This article begins the series on Tomato Quirks. Each article in the series will feature a common tomato quirk you may find in your vegetable garden. Tomato quirks are typically abnormalities that are found while growing tomatoes. They are usually harmless, but they may produce strange looking tomatoes. Part one focuses on Catfacing. Below is a list of the rest of the articles from the Tomato Quirks series.
At one point or another every tomato grower will come across some peculiar happenings with their tomatoes (and other fruits and vegetables as well). Most tomato quirks are brought about by climate conditions, irregular watering, pests, or diseases. There are times when these can be controlled by adjusting your care methods according to changing conditions, but mostly they are very hard to control.
This article focuses on tomato catfacing.
Now do not go getting angry at your pet feline – you can’t blame this on them. Catfacing results in a disfigured, lumpy-looking tomato that resembles something from a 1960’s Sci-fi movie. It can be very common, especially in the early part of the season, and in the lower hardiness zones (zones 6 through 4 in the U.S.). Catfacing can also be found with strawberries and some other fruits and vegetables.
What Causes Catfacing?
Catfacing is caused by a drop in temperature when the tomato plant blooms, or begins to set fruit. If the temperature drops below 50°F, this will inhibit pollination with the setting fruit. This will cause some parts of the tomato to develop while other parts will not. Also the cooler temperatures can prohibit proper blossom formation. When this occurs you end up with a gnarly and lumpy-looking tomato. Catfacing is mostly found in larger varieties, such as Beefsteak, Big Beef, and Cherokee Purple.
How To Control Catfacing
It can be very difficult to control tomato catfacing since it is dealing with temperature, and who knows what Mother Nature has up her sleeve. There are some practices you can try with varying results.
If you believe that temperatures will dip below 50°F, you can try:
- Floating row covers – Floating row covers can help to hold in some heat. If the temperatures are predicted to be much cooler than 50°F floating row cover will not provide much protection.
- Cold frames – Cold frames can be used to keep plants warm during cooler temperatures, and offer good protection if frost is a concern.
- Wait before planting – You can also wait until all chances of cooler weather have passed before you set out your tomatoes. This is probably the best defense against catfacing, but if you are like me – waiting can just drive you crazy!
- Grow tomatoes in a planthouse – If you live in a cooler zone that has a shorter season, you can start your tomatoes in a simple planthouse. This will help to prevent catfacing, and will extend the growing season.
Although catfacing can cause a tomato to be rather unsightly, most times it is harmless and the tomato can still be used. Severe catfacing can go all the way through a tomato, rendering it virtually unusable. Just place the severely damaged tomatoes in the compost pile.
If you have some catfacing stories or tips, please feel free to share them.
Part 2 of the Tomato Quirks series will be on Bumpy Stems. Be sure you don’t miss it buy subscribing to our RSS feed.