between the main branches. I read or was told that you get bigger fruit that way. But someone on here said it's okay to leave those little shoots because you get more fruit still a decent size that way. Any input about this?

Thanks again, guys.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 1:03AM
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athagan(z9a N/C Fl)

Dry milk will work and it's a good source of nitrogen as well. But given the price of milk powder these days there are a lot cheaper sources of both.


    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 9:46AM
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Sheri, at any health food store on online.
It's cheap and a little goes a long way.
It's also about the only calcium that will actually soak into
the plant, and not just sit on top of the leaves.

Prime by Hagen is the calcium supplement that we use for the birds. But it has all kinds of vitamins and other things, besides just the calcium gluconate.

Since then I keep a small bottle of calcium gloconate capsules to stop early BER, I bought that at GNC.

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 10:50AM
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Heres a little trick I do. After we empty a gallon of milk I fill it up with water and use that to water my tomatoes and other veggies and plants with. It's a great way to give your plants extra vitamins and rinse out the milk jug before you toss it in the recylce bin or use it to start new seedlings ; )

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 11:21PM
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Thanks Athagan, Corrie, and Ladygreensleeves.

I appreciate all the tips.

Take care,

Sheri :-)

    Bookmark   November 10, 2008 at 11:36PM
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I'm one of those (endangered?) people who still eats an egg every morning. And I compost the egg shells. But I've read that they are great to spread uncomposted around tomatoes (maybe for the calcium?), and their little shells can help prevent slugs and other soft-bodied pests.

But the idea of taking my egg shell pieces and carefully building little caterpillar fences with them around my tomatoes makes me think that civilization would have died out if that was necessary or even useful.

Anyone else have ideas of the benefits of using the daily eggshells without sitting under the plants building little eggshell fences? When I start doing that, the dear boyfriend will call in an intervention involving certified professionals.


    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 9:09PM
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Actually, the trick with getting calcium into a tomato plant is to mix crushed oyster shells into the potting soil.

That is also what farmers feed their chickens to provide extra calcium so their egg shells stay strong. This way they don't break due to a hen sitting on the egg.

Works great for tomatoes and eliminates the need to continuously add calcium during the growing cycle.

I used to add oyster shells to my tomato soil all the time, but have not been able to find a bag of crushed shells for quite some time. Odd...since we live in Florida. Home Depot doesn't carry it from what I have seen.

    Bookmark   November 11, 2008 at 11:35PM
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athagan(z9a N/C Fl)

A little inexpensive garden gypsum will supply all the calcium needed, is cheap, and doesn't change your soil pH.

The crushed eggshells will work too if you have enough. They need to be rather finely crushed though.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 10:13AM
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Great ideas!

Corrie, I'm probably going to try the CG. There's a GNC close to my house.

I like all the suggestions! The egg or oyster shells sound good too. If I could get crushed oyster shells!

Alan, if I did want to use gypsom, is it available at the big box stores or nurseries?

Maybe I'll check out the price of dry milk! :-)

So many good suggestions!

Thanks guys.


    Bookmark   November 12, 2008 at 12:39PM
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Has anyone thought about using the empty egg shells for starting your seeds in? Just rinse out shell and make a small hole in the bottom of the shell for drainage, fill with potting mix and your seed. Use the egg crate to support the egg pots until ready to tranplant up. Then pot egg and seedling in new pot or location ;0)

The cardboard egg crates can be used as seed starters too. Put your potting soil in the little compartments,add your seed. When ready to plant out, tear or cut to seperate and plant the whole thing,completely biodegradable,works just like a peat pot!

Also try a feed store for the crushed egg shell. You will also find alot of your other supplies there as well as equipment. They also stock seed and plants in some and usually have seed potatoes and onion sets....things that are better quality than at big box stores. Locate stores near you using the web or book. See if they have a website that gives you an idea if it's worth the drive or call.


    Bookmark   November 14, 2008 at 4:32PM
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Thanks for the 'feed store' idea.

It's funny you should mention empty egg shells for starting seeds. When we were kids, I think we did a project like this in school. Poked a hole in the bottom of each empty half shell, put some potting soil in them, and stuck (flower seeds I think) in the soil. We kept them watered and lo and behold, an instant flower garden! Think it was for Easter or Mother's Day. Not sure how long the little plants lasted but it must have been somewhat successful (or at least fun for all of us budding gardeners)!

