We had a downpour of rain yesterday and this is the result – tomato split.

Tomato Split Skin
Too Much To Drink!

Tomatoes splitting is a very common problem that is caused by dry soil getting a good soaking …. usually a downpour of rain!

Keeping outdoor tomatoes correctly watered is very difficult. Soil that is too dry can cause blossom end rot as plants struggle to access enough nutrients (calcium for Blossom End Rot).

Soil that is too wet for long periods can cause fungal diseases and reduces tomato flavour – also root growth may be reduced.

So is it possible to keep the moisture content of your soil just right when growing outdoors? The answer is: with great difficulty!

Some varieties are more prone to cracking or skins splitting than others and a good example of this is Sungold, perhaps its only downside.

Removing the Growing Tip
When to remove the growing tip of tall varieties depends on whether you are growing outside or in a greenhouse. You might allow four trusses outdoors and up to seven or eight in an unheated greenhouse.

Of course if you find that your plants are getting a little too tall, that could be a sign to remove the growing tips also!

A Few Observations – Thick Skins
The Tumbling Toms grown in my porch have thinner skins than those grown outside and even those grown in the greenhouse.

I guess the first thing that comes to mind is that the porch has less temperature variation than the garden and greenhouse.
Conclusion: wide temperature variations can cause thicker skins.

Premature RipeningSmaller Tomatoes
This happens when tomatoes ripen before they have reached full size.
I’ve noticed that some plants grown in containers have produced smaller ripe fruit than expected.

These plants have been late in fruiting because of a delay in flowers pollinating. so roots have used up most of their pot space.

I put the problem of premature ripening down to roots becoming “pot bound” as the fruit are growing. This will sometimes encourage a plant to ripen its fruit before the tomatoes have reached full size.

Conclusion: Tomatoes may ripen before they reach full size if a plant becomes pot bound, that is, the roots have no room left to develop.

This is consistent with the method of “forcing” when plants are pushed into flowering early by keeping them in a small pot – a technique that some tomato growers use.

Tomato plants have one mission – to produce seed for the next generation and they will try and do this at all costs!

Flying Insects and Small Bees
Does anyone know what these are called? There are lots of them flying around the tomato flowers in my garden and doing a great job of pollinating!


Professional growers use bees to help pollinate their plants in huge glasshouses.

Tomato Taste – Outdoor Plants
This has been particularly good so far this season owing to the fact that it has been easier to control the amount of water and tomato food the outdoor plants get.

Less Rain – More Control

When there are frequent heavy showers, as in the last few summers in my area, nutrients in the soil of the outdoor plants get washed away leaving tomatoes with a watery taste.

That’s it for the first newsletter in August. Please leave a message below or email me if you would like to.


22 Responses

  1. Derek Richards
    | Reply

    Nick… Success… Ball Straathof in Johannesburg supplies the Red Khaki tomato. Just had 20gs turn up in the post (lifetimes worth for me) Only need the Manapal now!

  2. Avril
    | Reply

    Just wondering why my tomato split after I picked it, within minutes, rather than while still on the vine?
    It was my first Gardeners Delight this season, it looked lovely, then when I went to eat it, it had a crack from top to bottom, still ate it though and it tasted great.
    I know toms split on the vine through under then over-watering, but what causes splitting after picking?
    Thank you for your help.

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Avril,
      I think it is because if a tomato goes from a warm to a cooler temperature, the skin shrinks before the inside flesh, and sometimes this causes the skin to split. This is my theory so there may be other reasons!

  3. Terry Cooney
    | Reply

    Thank you Nick for all your advise. I am new to tomato growing, this is my 3rd crop.
    My system for moisture control is to use the large black shallow plastic trays, designed for grow-bags. Get the long planter boxes and drill about 15 holes in the bottom 6mm dia.
    I fill them with home made compost and John E. 50-50.
    2 Planters will fit per tray. I plant up from the seed propagator about 12 weeks after seed ing. About 4 per box = 8per tray I pour from watering cans, direct into the trays and it seeps up through holes to the plant roots as they need it. The Green house runs at 25c to 35c degrees, (Solar heat storage glass.) So a tray could could 4 litres every 2 days.
    I use Suttons Faworyt Seeds. And they grow to 6-7 feet 2 Metres. with heavy bamboo steaks clamped at the roof. A good crop this year, large and sweet.( Some burst.)
    I know ,I need a ladder to get the high toms but its worth it.

