Looking for a few simple tips to prevent your tomatoes from splitting and cracking this year while they ripen on the vine?
There is nothing more disheartening for a gardener than to see a beautiful crop of developing tomatoes suddenly begin to blister and crack. Not only does it make for an unsightly tomato, it also damages the fruit in the process.
When a tomato splits open on the vine, the tender flesh begins to ooze out moisture. Unfortunately, when that happens, a portion of the flavor oozes out as well. That moisture can also attract a whole host of pests who enjoy feeding on the juice.
But perhaps even worse, when tomatoes begin to crack and peel, the plant begins to use up valuable resources to attempt to heal over the skins. Resources that should instead be going to creating more blooms and producing more fruit.
Why Tomatoes Crack and Split
So what causes tomatoes to crack and split? Contrary to popular belief, it has nothing to do with a lack of nutrients in the soil. In fact, applying more fertilizer and nutrients will not help them stop cracking in the least! Cracking and splitting is also not the result of a pest or disease issue.
Instead, this frustrating problem is a direct result of large swings or fluctuations in the moisture the plant receives. As in too much water all at once, or too little over an extended period of time.
Although you certainly can’t control what Mother Nature brings to your tomato crop in the form of rain or drought, there are a few simple tips that can go a long way in helping to prevent moisture issues from blistering open your tomatoes.
Even better, all 3 of the tips will also help you to have healthier, more productive tomato plants this year! Here is a look at each tip now, along with a few extra pointers in tomato care!
3 Simple Tips To Prevent Tomatoes From Splitting & Cracking
#1 – Mulch Your Plants
Believe it or not, mulching your plants is one of the best ways to keep your tomatoes safe. A thick layer of organic mulch (straw, grass clippings, etc.) does wonders for your tomato plants. Especially when it comes to preventing them from splitting.
Mulch helps to regulate the soil temperature and moisture levels. It keeps the soil from drying out too fast, which is excellent in drought-like conditions. But it also helps shed away excess water during hard storms or heavy rains.
With a more balanced soil temperature and moisture level, the plants do not suffer the stress that can lead to the fruit blistering.
How much mulch is enough? Apply at least 4 inches around the plant, making sure to mulch wide enough enough to cover the root zone. Not only will it help to keep them from splitting, it will also keep away competing weeds too! See: How To Use Mulch To Stop Weeds In Your Vegetable Garden – Forever!
#2 Proper Watering – How To Prevent Tomatoes From Cracking & Splitting
In addition to mulching, how and when you water your plants can play a key role in keeping them safe from splitting.
When it comes to proper moisture for tomato plants, on average, a plant should receive from 1 to 1.25 inches of rain per week. That is enough water, along with a good layer of mulch, to keep the roots of your plants moist.
Any more, and cracking can become an issue. As it can when there isn’t enough moisture present as well. So how do you know if your plants need water? The best way is to check the soil down about one to two inches in depth.
To do this, you can use the tip of your finger or an inexpensive soil moisture probe. If the tip of your finger has a bit of dirt sticking to it, you know there is no need to water. Likewise, if you use a probe and there is moisture present, you can hold off on watering.
Water Deep – How To Prevent Tomatoes From Cracking & Splitting
Just as important as when to water is how you water and how frequently you do so. In fact, one of the biggest mistakes gardeners often make it to water their plants too often and too shallow. Watering just a little every day may keep the plants supplied with water, but it causes long term issues for the plant.
Shallow watering keeps the roots of tomato plants near the surface. When that happens, it leaves them more vulnerable to drying out too quick, or becoming overly soggy when too much rain occurs.
When watering, water deep. Allow enough water to get down farther into the soil to develop strong, deep roots. This is also one more reason to plant your tomatoes deep in the soil. The deeper you plant, the more roots develop down in the soil where they are less vulnerable to watering issues. See: 4 Secrets To Watering Vegetable Plants And Flowers
#3 – Keep The Soil Loose & Compaction Free – How To Prevent Tomatoes From Cracking & Splitting
Last but not least, having loose, well draining soil is also a huge key in helping to keep your tomatoes from cracking – as is keeping the soil directly around your plants from becoming compacted too.
When you work near your tomato plants, always try to keep from stepping directly around the root zones. When this occurs, the pressure compacts the soil tightly down around the roots, creating two key issues.
The first is that compacted soil will not allow water to pass through easily to the roots. The second issue is that roots that are compacted also struggle with absorbing nutrients from the soil. Both lead to poor plant health. And with a lack of water, cracking and blistering tomatoes are sure to follow.
This is actually a great tip when it comes to any of your garden crops – the more you stay away from the roots, the better the root structure will be – and the healthier the plants will be.
Pick Early – How To Prevent Tomatoes From Cracking or Splitting
One final note, if you are having a few issues with cracking, harvesting your crop early can help. Picking tomatoes when the first start to turn and letting them ripen off the vine is a great way to prevent cracking. And no – it will not affect the flavor or taste. In fact, it can often improve it!
Here is to having healthy, split-free tomatoes this year – and to a bountiful harvest as well!
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