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What is wrong with my tomato?

Updated on January 14, 2017
Patsybell profile image

I inherited my love of gardening from mother and grandmother. I am a garden blogger, freelance writer, and Master Gardener emeritus.

Tomato problems are temporary

It is best to discard  tomatoes with splits like this. This tomato is susceptible disease and mold.
It is best to discard tomatoes with splits like this. This tomato is susceptible disease and mold. | Source

The 5 worst tomato problems

Ugly, deformed or diseased tomatoes are usually a temporary problem. Most problems will solve themselves. So, the answer to most of your problems is: relax.

  1. Cat-facing: ugly or misshapen
  2. Sun-scald: blistering or bog white spot
  3. Tomatoes not turning red: normal in record high temperatures
  4. Splitting or cracking: Out growing it's skin
  5. Too many tomatoes: Plan for next year

Bonus tip - saves time, money and regret.

Catfacing Means Ugly Tomatoes

They may not be the prettiest tomatoes, but they still taste like vine ripened and home grown.
They may not be the prettiest tomatoes, but they still taste like vine ripened and home grown. | Source

1. Catfacing

If you have seen a tomato with catfacing, you understand the name. Catfacing happens early in the season when temperatures are low. ( 50 degrees F ) Fewer pollinators and low pollination create fewer blooms.

Poor pollination and lower temperatures cause the blooms to stick to certain developing parts of the fruit. When this causes fruit indentations and scaring while the unafected parts of the tomato continue to grow and expand.

The pesticide 2,4-D will cause catfacing. Drift can travel from a mile away. If you are spraying your tomatoes, do not use a container that has ever been used with 2,4-D.

Catfaced tomatoes may not be saleable, but it does not affect the taste and can be eaten.
Some catfacing can also be caused by thrips, tiny slender insects with wings. This variety catfacing is a problem affecting fruits.

Over exposure

Sun scalded tomatoes and peppers is easy to prevent.
Sun scalded tomatoes and peppers is easy to prevent. | Source

2. Sun scald

Tomatoes, especially green ones, get sun scald from direct exposure to sun. It's like sunburn for plants. Tomatoes will be covered with enough foliage to be protected from this problem.

Too much sun. This may be caused by too much pruning. Although tomatoes are sun loving plants, fruit is usually afforded some protection by the leaves and vines.

Why is this happening?

  • You might have broken a branch exposing a fruit.
  • Tying up or staking plants might expose some fruit to direct sunshine.
  • Peppers will have the same problem if the fruit is in direct line with sun.

Any green tomatoes that have begun to turn color, can be picked and brought inside to slowly ripen.

3. Tomatoes don't turn red

You have big orange tomatoes. They seem ready to harvest, but just won't turn that beautiful red color as usual. They feel ripe, but they aren't red.

When temperatures reach 86 degrees or hotter for several days, carotene and lycopene, shut down production. In a heat wave, tomato plants will not set fruit and fruit will not turn red.

If tomatoes have started to ripen, you can pick them and let them finish ripening in the kitchen.

Tomatoes cracking up

Concentric cracking is unsightly but will not affect the taste.
Concentric cracking is unsightly but will not affect the taste. | Source

4. Splitting or cracking

There are two kinds of cracking: radial and concentric. Radial cracks rediate out from the stem end like the spokes of a wheel. These cracks can be the most harmful, allowing insects or disease in the tomato.

Concentric cracks are those that circle the tomato. These cracks develop scar tissue and seal out damaging diseases or molds. Although the cracks are unattractive, they will not affect the taste.

Cracks are caused by rapidly changing water levels such as days of drought followed by heavy rains. The tomato fruit will grow faster than the epidermis cells can expand. When ripe tomatoes are left on the vine to long, concentric cracks can occur.