You're right, this would probably be good for starting tomato or any kind of vegetable seed.

You know what I did last year to add extra calcium to my plants? I crushed two or three oyster shell or whatever kind of calcium tablets I had here at home and worked them in the soil around each tomato plant. Don't remember having any blossom end rot!

Take care,

Sheri :)

    Bookmark   November 15, 2008 at 12:53AM
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Try the feed stores for the crushed oyster shells, even tractor supply will have it. The big box stores and garden centers generally will not. Also, feed stores are a good source of organic supplements for your soil and much cheaper than buying organic fertilizer from the garden centers. Stuff like alfalfa pellets make good nitrogen/phosphorus additives to soil. Any seed meal is good for soil, corn meal, soybean meal, cotton seed meal etc.

Yes, the gypsum should help add calcium to soil without raising the pH as much as lime can.

Probably the biggest thing in avoiding blossom end rot is steady and consistent watering. BER can still happen to plants in soil with plenty of calcium if their roots get stressed due to drying out a bit and then being over watered. Sometimes plants that grow really rapidly early on have some trouble with BER in their early fruits because they can't keep up with their own growth. If any of these problems are causing the BER, foliar feeding with the CG can help save future fruit.

Here is a link that might be useful: TCLynx

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 11:51AM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)

Does anyone have a swimming pool? If so, you may have used calcium carbonate to add hardness to the water so the water doesnt leach out the sides of the pool material.

I used to use this in my hydro systems.

It works, just dissolve some in a bucket and add it to the area needing more calcium.

    Bookmark   November 16, 2008 at 6:26PM
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The 'feed store' idea sounds good but there aren't any of these stores close to my house. I live in East Fort Lauderdale and I'd have to drive to Davie which is about 15 miles or more away. Not complaining though, and I would do it if I couldn't find a calcium source nearby.

A day or so ago I crushed several oyster shell calcium tablets (which I take) and worked the powder into the soil around each plant. I'm one who is constantly checking to be sure the soil is nice and moist around each plant. They are also well-mulched but not too close to the main stem.

I think it's true that an over abundance of nitrogen will make the plant put out too many leaves and not enough fruit, correct? The plants are looking healthy and blossoming. I try to use a balanced fertilizer and do like to use organics.

Just yesterday I discovered some of the leaves with holes in them and noticed a little green worm on the underside of a leaf. I didn't have any BT on hand, which I really prefer to use for this problem, so used some Sevin type dust. Didn't want to, but didn't want the worms to get out of hand either.

I hope to get some CG or oyster shell calcium soon.

Tony, you use this calcium carbonate on your tomatoes as well as in the pool? What a versatile product!

Thanks guys,


    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 12:58AM
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tony_k_orlando(Z9 Fl)


its also the same product that is used to melt ice on the streets and sidewalks up north where allowed !

There is no way to relate or convert the recipe I used for hydro other than tell how it was used.

I would dissolve one cup of the calcium in a gal of water and then depending on how many cups of the fertilizer I used, which was also diluted into one gal of water, I would add the same amount of the calcium mix. This is not my own recipe but one most likely used by ALL hydro hobbyists.

    Bookmark   November 17, 2008 at 6:25AM
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Thanks Tony. I'm thinking of giving it a try. :)

    Bookmark   November 18, 2008 at 1:11AM
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for home gardeners....add 1/4 cup of each to bottom of planting hole....non fat powdered milk, and epsom salt...takes care of calcium/magnesium for plant....esp tomatoes, peppers, squash, etc...throw in tablespoon of plain white sugar...the indian

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:57AM
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Nobody seems to have answered your second question and I see the question asked often;
"Another question, every time I grow tomatoes, I pluck the little sprout that comes out between the main branches. I read or was told that you get bigger fruit that way. But someone on here said it's okay to leave those little shoots because you get more fruit still a decent size that way. Any input about this?"

The confusion comes from the two types of tomato plants; determinate and indeterminate.
The determinate plants grow bigger & better tomatoes when the sprout is removed because the little shoot takes nutrients from the main plant without ever growing to full fruiting before the plant 'gives up the ghost'.
The indeterminate will make more tomatoes with the sprout left on because the plant just keeps growing and those sprouts will have time to also make tomatoes on it too.

Better late than never!

    Bookmark   March 24, 2014 at 10:15PM
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