How to keep your tomatoes from cracking and splitting
IF YOU HAVE LARGE ROTTEN SPOTS ON YOUR TOMATOES SEE THIS POST HERE
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Here is an excerpt from my new book How to Grow Juicy Delicious Tomatoes that will help you with your tomato problems.
If you have little black spots on your tomatoes here is a post on that problem HERE
Salmonella contamination of tomatoes has been in the news a lot lately, but that’s an unusual problem we rarely see, and probably not one you need to worry about in your own home garden. There are more common problems the home gardener will face with tomatoes. It’s that time of year when people’s homegrown tomatoes are ripening and invariably I get the question, “Why are my tomatoes cracking?” or, “Why are my tomatoes splitting?”
I’ve heard all sorts of reasons offered, but the problem is pretty easy to explain.
The simple truth is that on the inside of the tomato, the fruit grows faster than the skin can develop and stretch to contain that fruit. Think “stretch marks”. Okay, so that’s the issue, but what can you do to prevent these so called “stretch marks”?
The trick is to regulate the growth of the fruit as much as possible.
Fluctuations in the temperature, fertilizer levels, or amount of water can cause the tomatoes to grow in spurts rather than at a gradual pace. A plant goes through a “hardening off” period after it has a spurt of growth, which would not occur if all of the growing elements (fertilizer, water, heat, etc.) remained somewhat constant. This “hardening off” happens to the fruit and the skin. Once the skin has hardened off, if the fruit has another growth spurt, the skin will not be able to stretch to contain the fruit inside it, hence the cracking or splitting. Your goal should be to keep your tomatoes growing at a steady, consistent pace, avoiding the hardening off period until they are ready to pick.
Here are some tips to help regulate the fruit development and avoid the cracking:
Water regularly and deeply. If you get a period of heavy rain, then you should reduce supplemental water. If you go on vacation, don’t soak them before you leave and let them go dry until you return, and soak them again. Use a sprinkler (drip preferably) on a timer, or hire the neighbor kid and give him a five minute training course on how to water consistently.
Be careful with the fertilizer. Buy a good vegetable fertilizer and follow the instructions, or better yet, use composted humus from your compost bin on a regular basis and avoid commercial fertilizers. Compost will both regulate the soil moisture and provide a steady level of nutrients. In either case, don’t load up with fertilizer in the beginning of their growth and then fertilize them again as the fruit sets. Use lighter doses on a more frequent schedule and never more than the manufacture says to use.
Watch the sun exposure. Like I said earlier, fluctuations in temperature are harmful. Mother Nature has control of the macro climate, but you can control to some degree the micro climate temperature. As some tomatoes mature, they tend to drop some of their leaves, and in some cases, it is even beneficial to remove some leaves. If lost leaves is the case with your vegetable garden, just make sure that fruit that was previously shaded is not exposed to direct sunlight when the temperature heats up. A simple shade structure should suffice.
Commercial growers take other steps like fertilizer adjustments based on rain water, but for the home gardener the above suggestions should suffice.
To reiterate, the enemy to growing nice, beautiful tomatoes is uneven growth rates.
Remember: your tomato plants need regular, even watering, compost or evenly spaced fertilizer applications, and limited direct sun exposure. Following these three suggestions should solve the splitting tomato problem. Oh, and one last comment, the split tomatoes may not look as pretty, but they taste just fine. Cut ‘em up and drop ‘em in a salad, or use ‘em for sauces!
If you want to learn more about growing great tomatoes here is a link to a book I just finished writing on this very subject. Most tomato books I have researched teach you how to grow big plants. Mine teaches you how to grow big fat juicy flavorful TOMATOES!!!
Remember if you have large rotten spots on your tomatoes see this post HERE
I had so many people reading this post and sending me questions about their tomatoes that I decided to put together a book on how to grow great tomatoes. If you want know more of my secrets …..