Cracks and splits are one of the most common problems in growing tomatoes. Why do tomatoes burst open? The good news is that these unsightly cracks are not caused by pests or disease! Tomatoes crack when the fruit exceeds the growth of the skin – usually after a heavy rain. The bad news: split open fruit can allow bacteria to enter the fruit and cause it to rot. But hold: this problem is easy to fix, and you can start right away.
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Why tomatoes burst on the bush
Splits and cracks occur when rapid changes in soil moisture cause the fruit to expand faster than the tomato skin can grow. This damage can take two different forms. Vertical cracks along the sides of the fruit are called radial cracks and are the most severe. This crack pattern usually occurs during hot, humid weather. Cracks that occur in a circular pattern at the top of the fruit and surround the stem end are called concentric cracks. If either type of crack occurs on green tomatoes, the fruit will likely rot before it is fully ripe if left on the vine.
Tomatoes with radial cracks will rot quickly if left on the vine . Any fruit that develops a sour odor or begins to weep should be taken directly to the compost pile. Fruits that ripen on the vine, as well as those that ripen on the vine in cloudy, rainy weather, are less palatable than those that ripen on the plant in sunny weather.
How to prevent the bursting of tomatoes.
You can’t always prevent tomatoes from splitting; a downpour that dumps several inches of rain on your garden in a few hours can result in split tomatoes no matter what you do. But you can reduce the likelihood of your tomatoes splitting by doing the following:
- Water regularly and thoroughly. Plants need about an inch of water per week, so be sure to water your tomato plants every two to three days during the summer. (You can tell if your plant needs water by sticking your index finger an inch deep into the soil at the base of the plant. If it is moist, you do not need to water. If it is dry, you should give the plants something to drink). When watering, aim for the base of the plant and avoid splashing soil on the leaves to prevent the spread of soil-borne diseases. Water deeply. It is even better if you use a drip irrigation system. Regular, deep watering lessens the impact of a sudden rainstorm because your plants won’t suffer the shock of excessive watering after a prolonged drought that causes fruit to crack.
- Mulching. Cover your plants with a two- to three-inch layer of organic mulch , such as straw, pine needles or shredded bark. Mulch helps keep the soil evenly moist, and you’ll have fewer problems with splinters.
- Look for resistant varieties. Look on the plant’s label or in the seed catalog for varieties that are resistant to splitting. Many hybrid varieties are not only disease resistant and highly productive, but also less prone to splitting.
- Pick tomatoes early. Your tomatoes are almost ripe, and you’re expecting a heavy downpour. Now is the perfect time to harvest your tomatoes before they are overwhelmed by the extra moisture. Fruits that have already changed color are ripening on the perennial or vine. So harvest them before the storm hits and place them on the windowsill to complete the ripening process. (A side benefit of early harvesting: there’s less chance of pests eating the fruit.)
- Provide good drainage. If you plant your tomatoes in raised beds or containers with drainage holes, your plants will have the best drainage in case of flooding. Both raised beds and tubs drain well – just make sure you use good, loose soil that is not compacted. Since nutrients drain from containers when water drains, you should feed them with an organic fertilizer.
What to do if the fruit splits.
If your tomatoes split, it’s important to harvest them as soon as possible. Split fruit is much more susceptible to rot and insect infestation. Even if splitting can’t be completely avoided, you can still eat the tomatoes! Examine them carefully for signs of insects or rot, and throw away any fruit that smells sour or is leaking. Then create your favorite dish with your garden goodies! They don’t keep long, so it’s best to eat or cook them right away to enjoy your gardening.