What Causes Tomatoes to Split?

What Causes Tomatoes to Split?

Splitting and cracking of tomatoes is a really common problem among gardeners. The anticipation of waiting on your first ripe tomato can seem like an eternity. There is nothing quite as heartbreaking as watching your tomatoes slowly grow and ripen and then, just as its ready to pick, you find a huge split across its glorious surface.

image from Missouri Botanical gardens

Once you find out what causes this problem you can usually avoid it altogether or at least it won’t happen as often. With a few adjustments, you can control it and possibly even prevent it from ever happening again.

Are Split Tomatoes Okay to Eat?

Don’t you worry. A split tomato is fine to eat. It is also fine to use for canning or recipes that call for the luscious fruit. Just be sure to pick them quickly and earlier than you normally would, like before they turn the perfect color and softness. Use them as soon as possible because they will not stay fresh as long.

 The problem with split tomatoes is that they are more likely to get some kind of mold inside very quickly. Though thin, their skin is a protective layer against things like this. A split tomato is also more apt to be eaten by insects. That scent and soft tissue is very enticing to insects and easy to get access.

Image by Alan Buckingham

What Causes Tomatoes to Split?

A tomato splits basically because the inside is growing faster than the outside. The cells on the inside grow at a faster rate than the skin can keep up with, resulting in the split.

Most of the time, this rapid growth is caused by your tomato plant receiving more water than normal.  Whether caused by inconsistent watering or that untimely rainstorm, adjustments just need to be made on the fly.

Tips to Prevent Tomatoes from Splitting

Know Your Fertilizer

Splitting tomatoes can also be caused by too much nitrogen in your fertilizer. Too much fertilizer can make your plants and fruit grow too quickly.

Tomatoes are known to be heavy feeders and many gardeners tend to fertilize often. Using a balanced fertilizer or laying off the fertilizer for a bit when cracking occurs can help to alleviate the problem.

Drainage

Tomatoes need a lot of water. Watering plants is meant to moisten the roots, but tomatoes do not like having their roots sitting in water. This can cause your plant to die quickly from root rot.

Amending your soil during bed preperation is key to good drainage if you have poor soil.

Raised beds can be a great alternative if you have a drainage problem.

You can read about Raised Bed Gardening and how to start your own raised bed HERE.

Watering Properly

Watering tomatoes through the growing season needs to be consistent. Once they set fruit, it’s even more crucial in order to prevent splitting.

Knowing your soil is key here. If you have good drainage these outside factors are easier to control. You can adjust your watering schedule throughout the year as the weather changes.

Be careful to not let your tomatoes dry out during a particularly hot day then go overboard to try to rehydrate them.

For more information on watering your garden and landscape during hot weather CLICK HERE.

Tomatoes Love Mulch

Mulching around your tomatoes can help with keeping the moisture level consistent in your garden.

Mulching is just great all around. When you mulch around your tomatoes, it can help regulate the temperature as well by keeping the ground cooler on hot summer days.

Mulch will also break down over time, therefore amending the soil for future plantings!

Harvest Your Crop

We all love to let our tomatoes ripen on the vine as long as possible. If you’re having problems with cracking that is out of control, you may want to consider picking them earlier than normal. The longer they stay on the vine, the greater the chance of them cracking!

It is also a great idea to go ahead and harvest any that are close to becoming ripe if you are aware of any rainfall coming through. A sudden deluge of rain will cause your tomatoes to split before you know it.

With a few changes to your gardening practice you should be able to make splitting tomatoes less of a problem as time goes by. 

Good Luck and Happy Gardening!

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