Cracking and splitting are one of the most common problems when growing tomatoes. The good news: those unsightly cracks aren’t caused by pests or disease!
Tomatoes split open when the fruit outpaces the growth of the skin — usually after a heavy rain. The bad news: split tomatoes can introduce bacteria into the fruit and cause them to rot.
But wait, there is good news: this is an easy problem to remedy and you can start now.
How to Reduce Tomato Splitting:
1. Water: Water tomato plants once a week with about 1-2” of water. Keeping them regularly watered reduces the chance they will be shocked by a hard rain.
2. Mulch: Mulch does wonders for all plants, but especially for preventing cracking tomatoes. Add a layer of mulch 2-3” thick around plants to hold moisture.
3. Feed: Fertilize tomatoes with organic Tomato-toneevery other week during the growing season. Fertilizer keeps the soil healthy so plants produce as many tomatoes as possible.
4. Location: Growing tomatoes in raised beds or containers with drainage holes will lessen the problem because heavy rain will drain away faster in the loose soil.
5. Pick: As a last minute fix, you can always go out after a heavy rain and pick any almost ripe or ripe tomatoes.
While it may be too late now, you can plant varieties that are less likely to crack. Look for things like ‘crack-free’ in the description.
Looking for more info on tomatoes, such as easy tomatoes to grow, hybrid tomatoes or non-red tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.
Growing veggies in your garden is a challenging and fulfilling project. If you’re planning on raising vegetables and greens in your backyard, you should consider growing tomatoes. It is one the most popular and practical veggies to grow, especially since it is often used in cooking a variety of dishes.
Tomatoes are a favorite salad ingredient which makes this veggie an asset to your garden. Nonetheless, you should make sure you know how to tend to them the right way because, in some instances, the tomato fruit may have the tendency to crack. In this article, we’ll discuss the reasons what causes tomatoes to split and how you can avoid it.
- What Causes A Tomato To Split?
- How To Prevent Splitting Of Tomatoes
- Are Split Tomatoes Safe To Eat?
- A Healthy Harvest
- Information On What Causes Tomatoes To Split And How To Prevent Tomato Cracking
- Why Do My Tomatoes Crack?
- How to Prevent Tomato Cracking
- Two Types of Cracks
- What Causes Tomato Cracking?
- Should You Throw Away Cracked Tomatoes?
- When Tomatoes Split & Crack it’s time to Change Your Culture
- Why a Tomato Cracks and What to Do About It
- Before you leave …
- What do tomato cracks look like?
- When do tomato affect fruit?
- Can I eat cracked tomatoes?
- How do you prevent cracks?
- Special tips
- Why Are My Tomatoes Cracking?
What Causes A Tomato To Split?
One of the most frustrating things you can experience when raising tomatoes on your own is discovering a crack in the middle of the fruit after you’ve patiently waited for it grow from a seedling into a red, juicy, and plump fruit. This often happens to most home growers. Some tomatoes tend to rip wide open while they are ripening.
So what makes a tomato suddenly crack open? Most often, the cause of a tomato split can be attributed to the inconsistent amount of water they absorb. For example, if you are living in an environment that is mostly dry, and it suddenly rains on your crops, the inside properties of the tomato may develop faster than the exterior skin.
A lack of water can also cause the tomato to crack. Without water supply and moisture, tomatoes will not grow juicy and healthy. A tomato needs the right amount of water nourishment too.
Otherwise, it will crack just like anything that is too dry and lacks moisture. On the other hand, tomatoes with too much water in it can also burst open.
Although green tomatoes may also tend to experience this issue, most often, tomatoes that are about to become ripe are more prone to splitting.
As it starts to ripen, the skin of the tomato becomes fragile. At the same time, a change in temperature can also raise certain issues on a batch of newly bred tomatoes.
How To Prevent Splitting Of Tomatoes
Why should you be concerned with a cracked tomato? A split tomato is more than a visual problem. Once a tomato cracks open, bacteria and fungus can creep into the fruit. This will cause the fruit to rot and can also aid in spreading disease among your crops. However, you can’t always prevent your tomato from splitting, especially if Mother Nature suddenly decide to rain on your crops. On the other hand, there are still ways to avoid your tomatoes from cracking up.
Water your plants regularly.
The first thing you should do to prevent this from happening is to make it a habit to hydrate your tomato plant with 1 to 2 inches of water at least once a week or 2 to 3 days during the hot summer months. Another way to minimize cracking is to keep your plants watered evenly on a regular basis.
