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Tomatoes splitting open or cracking, is a common problem that is certainly frustrating. But there are some simple solutions to solving this common tomato problem!
How frustrating it is to go out to the garden to grab that tomato that you know was almost ripe, and fine that it has split open down the side with a big ugly crack in it! Ugh! Lets look at ways that we can prevent this common problem.
Why Are My Tomatoes Splitting and Cracking Open?
The reason your tomatoes split and crack open, is pretty straight forward. This happens when the plant gets too much water all at once, either from a heavy rainfall or a good watering. The fruit grows faster than the skin, therefore causing the skin to crack and the fruit to split open.
Cracks can be across the bottom or vertically up the side of a tomato, or they can also be concentric circles around the top of the tomato.
This can often happen with inconsistent watering. The plant is bone dry, and then you go out and give it a good long drink, and this is how it pays you back! Or, you have some really hot dry weather which makes the plant super thirsty, and along comes a good hard rain with that afternoon thunderstorm.
How Can I Prevent the Tomatoes from Splitting and Cracking Open?
The easiest way to prevent your tomatoes from splitting and cracking, is to make sure that they are consistently watered and are not allowed to get so dry that they begin to wilt. One way to do this is to put your tomatoes on a timed watering system. Another tip is to mulch your tomatoes, as this prevents them from drying out quickly at the surface.
Drip watering systems are ideal, because they don't waste water to evaporation and run off, and if allowed to run for a long enough time, they give a very deep soaking which allows the roots of the plant to grow deeper. If the plants are not watered deeply, they only develop surface roots. Surface roots dry out very quickly just from the heat of the day.
Ideally they should get a minimum 1-2" of water each week, and don't allow them to dry out between waterings. If you are having really hot temperatures or have them growing in pots, they may require more water than this.
Note the drip irrigation in the photo above, along with the heavily pruned tomato plants. If you need tips on pruning tomato plants, check out my article How and Why You Should Prune Tomato Plants.
A Tip on Watering
Most people don't water deep enough. Next time you think you have provided adequate watering, when you are done, dig down 6-8 inches. Is it even wet down there? I bet you it won't be. Honest. Give it a go and see how you fare.
Ideally it should be good and damp even deeper than 6-8". The deeper the water goes, the deeper the roots go. This is why drip irrigation is so important. The water is going exactly where it needs to go with no waste. It is just slowly sinking in where it needs too.
Are Split Tomatoes Edible?
If you catch them right as they split, they are probably ok if eaten right away. I would still cut off the open part and discard it. If left in the garden after splitting, and they heal over, then they are fine to eat. If they do not heal over, you will find mold will come on quickly due to that warm wet environment inside the tomato that is basking in the warm sun and it will begin to rot, so these would not be edible.
This can even happen inside if a split tomato sits on your counter too long with warm summer temps. So inspect it carefully before eating, and remove any suspect open areas.
Fertilizing the Tomato Plants
Feeding and watering the tomato plants properly, can also help prevent splitting/cracking and other issues such as blossom end rot. I like to use Tomato Tone for my tomatoes, using it for the initial planting as well as side dressing with it every few weeks.
I also spray on a fish emulsion/epsom salts solution once a month in the evening or on an overcast day so as not to burn the plants. I use one tablespoon of each mixed in with one gallon of water as my solution.
Pick Tomatoes Before Watering
Not only can tomatoes split after a good watering, but watering them can also dilute their flavor. Before I water or before a storm rolls in, I go out and pick any ripe tomatoes, or any tomatoes that are blushing with color. Green unripe tomatoes don't usually split as the skin is tougher than ripe tomato skin.
By picking them before watering, you will also get the best flavor in the tomatoes, So pick often, but especially before watering!
Choosing Crack Resistant Tomato Varieties
If you have tried all of the above, and are still frustrated with split or cracked tomatoes, consider growing only crack resistant varieties of tomatoes. There are plenty to choose, here are just a few:
Crack Resistant Cherry Tomatoes
Crack Resistant Slicing/Beefsteak Tomatoes
Crack Resistant Paste/Roma Tomatoes
My Other Articles on Growing Tomatoes:
Other tips to keep your tomatoes healthy, are covered in my numerous articles on Growing Tomatoes. These articles are all located on one page for easy reference here: Growing Tomatoes
I hope this was helpful! Please let me know if you have any questions on planting your tomato seedlings or anything else about growing tomatoes!
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