Why Do Tomatoes Split On The Vine?

Ed Wike
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What Causes Tomatoes To Split?

Tomato splitting, while not necessarily a pest infestation or the result of environmental stress, tomato splitting is very frustrating and upsetting to home growers. Understanding a little about tomatoes and how to fix it can help reduce your frustration.

Tomato splitting is the result of uneven growth. More specifically, during the different cycles of growing and harvesting, tomatoes grow at different rates.

One way to start avoiding tomato splitting is to avoid check the plant weekly. You'll want to look closely at the plant for any evidence of uneven growth such as spotting, cracking or splitting.

When you do see signs of uneven growth, the best action is to examine the tomatoes for green splotches or mold. If the harvest is too close, a light spray of water over the tomato will cause any mold to wash off.

If you find the area with uneven growth, you'll want to pick this tomato before the other tomatoes. This will reduce uneven pressure on the plants and it will keep the growing cycle of the rest of the tomatoes on the plant.

You should also consider adding a tomato cage, even if you are not growing the tomato plant in a cage. The cage adds support and will allow you to support the tomatoes in your own way. If the harvest is close, use two cages. Avoid high winds and sun burn, which cause splitting.

Heirloom tomatoes in particular are more susceptible to splitting due to their irregular shape.

How To Stop Cracking In Tomatoes

It is somewhat common for part of a tomato to split open. This is a natural phenomenon known as cracking. There are some simple steps you can take to avoid tomato splitting and some considerations if you develop a cracked tomato along the way.

The first step in avoiding tomato splitting is to understand the cause. The threat of cracking is due to a condition called water-stress. This means that the plant is lacking sufficient water to meet its daily needs. In general, this is due to a watering schedule that is too sparse or a lack of rain or over watering.

The main problem that results from a tomato plant lacking water is the fruit itself gets too large. This results in weakness in the walls of the fruit.

Another consideration in tomato watering is the pH level of your soil. In general, a pH of 6.5 to 6.8 is ideal for growing tomatoes. If your pH is too low, the plant will withdraw water from the fruit, making it more susceptible to splitting.

Considering the pH is important because a crack can also occur due to a sudden environment change. Moving a tomato plant from its hydroponic home to soil is a perfect example of this. The plant becomes stressed from a change of medium, or when you transfer the plant to a new location, and part of the fruit develops cracks.

Can You Eat Split Tomatoes?

Tomatoes can split as they grow on the vine. This happens because a fruit called a "tomatine" grows within the tomato. Because the tomatine grows within the tomato, it's vital that the tomato gets enough space to expand.

To avoid splitting, make sure that your tomatoes get enough space as they grow on the vine. They should be at least a few inches apart. Also, avoid pruning the tomatoes while they are on the vine. Pruning while they are on the vine can lead to internal stress and this can cause splitting.

So if your tomatoes do split on the vine, don't worry. They are still edible. In fact, splitting can actually make them more delicious!