Imagine the excitement of tending to your tomato plants, eagerly anticipating the moment when those vibrant fruits are ready to be plucked. However, your anticipation turns to disappointment as you discover your beloved tomatoes split open. It’s a frustrating sight for any gardener. While the tomatoes in our Kitchen Garden are looking great we are experiencing some splitting. We have some cherry tomatoes which are especially susceptible to this problem. In this blog post, we will delve into the intriguing world of tomato splitting, uncovering the reasons behind this phenomenon and exploring ways to prevent it from occurring.

The Anatomy of Tomato Splitting: Tomato splitting, also known as fruit cracking, is a common problem that occurs when tomatoes undergo rapid changes in moisture levels. As tomatoes ripen, they naturally accumulate water, causing them to expand. However, if this expansion happens too quickly, the tomato skin cannot keep up, resulting in cracks or splits. The two primary factors contributing to tomato splitting are irregular watering practices and environmental conditions.

  1. Inconsistent Watering: One of the main culprits behind tomato splitting is irregular watering. When tomatoes experience periods of drought, followed by sudden heavy watering or rainfall, the influx of water causes rapid expansion. This puts stress on the fruit and leads to the skin cracking. To minimize the risk of splitting, it’s crucial to maintain consistent and even moisture levels in the soil, ensuring a steady supply of water for the plants.
  2. Environmental Factors: Environmental conditions play a significant role in tomato splitting. Hot and humid weather, particularly during the fruit ripening stage, can exacerbate the problem. The combination of heat, moisture, and increased water uptake by the ripening fruits creates a perfect storm for splitting. Furthermore, intense sunlight can cause uneven ripening, which makes the tomatoes more vulnerable to cracking. Protecting plants with shade cloth or providing adequate mulching can help mitigate these environmental factors.
Cherry Tomato displaying cracking or splitting
Cherry Tomato displaying cracking or splitting Credit: Dr. Tim Davis, Director CGBG

Types of Tomato Splitting: Tomato splitting can manifest in two distinct patterns: radial cracking and concentric cracking.

  1. Radial Cracking: Radial cracks appear as vertical splits along the sides of the tomato fruit. They are considered the more serious type of splitting and often occur during periods of hot and humid weather. Radial cracking poses a higher risk of fruit deterioration and rot, making timely harvest crucial.
  2. Concentric Cracking: Concentric cracking, also known as cracking at the stem end, creates a circular pattern around the top of the tomato fruit. While less severe than radial cracking, it still compromises the fruit’s quality and increases the likelihood of rotting. Harvesting fruits with concentric cracks promptly is essential to prevent further damage.

Preventing Tomato Splitting: Although tomato splitting can be disheartening, several preventive measures can help minimize the occurrence:

  1. Consistent Watering: Maintain a regular watering schedule to provide a steady and adequate supply of moisture to the plants. Avoid sudden fluctuations in soil moisture levels.
  2. Mulching: Apply a layer of organic mulch around the base of tomato plants to retain soil moisture and regulate temperature. Mulching also helps prevent rapid evaporation and shields the soil from extreme weather conditions.
  3. Shade Cloth: Protect tomato plants from excessive sunlight and intense heat by using shade cloth or providing natural shade. This helps regulate temperature and reduces the risk of uneven ripening.
  4. Harvest Timing: Keep a close eye on ripening tomatoes and harvest them promptly when they reach the desired stage. This prevents further expansion and minimizes the risk of cracking.

Tomato splitting can be a frustrating setback for any gardener, but understanding its causes and implementing preventive measures can significantly reduce its occurrence. Fortunately for our cherry tomatoes we will still probably have more than enough to eat even with some cracking. By maintaining consistent watering practices, creating a favorable environment, and harvesting tomatoes at the right time, you can enjoy a bountiful harvest of intact and flavorful tomatoes. Remember, knowledge is the key to triumph