When you are watering your plants, make sure that you do this on a ground level and water it deeply. If you just spray on the leaves, it can possibly cause the spread of certain plant diseases such as septoria or blight.
Watering your vegetation deeply on a regular basis will protect it from the effects of rain. This will help your plants adjust better from dry to wet conditions. Remember that if your veggies get drenched in rain, you can expect the fruit to eventually crack.
If you’re planning to go on a trip for a while, we highly suggest you set up an effective water system and set it on a timer to prevent your plants from thirst and dryness. Most gardeners follow this technique to ensure that their garden is well cared for even if they are away. Otherwise, you might end up coming home to a bunch of cracked tomato.
Use a fertilizer.
It’s always better to address this kind of problem to avoid dealing with tomato split. Another step to prevent this issue is to enrich the plant using a tomato fertilizer. Just follow the instructions indicated on the fertilizer.
A fertilizer will maintain a healthy soil and help your plant grow many tomatoes. Following these steps will not only give you a peace of mind but it will also ensure that your tomato plant will grow abundant and healthy without any cracks.
Mulch your plants.
Gardening experts recommend you to mulch your plants with organic materials such as wood chips or plastic. The compost will help preserve and even out the moisture the plant needs and at the same time, prevents plant disease from spreading among the vegetation. A red plastic mulch is the best type of organic matter to help prevent a tomato from splitting.
Are Split Tomatoes Safe To Eat?
Generally, cracked tomatoes are safe to consume. Make it a habit of picking up and harvesting split tomatoes as soon as possible to prevent the bacteria from spreading. However, if you notice that the crack is too severe and if the fruit has been left on the vine for too long, you should probably consider disposing of the tomato just to be on the safe side.
Chances are, the fruit may have already been exposed to certain plant diseases. If the fruit appears okay, you can just opt to slice out the cracked portion and eat the rest of the vegetable.
A Healthy Harvest
Now that you are aware of the reasons what causes tomatoes to split, you are now fully equipped to tend and raise your tomato plants the best way possible. Just make sure you follow the recommended steps to prevent your tomatoes from splitting before you harvest it. These instructions will help ensure that you raise healthy tomatoes that are fit to consume.
Did you find this information helpful? Feel free to send us your comments or suggestions. We’d love to hear what you think.
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Have you ever gone out to the garden, and found a ripening tomato that gets your mouth watering, only to find that it is cracked or split open? The first reaction could be disappointment, followed by anger. Your mind flashes through possible scenarios that involve animal pests, insect pests, or maybe some agitating neighborhood kid that has sabotaged your great looking tomato. Actually, none of these are the culprit of your tomato vandalism.
Then What Causes My Tomatoes To Crack Or Split?
Splitting or cracking can be quite common and is brought about by fluctuations in watering. This can be due to heavy watering after a long period of no water. It can also be caused by having a period of dry weather, then getting a heavy rain that suddenly over-waters the tomatoes. Splitting and cracking is most prevalent in the later stages of growth when it is beginning to ripen.
When it begins to ripen during a spell without water, the outer skin will thicken and toughen up. A sudden influx of water will cause the tomato to swell (or continue growing) on the inside. This inner swelling will then cause the thickened outer skin to rupture resulting in a split or crack. Although some minor cracking at the top of the tomato is generally harmless, large splits that expose the tomato flesh can invite disease and insect pests.
If you look at the above picture you will notice the four tomatoes. The top two tomatoes have split due to inconsistent watering. The bottom two are not fully ripened but should be picked at this time. You can sit these tomatoes in a window sill that is in a sunny location to further ripen. This will keep them from cracking like the top two did.
Cracks and splits can be more common when dry farming tomatoes. The sudden surge in water from a heavy storm after reduced watering can lead to more cracks and splits. This is why it is best to pick the tomatoes when they begin ripening and then allowed to finish ripening in the home.
How Do I Prevent My Tomatoes From Cracking or Splitting?
The best way to prevent tomatoes from splitting or cracking is to keep your watering methods regular and consistent. It is better to water the tomatoes deeply at regular intervals over sporadic shallow waterings. Make sure that you have a consistent plan for watering, adjusting it to the amount of rain received.
It can be a good idea to stop watering tomatoes when they begin showing signs of ripening. This can greatly reduce the chances of cracking and splitting tomatoes, although allowing them to ripen indoors is the best option
Overfeeding tomatoes when they begin ripening can also affect cracking and splitting, but inconsistent watering is the biggest factor.
Is A Cracked Or Split Tomato Okay To Eat?
