You’ve waited all summer and finally, your tomatoes are ready to eat. But when you go to pick them, the unfortunate has happened – they are split! Here’s why tomatoes split and what you can do to prevent it from happening.
Why do my tomatoes split: Tomatoes are quite delicate and a lot can happen to them in the growing process. If tomatoes have too much water at one time, the inside fruit will grow rapidly and the outside skin won’t be able to keep up with the growth. Too much nitrogen in the soil is also a cause of rapid growth. Try to regularly water your tomatoes with smaller amounts and add mulch to keep the soil moist. Tomatoes split more at the end of their lifespan, so if you are worried about them splitting, pick them when they are almost ripe. You can leave them on the kitchen counter and in a few days their color will turn and you will be able to enjoy them.
Why Do Tomatoes Split and Crack?
Tomatoes have thin skin around them and sometimes the growth of the inside of the tomato outpaces the rate at which the skin grows. The result is splitting which can cause an unsightly appearance, not to mention the presence of bacteria.
Split tomatoes can happen at any part of the growing process but are more common towards the end when the tomatoes become quite larger. It is slightly more common among larger varieties, as opposed to smaller ones such as cherry tomatoes.
While inconsistent watering practices can lead to split tomatoes, it is more common after a large rainfall. When it rains a lot in a short period of time, the plant takes on too much water and can’t regulate its growth.
How to Prevent Tomatoes from Cracking or Splitting
Now that you know the reason why tomatoes split, it’s time to implement a plan to prevent it from happening.
While you can’t control the weather, you can control the rate at which you water your tomatoes. Aim for a total of one inch of water per week, and this includes both hand watering and rainfall.
If there is more rain in the forecast, you can pair back your watering and if there is less, you will need to water more.
You should water your tomato plants every two days but if it is especially hot out, you will need to water every day. Always water either in the morning or the evening when it is cooler out like water in the hottest part of the day will either evaporate or even boil the plants.
Tomatoes prefer a steady supply of water rather than a deluge.
Water the soil
When watering your tomato plant, be sure to target just the soil and root area. Watering the leaves and plants will cause diseases and ruin the tomatoes.
If you are worried about the amount of water, you may want to water a small amount in the morning and another small amount in the evening.
Use drip irrigation
If possible, install a drip irrigation system to keep the soil moist but not soggy. If you have tomatoes in planters this may not be possible.
Drip irrigation has the added benefit of being able to penetrate into the soil. Try to avoid simple surface watering as it won’t lead to healthy roots.
Place mulch around your plants
Mulch, which is small wood chips, retains moisture and creates a better environment for your tomatoes. The plants can slowly soak up the water in your mulch, thus providing them with a steady water intake.
Mulch also provides shade to your tomato plant roots and a fair bit of nutrients.
Tomatoes need a lot of nutrients, so make sure you are using the right fertilizer. Use a proper blend of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium.
For those who have a history of split tomatoes, you may want to test your soil. While nitrogen is important, too much of it will cause your tomatoes to grow too quickly, thus leading them to split.
Pick just before they are ripe
Tomatoes are one of those plants that will continue to ripen, even after they have been picked. Pick tomatoes when they are still in a rosy pink stage before they become a deep red color.
This will stop the tomatoes from growing and all you need to do is wait a few days for them to become fully edible.
Plant hardier varieties
There are many types of tomatoes and some are more resistant to splitting than others. There are new, hybrid varieties that won’t split as much, due to their tougher skin. As a bonus, they often offer higher yields.
Bring your tomatoes inside
One benefit of planting tomatoes in containers is you can move them around. If the weather forecast predicts a major rainstorm, either move your tomatoes inside or cover them with a bag to prevent splitting.
What to Do if Your Tomatoes Split?
Split tomatoes are still salvageable and there are plenty of uses for them. If you want raw tomatoes, simply cut around the split.
Those that are worried about bacteria will feel better if you cook the tomatoes. Use split tomatoes into sauces, stews, and pasta.
Are Split Tomatoes Safe to Eat?
You can eat split tomatoes but you definitely want to inspect them first. Superficial splits are only surface-level and pose fewer concerns.
However, the deeper the split, the more opportunity for bacteria to enter your fruit. Once this happens, mold can set in and you can get sick from eating your tomatoes.
Try to cut around the split and watch out for any discoloration or unpleasant smells. When in doubt, don’t use the tomatoes.
Tomatoes take a long time to be ready and you want them to be in perfect condition when they are ripe. Split tomatoes are common and usually caused by too much nitrogen or too much water. Monitor your tomatoes and even if they do split, you should still be able to enjoy them.