Way too many tomatoes

There are those days when it seems like all the tomatoes are ready to pick at once.
There are those days when it seems like all the tomatoes are ready to pick at once. | Source

5. Too Many Tomatoes

At the peek of tomato season, your gardening success may be a temporary problem. What to do with a kitchen table full of ripe tomatoes. If you do not have time to preserve the harvest try this temporary solution.

Wash all tomatoes and place on a cookie sheet. Do not let tomatoes touch. Place in freezer. The goal is to freeze tomatoes separately. When tomatoes are frozen, store individual tomatoes in a freezer bag.

This temporary storage method will give you time to process the tomatoes after the heat of summer.

6. Do not over feed tomatoes

Bonus tomato tip

If you add too much fertilizer, you may get fewer tomatoes. Some gardeners may think if a little is good, a lot of fertilizer is better. No So.

Plants require six basic nutrients. The first three are carbon, hydrogen and oxygen which plants get from air and water. The other three are nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium.

Fertilizer is labeled NPK.

  • N - Nitrogen creates lush foliage.
  • P- Phosphorus makes roots and flowers grow.
  • K- Potassium (Potash) is important to overall plant health.

Adding too much nitrogen (N) will create a big, beautiful, lush tomato plant with very little fruit. Avoid the common mistake of overfeeding your tomatoes.

3 Great Tomato Recipes

Bacon and tomato quiche

Ratatouille home-grown and homemade

Fried Green Tomatoes After First Frost


Problem solved

  1. Cat-facing: summer temperatures will increase pollinators and improve pollination.
  2. Sun-scald: do not over prune plant.
  3. Tomatoes do not turn red: pray for a break in the heat wave.
  4. Splitting or cracking: mulch and keep rain/water levels consistent .
  5. Too many tomatoes: Plant fewer plants or have a canning party for next year.

Comments

Submit a Comment

  • mary615 profile image

    Mary Hyatt 2 years ago from Florida

    Well, you know by reading my tomato Hub, I am a failure at growing tomatoes! Thanks for your advice, BTW.

    I just envy people like you who can grow tomatoes, but I give up!

    I have a neighbor who can grow beauties like yours, so he keeps me supplied.

    Interesting and informative Hub. Voted UP and shared.

  • gladneycountrymom profile image

    Cheryl Gladney 4 years ago

    Need more nourishment and water. When a tomato gets to hot it boils from with and splits because its out grown its skin.

  • thumbi7 profile image

    JR Krishna 4 years ago from India

    I assume you have a wonderful garden. You are very knowledgeable about how to take care of tomatoes and have given some wonderful tips here

  • MsDora profile image

    Dora Weithers 4 years ago from The Caribbean

    Patsybell, my mother used to grow tomatoes, and I've had neighbors who did. I've eaten some cat-facing tomatoes in my time--just didn't now they had a nickname. Your articles are always an education for me. Thank you.

  • Patsybell profile image
    Author

    Patsy Bell Hobson 4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Jackie Lynnley, You never know how good a year it will be in the tomato patch. I like your idea to save you harvest. Isn't it amazing how many tomatoes we use in one year? Thank you for reading my hubs.

  • Jackie Lynnley profile image

    Jackie Lynnley 4 years ago from The Beautiful South

    One summer I had way too many tomatoes and I canned all I could and there still was more and more. Well; besides cooking up all I could in sauces for dishes I scalded and peeled and let the remainder come to a boil then cooled and froze. Those tomatoes I used all winter and they tasted so fresh and delicious; much better than canned. ^+

  • Patsybell profile image
    Author

    Patsy Bell Hobson 4 years ago from zone 6a, SEMO

    Dolores, you are growing the same tomato has me. I have two heritage strains that both swear to be from the original strain, plus a yellow brandywine and a true black brandywine. I'd love to hear about your brandywine tomato successes.

  • Dolores Monet profile image

    Dolores Monet 4 years ago from East Coast, United States

    This is such a helpful article! I am so looking forward to fresh, home grown tomatoes! My favorite is Brandywine, an heirloom tomato with a bit of old fashioned "twang."

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