Thursday, March 30, 2023

April Fools, AI, Buzzards gotta eat and Calcium for Fruit Quality


Scheduled for April Fools day.

You cannot make this stuff up.

Artificial Intelligence

An irrational fear of rational thought.

Folks are terrified by the relentless, implacable application of....logic.

We all have our own, personal short-cuts and "hacks". We have our pet "rules" we derived after observing small samples of data. We like to think our rules are better than consensus-science (as opposed to politicized-science) but part of us knows that that is not the smart way to bet.

Buzzards gotta eat

Yesterday's Garden Grizzly will be repurposed to powering avian flight. If all goes well there will be trail-cam pictures.

Foliar calcium sprays (fertilizer) for fruit quality

"Foliar" is a misnomer. Calcium is not very mobile in a plant. There can be lots of calcium in the soil and the plant can have difficulty delivering it to the fruit where it functions like a glue that binds cells-to-other-cells. To get calcium into the fruit, you must spray it ON the fruit.

Lack of calcium in fruit is a cause of blossom-end-rot in tomatoes and peppers and corky-spots, water-core and bitter-pit in apples and cracking in pears.

One frustrating thing about these disorders is that it is most common on very fertile soils. Repeated additions of organic material jacks up the potassium levels which in-turn reduces calcium uptake. The larger fruit produced on those soils also stresses the plant's ability to deliver enough calcium to the fruit.

One way to rectify these problems is with multiple sprays of solutions with calcium as the fruit sizes up.

Solubility (grams/100ml) of common calcium minerals in distilled water at 20C. Expressed as % of water's weight.

  • Calcium carbonate (aka Limestone, chalk) 0.0007%
  • Calcium sulfate (plaster-of-Paris, gypsum) 0.25%
  • Calcium acetate (egg-shells and vinegar) 34%
  • Calcium citrate 0.1%
  • Calcium nitrate 120%
  • Calcium chloride 74%

Commercial growers of difficult-to-grow apples like Honeycrisp (notorious for bitter-pit) will spray 0.2%-to-0.25% calcium chloride foliar sprays every two weeks starting from when the biggest apples are the size of the end of your thumb. That works out to 1.5-to-2 pounds of calcium chloride per hundred gallons of spray.

If you are adverse to math or don't want to buy calcium chloride or calcium nitrate, then you can get pretty close to that concentration by breaking up some dry-wall (gypsum board) and covering with warm water overnight. The saturated calcium sulfate solution will be very close to the calcium concentration of the commercial products. The bucket+drywall can be reused all season long since very little of the gypsum is dissolved each session.

Another home-grown method is to dilute a generous cup of 5% vinegar with water to make a gallon of solution, then throw in a bunch of egg-shells. Let it sit over-night and maybe stir it occasionally. The solution in the morning should be close to 0.25% taking two molecules of acetic acid per atom of calcium.

Add a wetting agent like a bit of dish detergent, wait until noonish of a sunny day and spray your fruit. Make sure you spray the FRUIT since the calcium is not very mobile within the plant. Wet them thoroughly. I find that I get better fruit coverage by spraying upward since the leaves act like umbrellas and shield the fruit which hangs below them.

The reason for waiting until noon of a sunny day is that the fruit will be slightly dehydrated and will suck the moisture in like a sponge. Also, doing it relatively early in the day will ensure that the leaves will dry-off quickly and you will not be fostering fungal diseases.


  1. Most e cellent advice! Thanks for sharing. I'm still waiting to actually harvest an apple - first tree planted 7 years ago!

  2. "Buzzards gotta eat same as the worms"
    19th Century Philosopher
    Josey Wales

  3. Eggshells in vinegar is what I use for all varieties of tomato. Render the eggshell into powder by means of electric coffee grinder. I pour into soil.
    Also cast used coffee grounds at bases of tomatoes..

    For peppers, I use epsom salts dissolved in water as a foliar.
    (1 Tbspn/gallon of water. Sprayed twice/week in the morning.)
    Do not add N to peppers, e.g. coffee grounds.

    1. Egg shells and coffee grounds go right into my compost pile. I hand crush the eggshells the best I can.

  4. Due to excavation in utility right of way, my 45 yr old Myers lemon trees were on deaths door.

    Careful application of homebrew foliar plus tilled in homemade compost, the tress came roaring back to life. Well, it took three years of near constant babying. 3rd yr showed heavy fruiting. Maybe as much as 10% loss.

    Foliar was applied in late evening only.

  5. Thanks, ERJ. This is great information. I don't have enough ways to use all of the 15-20 eggs we get every day. We have been feeding some shells back to the chickens.

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  8. What about crushed oyster shells? Would assume solubility to be similar to limestone? Maybe slightly more soluble? Put in a dash of vinegar...? Would the magnesium and other minerals found in oyster shells be beneficial to the apple in a foliar application as well?

    1. Magnesium has the same chemical interactions with pectin that calcium does.

      Locally, "marl" is much more available than oyster shells but it is not for sale. It is found in drainage ditch dredgings and the shores of local muck-bottom lakes.


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