Why Are My Tomatoes Splitting and Cracking?

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Tomatoes were my gateway fruit into gardening. After growing my first round of lovely ripe tomatoes, I was hooked and fully married to the gardening life. Tomatoes grow so well and produce so much fruit that why wouldn’t you want to grow 50 plants a season? Let me tell you why – because tomatoes can break your heart. So today, we want to answer the question, “Why are my tomatoes splitting?!”

Tomatoes are like that lovely golden-headed girl who robbed those bears – too much water: splitting – not enough: splitting- too hot: splitting – too cold: splitting – you get my point. Tomatoes do not like extreme anything and grow best when things are just right.

This article will explain why tomatoes split and provide all the necessary information to help prevent splitting and cracking in future growing seasons.

3 Split, cracked tomatoes due to rain after drought.
Table of Contents

    Identifying Cracks In Tomato Fruits

    Several types of tomato cracks can occur, each with its own characteristics and causes.

    Radical Cracking

    Tomato with radial splitting and cracking.

    Concentric Cracking

    Tomato with severe concentric cracks.

    Cat-Facing

    An example of cat-facing at the blossom end of a tomato fruit.

    Radial Cracking

    Radial cracking often results from fluctuations in temperature and moisture levels. For example, when a tomato fruit experiences rapid changes in temperature or moisture, it causes the skin to expand and contract quickly, leading to radial cracks or splits in the fruit. This cracking is most commonly seen in mature vine-ripened tomatoes and can result from overwatering or underwatering.

    Concentric Cracking

    Concentric cracking, on the other hand, occurs in rings around the stem end of the tomato. This type of cracking is often a result of irregular watering practices or fluctuations in soil moisture levels. As the fruit grows, it expands, and if it does not receive consistent moisture, the skin can become brittle and prone to cracking.

    Catfacing

    Catfacing, characterized by deep, irregularly shaped cavities or scars on the surface of the tomato, is another type of tomato crack. This type of cracking is often caused by poor pollination or exposure to extreme temperatures during the early stages of fruit development when green tomatoes are preparing to ripen.

    Watering Practices

    Tomato splitting occurs when the tomato fruit cracks or splits, often near the fruit’s stem end. This problem can be frustrating for gardeners who spend time and effort growing tomatoes only to find their crop ruined.

    One of the primary reasons for tomato splitting is irregular watering practices. Inconsistent watering, whether it’s overwatering or underwatering, can cause the fruit to split.

    Overwatering can be the Cause of Tomatoes Splitting.

    Overwatering is one of the leading causes of tomato splitting. When tomato plants are overwatered, they can absorb too much water too quickly, causing the fruit to expand too rapidly. This sudden expansion can cause the fruit’s skin to crack or split. Gardeners may find cracking and splitting after heavy rain or during extended wet weather.

    Water the tomato plant deeply but not too frequently. The soil should be allowed to dry out some (but not entirely) between watering.

    Deep red tomatoes with severe concentric cracks.

    Underwatering can also be the Cause of Tomatoes Splitting.

    On the other hand, underwatering is also a common cause of tomato splitting. When tomato plants do not receive enough water, the fruit will shrink and swell suddenly when water becomes available again. This sudden change in the size of the fruit can cause the skin to split.

    Soil should never be allowed to completely dry out between watering, as it causes stress to the plant and can cause the fruit to split.

    Importance of Consistent Watering Practices:

    Maintaining consistent watering practices is key to preventing tomato splitting. Gardeners should keep the soil evenly moist without letting it become too wet or dry. 

    It is a good idea to implement drip irrigation with your tomato plants. Drip irrigation provides slow, controlled deep watering.

    If you are in an area that receives heavy rainfall during the growing season, you must ensure your garden beds or rows are draining well.

    Temperature Fluctuations

    Temperature fluctuations are another common cause of tomato splitting. Tomatoes thrive in warmer climates and temperatures, but sudden temperature changes (both hot and cold) can cause the fruit to split.

    Temperature fluctuations can lead to uneven growth of tomatoes and cause the tomato skin to become brittle and prone to splitting.

    How Temperature Fluctuations Can Be the Cause of Tomatoes Splitting:

    When temperatures fluctuate quickly, the tomato plants will grow unevenly, which can cause the fruit to expand and contract rapidly. The fruit may become overripe in hot weather, and the skin can become tough, contributing to the splitting.

    Hot temperatures can cause the fruit to ripen too quickly, leading to splitting, and it can also cause the plant to lose moisture rapidly, leading to the fruit drying out and splitting. Rapid hot temperatures can also cause overripe fruit with tough skins that can not contract or expand well, contributing to cracking.

    Alternately cold temperatures can cause the fruit to develop unevenly, leading to thin skin and more susceptibility to splitting.

    Tomatoes with concentric splits on a rustic wooden tabletop.

    The Importance of Temperature Regulation:

    Proper temperature regulation is crucial to prevent tomato splitting. Gardeners can protect their tomato plants from temperature fluctuations by using shade cloth or other protective coverings during hot weather to shield them from the sun.

    You can also use a thick layer of mulch around the plants to help regulate soil temperatures and reduce moisture loss.

    During cold temperatures, gardeners can use handy frost covers or other protective coverings to protect the plants from the cold.

    Nutrient Imbalances

    Nutrient imbalances can also cause tomato splitting. When tomato plants do not receive the right balance of nutrients, the fruit can develop weak spots prone to splitting. Therefore, it is essential to understand the nutrient requirements of tomato plants and maintain proper fertilization practices to prevent nutrient imbalances.

    How Nutrient Imbalances Caan be the Cause of Tomatoes Splitting

    Calcium deficiencies are the primary nutrient imbalances that can cause tomato splitting. Calcium is essential for strong cell walls in the tomato fruit, and a deficiency can lead to weak spots prone to splitting. Other nutrient deficiencies, such as magnesium or potassium, can also contribute to splitting.

    Lack of calcium is also one of the leading causes of blossom end rot.

    Learn More: Check out our articles dedicated to preventing and managing blossom end rot and fertilizing tomato plants.

    Gardener with gloves holding a handful of fertilizer.

    Importance of Proper Fertilization Practices:

    Proper fertilization practices are crucial to prevent nutrient imbalances and reduce the risk of tomato splitting. Gardeners should use a balanced fertilizer that provides the nutrients for tomato growth. It is also essential to apply fertilizer at the right time to ensure that the plants have access to the nutrients they need when they need them.

    Can you Eat Cracked Tomatoes?

    Yes, you can still eat split and cracked tomatoes. While the split may not look aesthetically pleasing, it does not affect the flavor or nutritional value of the tomato.

    However, it is importantl to scrutinize the tomato before consuming it. If the split is large or deep, it may have allowed bacteria or pests to enter the fruit, making it unsafe to eat. If the split is small or superficial, eating is likely safe. Check for a sour smell.

    Wide cracking is taking over the top tomato on the vine. A wound this deep should be harvested right away.
    Wide cracking is taking over the top tomato on the vine. A wound this deep should be harvested right away.

    Preventing Tomato Cracking And Splitting

    Irregular watering practices, temperature fluctuations, and nutrient imbalances are your primary reasons for tomato cracking and splitting. 

    Maintaining consistent watering practices, protecting plants from temperature fluctuations, and proper fertilization practices can help prevent your tomatoes from cracking. 

    While split tomatoes are safe to eat, it is crucial to scrutinize them before consuming them to ensure they are free of bacteria or pests. Wide gaps or open skin wounds can harbor bacteria. 

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