In most cases, a cracked or split tomato is just fine for consumption. If you find a tomato that has started cracking, pick it immediately. If the crack is severe and the tomato has been left on the vine for a substantial time, you might want to play it safe and dispose of the tomato. It may have been exposed to a disease, or it may not have, but it isn’t worth it to me to risk it. Most of the time you can cut out the cracked or split section and use the rest of the tomato as you wish. It would not hurt to blanch the tomato first, just to be safe.
Easily Water Your Tomatoes For Great Results!
Information On What Causes Tomatoes To Split And How To Prevent Tomato Cracking
Whenever someone plants a garden, one of the most popular plants to go into the soil are tomatoes. This is because everyone loves tomatoes. They are great in salads and sauces and even make a great gift. However, with these beautiful and tasty beauties comes a problem. Sometimes, right in the middle of thinking everything is alright with your crop, you’ll find splitting tomatoes or tomato cracking. What causes tomatoes to split?
Why Do My Tomatoes Crack?
Sometimes, the fluctuation of temperatures during the spring can cause issues for newly growing tomato transplants. This is why it’s so important to mulch your plants, either with organic mulch like wood chips or plastic. This mulch will also conserve moisture and even prevents disease from spreading. When it comes to mulch and tomatoes, red plastic mulch has shown to be the best mulch to help prevent tomato cracking.
Sometimes, if you have a lot of rain after a spell of really dry weather, you’ll find splitting tomatoes on your tomato plants. A split tomato problem is really caused by a lack of water. If you take away water, the tomatoes cannot stay lush and juicy, and the skin will crack just as your skin cracks if you do not have enough moisture. And when the tomatoes receive a large amount of water quickly after this, they fill with water and the skin bursts at the cracks like an overfilled water balloon.
How to Prevent Tomato Cracking
This split tomato problem is more than just an aesthetic problem. You’ll find that through these cracks bacteria and fungus can be introduced into the fruit and cause them to rot or provides easy access to damaging pests. In order to prevent splitting tomatoes, make sure you water your tomato plants once a week with about 1 to 2 inches of water.
To keep tomato cracking to a minimum, be sure to keep your tomato plants watered evenly on a regular basis. Protect them from a severe drought in your absence by setting up a watering system on a timer. This way you can water your garden when you aren’t home to do it and you won’t have to deal with severe tomato cracking. It’s as easy as that to solve a split tomato problem.
Finally, be sure to fertilize your tomatoes according to the instructions on your tomato fertilizer or your garden center. Fertilizer is important to keep the soil healthy enough to help your plants produce as many tomatoes as possible. If you follow these rules, soon enough you will have plenty of unsplit tomatoes to enjoy and to share.
I touched on cracked tomatoes in the post on three common tomato problems in the garden. In light of a recent weather change I thought it would be a good idea to revisit the topic and provide a bit more info. After extended dryness we’ve gotten a bit of moisture. The welcomed rain is unfortunately starting to cause some tomato cracking in the garden.
Let’s look at the causes of tomato cracks and ways you can salvage your harvest.
Two Types of Cracks
The tomato pictured above has concentric cracks. These develop in a circular pattern around where the tomato is attached to the stem.
Radial cracks in tomatoes are more severe and extend from the stem and down the sides of the tomato.
What Causes Tomato Cracking?
Cracks develop because of uneven watering. Dry weather followed by a rainy period or excessive watering will lead to cracks. The skin of the tomato can’t stretch to accommodate all the fluid building up inside the fruit.
Sometimes the tomato can “heal” itself and close the crack and you’ll see what looks like stitching, and other times the crack will worsen until your tomato is unusable. This tomato had a concentric crack that developed and sealed for the most part, when another crack developed horizontally.
Should You Throw Away Cracked Tomatoes?
Depending on the severity of the cracking the tomato can still be eaten. A tomato that has split open can attract fruit flies, and develop fungus, mold, and bacteria inside. Skip the cracked tomatoes if you’re doing any tomato canning. However, cutting around the cracks of a tomato and using the good parts in salads, sandwiches, salsas and sauces is perfectly fine. The taste of the tomato isn’t affected in the parts that aren’t cracked.
If you see a tomato that is close to ripening begin to crack remove it and let it continue ripening on a windowsill or kitchen counter. Leaving it on the vine will just make the situation worse as the plant continues to absorb water.
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When Tomatoes Split & Crack it’s time to Change Your Culture
Q: I have a problem with my heirloom tomatoes cracking after heavy rain (a rarity here in central Texas, but it does occur).
