Keeping Tomatoes From Splitting – Why some do it and what to do about it

Keeping Tomatoes From Splitting – Why some do it and what to do about it


  1. Page Contents
    • Tomatoes split for a variety of reasons
    • What You Can Do To Prevent Tomatoes From Splitting

The most common time for it to happen is after a heavy rainfall. It is just as you are getting ready for harvest. In the past few months, you have watched your tomato plants grow and blossom. It took a while to nurture the little green balls into plump, juicy fruits. Then you notice it as you reach for the ripe red tomato on the vine: a long crack running across the fleshy skin. Gardeners of all skill levels have been devastated by split tomatoes. You don’t have to worry, there is a simple solution. Discover why tomatoes split and how to prevent them from happening in your garden.

The Reason Tomatoes Split

In a nutshell, it’s water. When water availability changes rapidly, tomatoes’ skins cannot stretch fast enough to accommodate the rapid expansion of the fruits. Heavy rain following periods of relatively dry weather is the leading cause of tomato splitting. Although natural rainfall events are the most common cause of splitting, uneven irrigation is also responsible. High humidity, calcium deficiencies, and excess nitrogen in the soil have also been shown to contribute to fruit cracking in some studies.

Green tomatoes can be affected by tomato splitting, although it is more common in ripening tomatoes. Two types of cracks can be observed: concentric cracks and radial cracking. As a result of radial cracking, a vertical split appears along the side of the fruit. A crack on the fruit exposes it to disease, which is the most serious type of damage. Radical cracked tomatoes should be harvested and used as soon as possible, since left on the vine they will likely rot. Any tomatoes with a sour smell or pus along the cracks should be discarded.

Concentric cracking occurs around the stem end of the fruit as a series of rings. Because these rings do not expose the fruit’s flesh, disease is often less likely to occur. Unless the flesh is exposed, fruit with concentric cracking can be allowed to ripen on the vine. Keep an eye on fruits as they develop.

How To Prevent Tomatoes from Splitting

Tomato plants require a lot of water to ripen fruits, as much as 1 to 2 inches per week. But just as important as how much water the plant receives is the rate at which it receives it. Avoid large fluctuations in soil moisture by providing consistent irrigation, especially during times of drought. It is best to water deeply a few times a week rather than providing small amounts of water daily. You can conserve soil moisture between waterings by applying a layer of compost or organic mulch.

Watch the weather report during periods of drought or dry weather. If soils have been dry or inadequately irrigated, consider harvesting nearly ripe fruit prior to rainstorm events to avoid cracking. You can finish ripening fruits on the counter, though they will not have as much flavor as vine-ripened tomatoes. Another option is to tarp the area where tomatoes grow, collecting the rainwater in buckets for later, more even irrigation. Some serious tomato growers in dry climates grow tomatoes under plastic hoop houses so they can manage irrigation and avoid periodic storms from cracking fruits.

Finally, maintain plant fertility during flowering and fruiting with regular applications of a balanced fertilizer containing calcium. Avoid applying too much nitrogen, which can cause excess foliar growth at the expense of fruits.

While some varieties are marketed as crack resistant, all tomatoes, including cherry and plum varieties, can develop cracks when conditions are right. Careful irrigation practices can help you avoid problems no matter which tomato you grow.

The Healthy Outdoors