Watching as beautiful tomatoes come to fruition thanks to your gardening efforts is quite rewarding. As they appear, small and green, transitioning soon to become large, red, and delicious, we wait eagerly for the day they are ready to be plucked from the vine and moved inside to the dinner table. Sometimes during that process, however, things go wrong. One of those things is the formation of growth cracks or splits.
Tomato cracks occur when too much water is absorbed at a rapid rate. This could happen for several reasons, such as lengthy dry periods followed by too much moisture too soon. In some cases, this is due to watering errors but rain can play a role as well. Either way, the plant absorbs too much water too quickly. When this happens, the inside of the tomato begins to expand to make room for the water it is receiving. The problem begins when the skin is unable to expand to keep up with water intake, creating splits in the skin.
Though these cracks can go on to heal, preventing them in the first place is ideal. In order to do this, however, it is important to determine the cause. Infrequent watering followed by overcompensation is a major reason cracks occur, but that is not the only reason. Although dry periods followed by copious quantities of rain can be a factor as well, your soil itself can actually be a culprit.
Soil that is too sandy can have difficulty holding water. This type of soil is prone to drying out due to a lack of organic matter that is readily available for the purpose of retaining water. When it rains or when you water soil such as this, the plant absorbs large quantities of water to make up for periods of thirst. As this occurs, cracks become present, and soon thereafter sandy soil dries up again for the process to repeat itself once more.
Extreme heat can also be a culprit when it comes to cracked tomatoes. When the mercury rises, soil is more prone to drying. In this case, the soil can become extremely dry despite regular watering because it is in hot periods between watering that it is able to dry out. Thus, as you conduct your daily watering, plants take in too much water too quickly and again splits occur to relieve the pressure building within.
It is perfectly fine to eat tomatoes with splits; just cut away the split area and enjoy the rest. However, those tomatoes do need to be picked as soon as possible to avoid infection and even then do not last as long, which is in large part the reason it is important to prevent splits whenever possible. In order to do so, you should start by establishing a regular watering schedule. Do not water on an infrequent basis and make up for it; instead water deeply and frequently so the plants have a consistent water supply. It also helps to add mulch to soil as this creates a barrier that slows soil drying and keeps moisture inside. It also helps keep weeds at bay as another added bonus.
Depending on the climate you call home, it may be important to rethink your tomato choices. Since different varieties are more adapted to heat, those are worthy of consideration if you live in a hotter climate. Planting according to your weather will give your tomatoes the best survival odds possible. Whichever variety you do plant, be sure not to over fertilize. Too much fertilizer can result in rapid growth which may seem appealing on the surface but is actually not advantageous for the health of your tomatoes. By keeping all of this in mind when planning and caring for your tomato garden, you are sure to see success in the form of delicious tomatoes on your table.