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Have you ever wondered why, despite being so careful, your precious tomatoes still do crack?
Well, you are not the only one bothered by this. In fact, this dilemma is more common than you think.
In this article, allow us to discuss the possible causes why your tomatoes split as they ripen. By knowing these contributing factors, you can now better understand how to care for your plant and keep those nasty cracks at bay.
Two Reasons Why Tomatoes Crack
There are actually two main reasons why tomatoes crack.
Reason #1: Fluctuations in Moisture
Water is essential to keep your tomatoes plump and juicy. Think of the fruit as the epidermis of your skin, when it lacks moisture from within, it becomes stiff and loses its elasticity. On that note, dehydration causes the skin to be more susceptible to tears or cracks.
This is similarly true with tomatoes too. The lack of water is one of the primary culprits why the fruit breaks and forms crevices. When there is dehydration, the outer skin of the fruit tends to harden and become more fragile.
So, in instances where there is a sudden shift in the moisture level, this hardened tomato skin is being forced to expand to accommodate the absorption of water. The abrupt filling and growth in size can cause overstretching of the skin. Eventually, the surface will tear out and produce cracks when pulled beyond its capacity.
The sudden shift in moisture is usually attributed to significant environmental changes. For example, if your area experiences a long period of drought then followed by days of heavy rainfall. From dehydration, your tomato plant suddenly becomes overwhelmed with too much moisture. The change took place way too much and too fast pushing the fruit to break and even burst.
Reason #2: Fluctuations in Temperature
As we all know, providing the right temperature is always crucial for producing the healthiest and most flavorful fruits including tomatoes. Generally, tomatoes thrive best within the temperature range of 60°F to 65°F. When this range is not met or maintained, then there is a good chance for your tomatoes to form cracks on the surface.
Why so? Because temperature directly affects the expansion and the contraction of the skin of the tomato. When it is hot, the fruit swells. And, when it is cold, it tightens up.
So, just imagine subjecting your tomato plant from a very hot sunny day to a very cold nighttime condition. Then, exposing it once more to a high temperature the following day.
What happens then to your tomato? The skin swells, tightens, and then abruptly swells back again as soon as exposed to heat. The wide difference between the day and night temperatures is enough to compromise the integrity of the tomato’s skin. Thus, making it more prone to developing cracks.
Aside from that, the deliberate changes in the placement of the plant can also cause the same dilemma. For instance, you intentionally transferred your tomato from a shaded spot towards a very sunny area all of a sudden. The abrupt alteration in the lighting disposition of your plant can cause a drastic shift in temperature conditions. Hence, prompting the tomato’s skin to likely expand thereby increasing its chances of forming cracks.
Five Solutions to Prevent Tomatoes From Cracking
Solution #1: Use mulch.
To help achieve the desired temperature range, you can support your plant with mulch. The mulch can either be organic or inorganic. Organic mulch uses components like wood chips or shavings, grain straws, hays, or as simple as tree leaves. On the other hand, inorganic mulch pertains to the use of materials like rock, gravel, rubber, landscape fabric, or plastic sheeting.
Nevertheless, most seasoned gardeners swear by the use of red plastic mulch. Why red? Because this type of sheet is said to reflect certain levels of red light and direct it towards the plant. Thus, enhancing its ability to hasten fruit production and increase yield. But most importantly, it also helps to insulate the plant. Allowing it to stay cool in summertime and keep warm in the wintertime.
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Solution #2: Water regularly and deeply.
As you can see, dehydration can be one of the main factors that can precipitate the cracking of the tomato fruit. So, the best approach here is to prevent this from happening in the first place. Regular watering is one simple step you can take.
By providing the right amount and frequency of watering, you can maintain consistent and well-balanced hydration to your plant. Hence, minimizing the likelihood of encountering issues brought about by lack of moisture.
Simply giving water to your tomato plant is just not enough. You should also bear in mind to deliver it in the most efficient manner possible. When watering, avoid pouring overhead. Rather, it is best to pour the water directly into the soil level. This will ensure the uptake of water is maximized and that the root system absorbs good amounts of it.
It would also be helpful to have a moisture meter on hand. This device is designed with probe sensors that measure moisture levels deep into the soil. Using this allows you to better monitor your plant’s watering needs. Thus, preventing dehydration or overwatering.
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Solution #3: Promote good drainage.
As pointed out earlier, overhydration can also contribute to the problem of tomatoes cracking. Hence, it is also crucial to protect your plant from absorbing way too much water caused by heavy rainfall, flooding, and the like.
The best way to do this is by providing your plant with proper drainage. By allowing the excess water to seep out of the container, you are preventing the soil from getting overly soaked. As a result, water absorption is still regulated. At the same time, it also minimizes the risk of developing diseases.
When planting tomatoes, it is ideal to use raised garden beds. The additional height the planter provides enables the plant to avoid getting in contact with pooling water. Make sure though the container has enough drain holes at the bottom. The size and number of holes should be able to accommodate sufficient discharge of excess fluids. Remember, as long as you can avoid overhydration, you can also minimize the fruit’s chances of forming cracks.
The only thing you need to watch out for in solution #3 is the possibility of nutrient loss. Come to think of it, you are intentionally allowing the water to flow through the soil and out. It cannot be helped that some nutrients might also leach out along with the excess fluid.
Hence, it might be a good idea to support the plant’s nutrition by feeding it with organic fertilizer. The amount and frequency of administration must be followed according to the manufacturer’s recommendations.
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Solution #4: Schedule your harvest ahead of time.
If you are anticipating rain storms or any weather disturbances, it might be best to schedule your harvest a few days ahead. That way you can avoid the heavy influx of water from damaging your fruits. Don’t worry, though, it is totally safe and okay to pluck tomatoes earlier as long as they are almost ripe.
Tomatoes that have started to show changes in their color will continue to ripen whether it is still in or already out of its vine. So, after picking your fruit, you can still wait a few more days for it to fully ripen.
When harvesting tomatoes, you have the option to pick them by hand or use a garden pruner. Hand-picking is best done though when the fruit is ripe and when you are ready to eat to cook it within the day or two. Otherwise, it might be best to cut and leave a bit of stub at the end. This will help protect the crown from getting exposed and prevent rotting.
Make sure to use hand pruners that are already sanitized and sharpened. Doing so gives you a cleaner cut across the stem. At the same time, it minimizes the risk of cross-contamination of diseases.
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Solution #5: Opt for split-resistant tomato varieties.
Sometimes, no matter how careful you are, you still continue to have cracked tomatoes. Well, do not get frustrated yet. Sometimes, it is just the tomato’s gene that is the problem. Yes, you have to know that there are certain varieties of tomatoes that are more prone to splitting. Varieties like the Better Boy and cherry tomatoes are a few of those that unfortunately have higher tendencies to crack.
On that note, it might be a good idea to opt to plant tomato varieties that are split-resistant to begin with. Usually, the hybrid ones are genetically modified to be the better, if not the best, versions of tomatoes. Not only are they designed to produce higher yields and are more resistant to pests. But, they also tend to be less prone to splitting as well.
Here are some hybrid tomato varieties that are split-resistant:
- Jet Star VF
- Monte Carlo VFN
- Mountain Fresh VF
- Mountain Spring VFT
- Pink Girl VFT
- Spitfire VFF
We as gardeners and consumers would love to keep our tomatoes as fresh and clean as we can. The cracking in the tomatoes though is totally a natural occurrence. However, there are good solid solutions we can practice to prevent this from happening. And so, we hope that the tips we have shared herein would help you grow the most flawless and plumpest tomato fruits