—Brooks in Austin
Although, I don’t have any big problems growing tomatoes, they do tend to split. What am I doing wrong and how do I fix it?
— Kim in Norwich, CT
After reading your tomato growing book last year I am happily harvesting organic Brandywines and Romas. However, most of the Brandywines developed deep crevices up near the stem. Other than that, they are beautiful. I looked in your ‘A to Z archives’ but didn’t find any answers. Do you know why tomatoes would crack?
— Ed in Milmont Park, PA
A. ‘Cracking’ and ‘splitting’ are such common problems that I was kind of shocked we hadn’t addressed them yet—especially since the answers are all relatively good news: Cracking and splitting aren’t caused by some dread disease or awful insect; they’re more of a cultural problem—like opera and my radio show.
Anyway, tomatoes split open when the skins of the ripe fruit can’t keep pace with the growth of the insides—especially when that growth is sudden and rapid, like right after a rain that falls heavily in a short period of time; and especially if the rain was preceded by a long dry stretch. Once a tomato is ripe, the outside is pretty much done growing, but the inside is still going to take in some of that water—and sometimes the skin gives way.
This isn’t typically a problem with green tomatoes; their parts are still growing at a relatively equal rate. And the fact that only ripe tomatoes are affected means you shouldn’t lose any fruits. If a heavy rain is predicted—especially after a dry spell—go out and pick all your ripe-to-mostly-ripe tomatoes (they’re only going to lose flavor from all that excess water if you don’t). Otherwise, pick fruits that start to split promptly and use them to make sauce or salsa. Heck, if the splits are small and you act fast, they’ll still make good slicing tomatoes. Don’t leave split tomatoes on the vine—the openings will attract opportunistic insects like ants.
Although, it may seem similar, ‘cracking’ around the tops of heirloom tomatoes is a different issue—more of a ‘price you pay for a great tasting big old-fashioned tomato’ kind of thing. Almost, all of the old original big ‘beefsteak’ sized tomatoes are prone to at least a little bit of cracking around the tops, and most of the time it isn’t a problem. Just pick them, slice off that top 5% and enjoy the rest. And besides—some of the really huge heirlooms never seem to want to ripen all the way to the top, so it makes sense to pick them when they’re still a little green-shouldered anyway; otherwise you risk them getting overripe on the vine and losing flavor.
But again, this is at least partially a ‘cultural’ problem, and so there are some things you can do up front to lessen the possibility of splitting and cracking. Growing in raised beds, for instance. Tomatoes grown in raised beds are always going to have the problem less, because heavy rains will drain away faster in the light, loose, un-stepped-on soil of a properly raised bed. Flat-earth gardeners with compacted soil will always have more cracking and splitting.
A one to two inch mulch of compost, shredded fall leaves or straw will also help by keeping the soil moisture more constant. Again, you get the worst splitting when a lot of rain follows a very dry spell, and mulch can help keep the moisture levels higher during dry times, which helps the skins stay more flexible.
And then there’s the importance of calcium. Having access to adequate soil calcium allows tomatoes to better regulate their water uptake, which is why we always advocate adding calcium at planting time to prevent the heartache of blossom end rot—when ripe tomatoes turn black and rot out on the bottom (“the blossom end”).
A dozen finely crushed eggshells in the planting hole pretty much totally prevents blossom end rot, and should help prevent splitting. In fact, blossom end rot is a kind of ‘worst case splitting’, as both are caused by too much moisture building up inside ripening fruits. And this is a great time to start saving dried eggshells for next season.
Don’t eat eggs? Natural plant foods labeled for use on tomatoes will contain a lot of added calcium, specifically to prevent these kinds of problems. If it’s a granulated fertilizer, add some directly to the hole at planting time, and then add the recommended amount to the surface of your soil (or mulch of compost), then cover the fertilizer with a little more soil or compost. (Granulated plant foods always work best when they’re incorporated into your soil as opposed to just sitting on top of it.)
And finally, you can plant varieties that are known to resist the problem. Look for tomatoes whose catalog descriptions say things like ‘crack-free’; these varieties are bred to have skins that continue to expand when the fruits are ripe.
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Why a Tomato Cracks and What to Do About It
Tomato cracks (sometimes called “growth cracks”) are a problem associated with growing conditions. Dry weather that gives way to excessive watering or a rainy period can lead to cracking.
Here’s what happens when a tomato cracks:
- Tomato plants get too much water too fast.
