When tomatoes crack or split, it is usually one of

three problems.

These problems show up on your tomatoes during the summer and deal with the fruit cracking or splitting. The problems are not caused by a virus or bacteria or fungus; they are caused by improper water management.

The most common cracking problem is when the fruit has large cracks radiating out from the stem of the tomato. This is caused by high temperatures (above 90 degrees) and too much sunlight during maturity. To help prevent cracking try to keep the soil

evenly moist.

Mulching your garden is one of the best ways to help keep the soil evenly moist. Second, try to keep as many leaves on the plants to protect the tomato fruits. If your fruit is still cracking, try providing light shade to the plants. I try to avoid shading the plants, because too much shade can cause other problems like mildew.

The second problem is cracks circling the stem end of the fruit. These concentric circles around the stem are caused by rapid fruit growth. The rapid growth is usually caused by allowing the soil to have alternating dry and wet periods. If your fruit cracks after a summer rain, then you have not been

watering enough.

Since we cannot count on summer rain as our only source of water, we have to irrigate our tomatoes. If we allow the tomatoes to become too dry, then heavily water the plants, you could cause the fruit to crack around the stem.

The third problem is called Blossom End Rot. When the bottom or blossom end of the fruit is brown-black you have Blossom End Rot. Blossom End Rot affects both ripe tomatoes and green tomatoes. Even though it sounds like and looks like a disease caused by a fungus or bacteria, it is caused by incorrect fertilization and water management.

Blossom End Rot can be caused by going from drought to wet conditions, just like the concentric cracks on fruit. However, blossom end rot is caused by the calcium to nitrogen ratio in the soil being out of balance. If the soil is too dry the plant cannot remove calcium from the soil and the process of Blossom End Rot has begun. We normally have plenty of calcium in the soil and seldom have problems, until you start overfertilizing your garden. Too much nitrogen fertilizer and dry soil can cause Blossom End Rot.

Water management of your tomatoes is the key to good tomatoes. Tomatoes like to be kept moist, but not wet. Tomatoes like the soil to dry out, but not to the point the plants wilt. Finding the right moisture level is the challenge. It takes trial and error to find out how often and how much water your tomatoes need to produce good looking tomatoes.

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