Saturday, January 30, 2010
That's one split tomato, huh?
I've had a relatively serious problem with splitting this year, which means I've had to throw out more tomatoes than I like because they split and were later infested with worms or rot. Annoying.
Most books say that splitting is caused by watering issues. Periods of dry, followed by lots of water like a heavy rain, can cause splitting. It happens when the tomatoes are still green, and their skin/exterior is hard and inflexible. As the excess water rushes into the fruit, it causes a growth spurt that the young fruit cannot handle, so it splits.
We had very heavy rains in December this year, so I've been blaming my splitting on the rains. However, I've noticed that 90% of the splitting is confined to the tomatoes growing in the coconut coir grow bags. These are Better Boy hybrids, so they should be tough as nails—and I promise my watering has been absolutely consistent. I've been watering the grow-bag tomatoes every morning, just the same as the container-grown tomatoes in sphagnum. And these heirlooms and beefsteaks growing in sphagnum peat are hardly splitting at all.
So ... I've done tons of research on this and I can't find any proof that tomatoes grown in coconut coir are more liable to split. So have mine own eyes thus deceived me? I don't know. I do know that coconut coir has a different water-holding capacity than sphagnum peat; it's possible that daily watering is simply too much because the coconut coir holds water for so much longer. Then again ... professional growers using coconut coir water with daily drip irrigation. It's possible I have yet to really understand how to use coconut coir.
In any event, at the most basic level, tomato splitting is caused by inconsistent watering, with periods of dry followed by lots of water. I suspect in my case, there's a learning curve for using coir as a growing media, and next time, I'll try every-other-day-watering. If anyone out there has any insight, I'd love to hear it.
Finally, I did my second planting today. That's one nice thing about South Florida—we get two plantings every year. So this fall, I grew indeterminate tomatoes, broccoli, cabbage and herbs. And earlier today, I planted determinate tomatoes, eggplant, peppers and strawberry. The eggplant and peppers are in an Earthbox, the determinate tomatoes and strawberries are in large containers with my normal peat-based mix. This time around, I'm testing another soil amendment called Biotamax. It's a soil probiotic, and I'll post on it soon.
And I guess that's it. I've been harvesting like mad lately, so I've been canning tomatoes, fermenting sauerkraut, and eating enough fresh tomatoes that sometimes I feel like I'm turning slightly red. But it's been nice, and even with the loss of so much fruit this year, we're still neck-deep in homegrown produce. And that's not a bad thing ...
Up Next: Catfacing