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Tomatoes Splitting: Why Tomatoes Split And How To Stop It

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Tomatoes splitting open is one of the most common problems when growing tomatoes. But don’t worry as frustrating as it seems there are easy ways to stop them from cracking open!

It can be so frustrating when you head out to your garden to pick a vine ripe tomato only to find that it has split open.

Splitting and cracking in tomatoes is one of the most common problems when growing tomatoes in your garden.

But don’t worry, if you know what causes it, this problem becomes pretty easy to control and prevent in your garden.

Why Your Tomatoes Are Splitting & How To Stop It text overlaid on a photo of a cracked tomato.

Why Do My Tomatoes Split?

Yellow cherry tomato split open.
Yellow cherry tomato split open.

Tomatoes splitting open is caused when the inside of the tomato grows to fast for the skin. This is normally from when tomatoes have received more water than normal.

It is very important to give tomato plants even watering throughout the growing season and it becomes even more important once they start to form fruit.

If tomato plants are allowed to go through a dry spell and then received a large amount of water quickly it causes the inside of the tomato to grow quickly. This puts a lot of pressure on the tomato skin and often make it split open.

Is It Safe To Eat Split Tomatoes?

When tomatoes split or crack open they can look pretty strange and you might be wondering are tomatoes still good if they split?

Split tomatoes can quickly become infected with molds, or insect damage. If your tomatoes have just split open they are often just fine to use but you’ll want to pick them right away and uses them up fast because they won’t last as long as normal.

If the tomatoes have small growth cracks that are healed over this is just fine. These types of cracks are very common in large heirloom tomatoes around the tops of the fruit.

Prevent Tomatoes From Splitting

Small red tomato split open.
Small tomato split open.

1. Water Consistently

The best thing you can do to prevent your tomatoes from splitting is to water the plants consistently.

If you aren’t getting enough rainfall then water your tomato plants giving them 1 to 2 inches of water each week.

Watering deeply and less often helps to keep the soil moist and encourage the roots to grow deeper in the soil.

This also helps prevent another common tomato problem called blossom end rot.

2. Provide Good Drainage

Whether you are growing tomatoes in containers or in the ground make sure to provide them with good drainage.

Tomatoes do need a lot of water but you don’t want to leave the plants in standing water.

If growing tomatoes in pots make sure they have good drainage holes, add some rocks in the bottom of the container and use a good quality potting mix.

If you are growing tomatoes in the ground and have a heavy clay soil then addendums your garden with good quality compost to improve the drainage or use raised beds.

3. Fertilize Properly

Use a well-balanced fertilizer for your tomatoes this is especially important as they start to produce fruit. Avoid fertilizers that are too high in nitrogen as they can cause the tomato plant to grow too quickly.

My favorite fertilizers for tomatoes are compost, compost tea, and fish emulsion. Top your garden with compost in the fall or early spring, and then fertilize as needed through the growing season.

4. Mulch Well

Since the main cause of tomatoes splitting open is watering problems, mulching your soil can really help.

Using a good organic mulch in your garden helps to keep the moisture level in the soil more even between watering.

Use a thick layer of straw, wood chips, or shredded leaves around the tomatoes. As a side benefit, this will help to keep the weeds down too!

5. Pick Tomatoes Often

Vine ripe tomatoes are so good, but the longer you leave a ripe tomato on the vine the higher the chance of it splitting open.

Make sure to harvest your tomatoes often! If you are expecting a lot of rain then it’s a good idea to harvest all of the ripened tomatoes as well as the ones that are almost ripe.

A sudden heavy rain will often cause them to crack open.

6. Grow Crack Resistant Varieties

If you are always having problems with your tomatoes splitting then it could simply be the variety you are growing.

Some tomatoes are more prone to splitting and cracking than others because they have softer, thinner skin. This can be a problem with beefsteak and many cherry tomatoes.

Generally, plum-shaped tomatoes and smaller slicers are less likely to split open when they are ripe.

Try growing tomato varieties that are more split resistant like:

  • Sungella – cherry, yellow, vine, 55 days, open-pollinated
  • Pink Bumble Bee – cherry, pink striped, vine, 70 days, open-pollinated
  • Gardener’s Delight – cherry, red, vine, 65 days, open-pollinated
  • Sweet Hearts – grape tomato, red, vine, 68 days, hybrid
  • Rutgers – red, bush, 73 days, open-pollinated
  • Beefmaster – red, vine, 80 days, hybrid
  • Big Boy – red, vine, 78 days, hybrid

Preventing tomatoes from splitting on the vine is pretty easy once you know what to watch out for. Just make sure that you are watering consistently and harvest ripe tomatoes often.

Don’t Forget To Pin For Later!

Why your tomatoes keep splitting text overlaid on a photo of a yellow cherry tomato split open.

How to stop tomatoes from splitting text overlaid on a photo collage. Left red plum tomato cracked open, right yellow cherry tomato split.

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Andie

Friday 12th of March 2021

Thank you, Kim! Very helpful. I can grow every houseplant there is, but am still trying to master gardening!

Nikki

Friday 28th of August 2020

What do you do if you live in fL and it rains every single day??

Kevin

Thursday 1st of July 2021

@Nikki, rejoice! And realize how lucky you are, lol. It’s better than the alternative.

Kim

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

We use a really deep wood chip mulch. Not the bark mulch that garden centers sell, the kind you get from a tree removal service. Then we put this down very thick 4-8 inches in the garden. When we had a crazy rainy year that kept most farmers and gardeners from planting our gardens were fine. The wood chips would absorb the extra water and pull it away from the soil. You still have to pick the tomatoes often and not let them sit for days ripe on the plants but we had almost none split open.

Melissa

Saturday 22nd of August 2020

You did not appear to address in your article excessive rain - which for me, is the likely culprit. We are having an unusually high amount of very heavy rain in the Atlanta area. I would say it’s like daily aggressive downpours. My raised beds drain well. My fertilizer is appropriate. So what do I do when Mother Nature decides to open the floodgates?

Kim

Thursday 3rd of September 2020

We had a crazy heavy rain year a few years ago. It did a lot of damage to gardens and farm crops in our area. But we use a deep wood chip mulch in our garden and it really helped to save it. When the soil is to wet the wood chips absorb and pull water away from the soil. When the soil is dry it helps to hold moisture in. We put it on 4 to 8 inches deep and keep topping it up a few inches every few years.

Annette

Saturday 20th of June 2020

HA!!! You have answered a mystery for me! YAY!!!! Hopefully this year I can prevent blossom rot and splitting!!!!