- A tomato’s interior grows quickly as it absorbs the extra water from rain or disproportionate watering, but it expands too fast.
- The tomato skin can’t stretch to accommodate the extra fluid.
- Cracking alleviates pressure.
Before you leave …
Get your free copy of “10 Must-Know Tomato Growing Tips.” This 20-page guide is filled with tips you need to know to have a successful tomato crop, whether you’re a beginning or experienced gardener.
What do tomato cracks look like?
Cracks usually affect the stem end of the tomato (the entry point of water into the fruit). There are two types of cracks:
Concentric cracks: circles that span a section or the entire circumference of the tomato around the stem end of the fruit
Radial cracks: straight lines that extend outward and downward from the stem node
When do tomato affect fruit?
- during warm, wet weather
- during wet weather that follows a dry period
- after excessive watering that follows a dry period
Can I eat cracked tomatoes?
Yes. Pick a cracked tomato as soon as possible to avoid infection.
When preparing a cracked tomato, simply cut out affected parts.
Cracked tomatoes don’t keep as long as unaffected ones.
How do you prevent cracks?
Plant crack-resistant tomato varieties that have elastic skin, including Daybreak, Early Girl, Earl of Edgecombe, Heinz 1350, Jet Star, Juliet, Mountain Delight, Mountain Pride, and Valley Girl.
Mulch plants (wait until they’re established – about 3-5 weeks after planting) to help retain moisture in the soil.
Keep water supply even throughout the season. While you can’t control the weather conditions, you can make sure that plants are on a regular watering schedule. Tomato plants need 1-3” water a week (including rain.) During dry spells, water tomatoes deeply so that subsequent rain won’t shock skins and lead to unnecessary cracking – use a drip hose or other irrigation system. Ask a neighbor or friend to water your tomatoes while you’re on vacation.
Apply balanced fertilizer. When blossoms and fruit develop, tomatoes need more phosphorus and potassium. Excessive nitrogen can cause plants to grow too quickly, leading to cracking.
Don’t over-fertilize. Excess nutrients can cause a growth spurt. Tomatoes can have a hard time compensating and may crack.
Beefsteak varieties are more prone to cracking.
If tomato plants dry out, water them just enough to keep them alive. Too much water at one time sets up conditions for tomato cracking. Once your plants have recovered from their dry spell, slowly re-establish a regular watering schedule.
Tomato problems from growing conditions
Blossom Drop: why fruit doesn’t set and what to do about it …
Gray wall on tomatoes: blotchy ripening on fruit …
Tomato sunscald: why too much sun can be hazardous to tomatoes…
Help! My tomatoes have green shoulders …
Why is there a hard core in tomato centers?
Blossom end rot: how to identify, treat, and prevent it …
Are bumps on tomato stems harmful to plants?
How to identify tomato problems and prevent them …
Tomato hornworm: how to identify and control it …
Tomato worms-cutworms: keep them away with stem collars …
Stink bugs: how to identify and control them on tomato plants…
Tomato problems from diseases
Different kinds of tomato blight and how to tell them apart …
How to identify and treat Septoria leaf spot …
Return from Tomato Cracks to Tomato Dirt home
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Why Are My Tomatoes Cracking?
Imagine this scenario: After you have heavily invested in your tomatoes, cracks appear on your previously perfect fruit just as they are starting to ripen.
Cracking in Cherokee Purple tomato
Credit: Mary Derrick, UF/IFAS
How frustrating! Depending on the severity of the cracking the fruit will still ripen and be edible, although blemished. However, if cracking is severe, insect and disease pests may take advantage of the weakened skin and feast on the tomato.
Why does this happen?
When tomato plants have fluctuations in the amount of available water in the soil, the skin becomes susceptible to cracking. This occurs when tomatoes are allowed to dry out, then heavily watered. The excess in available moisture causes the inside of the fruit to grow more rapidly than the skin, thus cracking appears. As tomatoes grow toward maturity, they become more prone to cracking. Wide fluctuations in air temperature can also contribute to cracking.
Avoid cracking in your fruit by following these simple suggestions:
• Keep your plants evenly moist through regular irrigation and mulching
• Shade fruit with ample foliage cover
• Select varieties or hybrids that are known to resist cracking
• Harvest susceptible tomatoes at an earlier stage of development and ripen indoors.
For additional information follow these links:
Tomatoes in the Florida Garden
Physiological, Nutritional, and Other Disorders of Tomato Fruit
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Residential Horticulture Extension Agent for Santa Rosa County
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