Why I Crack or Split!

Hello, tomato enthusiasts! I’m a wise old tomato plant. My seeds have been saved from season to season. My family has years of growing experience, weathering sun and storms. Today, I’ll share with you the secrets of our sometimes tough, sometimes tender world. 

Why do we sometimes bear the beauty of fruits marred by cracks and splits? It’s a story of elements, care, and the dance between the two. Let’s delve into the saga of our skin, the battles we face, and how you can help us thrive.

Ripe and green tomatoes on vine.Pin
Photo Credit: @plantcaretoday

What Causes Tomatoes to Split or Crack?

1. Over-watering

Water is our lifeblood, but like anything, in excess, it can be a problem. When my fruits swell quicker than my skin can stretch, we find ourselves cracked open, vulnerable. 

Here’s the trick: maintain a consistent watering schedule, especially as we transition from flowers to fruit. Excessive watering, combined with a surprise downpour, can overwhelm us, leading to concentric cracks that mar our beauty. 

A golden rule? Adjust your watering to the rhythm of the rain, and favor soaker hoses or drip irrigation to keep our feet wet and our heads dry.

2. Excessive Sun And Dry Weather

The sun, our glorious source of energy, can sometimes be our harshest critic. In the peak of summer, its intense rays can cause our skins to stress and crack. 

We thrive in a range of 70° to 85° degrees Fahrenheit, where we can bask without burning. If you can’t offer natural shade, consider a shade cloth to protect us tomatoes during the hottest hours. It’s our best defense against the harsh critiques of the sun.

Fresh red tomato held in hand outdoors.Fresh red tomato held in hand outdoors.Pin
Photo Credit: SS @plantcaretoday

3. Rapid Temperature Changes

We are creatures of habit, not fond of sudden changes. When the temperature swings wildly, it sends shockwaves through our system, leading to splits in our skins. 

Finding a spot that buffers us from these extremes can help. Remember, it’s not just the heat of the day that can stress us; the chill of the night can too. A steady, sheltered environment is our haven.

4. Mineral Deficiencies In The Tomato Plant

  • Just like you, we need a balanced diet to grow strong and healthy. 
  • Nitrogen, phosphorous, and potassium are our staples, but too much nitrogen can push our growth into overdrive, leading to internal pressures that our skins can’t contain. 
  • Calcium is particularly crucial; it helps us manage water and ensures a smooth ripening process. 
  • A balanced fertilizer, applied as we set blooms, can provide us with the nourishment we need without encouraging unwieldy growth.

5. Some Varieties Of The Tomato Plant Are Prone To Cracking

Our genetics play a role in our resilience. Some of us, especially those bred for large fruits or high sugar content, are more susceptible to cracking. 

When choosing seeds, consider our lineage; some varieties boast skins that withstand the trials of growth and weather far better than others.

Types Of Cracking Splitting Tomatoes

Two main types of cracks mar our beauty: radial and concentric. 

  • Radial cracks run down our sides, while concentric cracks form rings around our stems. When you see these, it’s a sign to harvest us promptly. 
  • Inspect the damage; often, we’re still perfectly edible, especially if you remove the affected areas. 
  • For those of us not fully ripened, a paper bag can coax us to full sweetness, leveraging the ethylene we naturally produce.
Ripening tomato on vine with unique crack detail.Ripening tomato on vine with unique crack detail.Pin
Photo Credit: SS @plantcaretoday

Other Tips To Prevent Tomato Cracking

Choosing the right variety is just the start. Mulching helps maintain even soil moisture, reducing the risk of overwatering. 

Red tomato mulch, (a red plastic ground cover available at garden centers) while not aiding in water retention or fertilization, reflects wavelengths of light that encourage us to grow robustly, potentially outpacing the risk of cracking.

How Is Blossom End Rot Related To Tomato Splitting?

Blossom end rot is a sign of calcium deficiency, which leads to a dark, rotting spot at the base. 

While it’s a different issue from cracking, the underlying causes—imbalances in water, nutrients, and environmental stress—overlap. 

Ensuring we receive enough calcium, through either soil amendments or careful fertilization, can prevent both maladies.

Is A Cracked Tomato Fit For Consumption?

A crack does not a ruined tomato make. While deep fissures may invite unwanted guests, many of us remain delicious beneath our flawed exteriors. 

The key is prompt harvesting and judicious trimming. However, beware the wide cracks; they can harbor bacteria and pests, making us less suitable for consumption.

Ripe tomato on plant, garden fresh.Ripe tomato on plant, garden fresh.Pin
Photo Credit: SS @plantcaretoday

Quick Tips To Prevent Cracking or Tomatoes From Splitting

  • Regular, deep watering trumps erratic, shallow moistening.
  • Plant us with our resilient kin, those blessed with elastic skins.
  • And when it comes to feeding, remember: balance is key.
  •  A soil test can guide you in providing just what we need, no more, no less.

Additional Tip

If drought has left me parched, resist the urge to drench me in recovery. A sudden flood can shock my systems as much as a prolonged thirst. Gradually reintroduce water, allowing me to drink deeply and steadily recover my strength.

I hope that by sharing my experiences and insights, we can grow a garden of vibrant, crack-free tomatoes together. 

Remember each tomato is a globe of potential; with care, patience, and understanding, we can flourish under your watchful eye.

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