  4. Brian Jameson
    | Reply

    Thank you for all the info , i real think this is a great site.

    Take care Brian.

    | Reply


    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Mary, It’s amazing that taking cuttings can create more tomato plants!

  6. Derek Richards
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Was there any luck or feedback on the Red Khaki and Manapal tomato seeds?.
    Great letter once again!

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi Derek,
      I’ll ask again on facebook and see if we get any help from the people there.

  7. john Ferrier
    | Reply

    Hi Nick,
    All plants still doing well although I am getting blossom end rot on the occasional tomato.
    This includes some grown from seeds acquired from Real Seeds and some bought in as plants.. I am about a month ahead of you and did not spray the plants with calcium at the early stages. However, having read your letter about the need for calcium I started adding a little each day with the Chempak. It seems that this is not working. Would appreciate your comments.
    John Ferrier

    • Nick
      | Reply

      Hi John,
      My method is to spray weekly as soon as the flowers set and begin to show their pea-size toms.
      The problem with calcium is that it moves around plants so slowly that it is only useful as a foliar feed, or unless the soil is prepared months in advance – as on an allotment for example.
      Sometimes a nutrient can become blocked from being absorbed by roots when another nutrient is present in too high a quantity. This is probably not the case with the calcium, but it is usually best to only feed the basic tomato food through the roots so as not to complicate the nutrient balance in the soil.
      Hope you don’t get anymore affected tomatoes!

  8. Lee
    | Reply

    Hiya Nick,
    This is my first attempt at growing tomatos, and I must admit, your information is spot on!
    I have 4 Alicante plants in pots on my patio and all are doing very well. At last count I have over 65 tomatos of different sizes. Should I prune off any tomatos that are a lot smaller than the rest that are on the vine? Most are about the size of a small kiwi, but on the same vine I have 1 or 2 that are the size of a small pea, and aren’t developing as well. Should flowers that didn’t set fruit be removed?

  9. terry scoates
    | Reply

    Nick, I have been growing Tomats for many years but I never stop learning form your Newsletters, Many thanks.

  10. Steve Sorsby
    | Reply

    Hello Rhys.
    Ive invested in the autopot system this year and i must admit that it works very very well, ive got the 3 tray 6 pot system and the 100ltr water tank when the tomato plants are ready to go in their final position you plant them up in the pots that comes with the system and flood them with water let them drain and then clean the bottom of the pots and place them in the trays, the 100ltr water tank is filled with nutrients i used tomorite then top up with water to 100ltrs i left mine for about 10 days after the intial soaking then i turned the autopot system on and its all done by gravity no electrics no pumps no mains water i highly recommend this system its brilliant i have had a bumper crop of tomatoes this year using the autopot system check out their website http://www.autopot.co.uk ,the 100ltr water tank as lasted the season and its just below half full now and we are nearly at the end of the tomato growing season.
    hope this helps

  11. carol
    | Reply

    your information on tomato growing is really simple to follow, my tomato growing is a bit of hit and miss as it can be quite windy in my garden and at times very wet but i will plod on regardless.

    thank you for your good news letter

  12. Steve Craig
    | Reply

    Hi Nick.

    My greenhouse toms tend to have thick skins. The toms have to share the greenhouse with a collection of endangered cacti. These cacti need all the light that they can get and that’s what I blame for the thick skins. My thoughts have always been that its the plant’s way of trying to reduce transpirational losses, maybe I’m right, maybe not.

    The insect that you show is called a hover fly and this year they are everywhere and so are ladybirds. Hoverflies imitate wasps but are completely harmless. I’m assured by other tom growers that they are good pollenators and prey upon insect pests, so they are our friends.

    I know a few growers who use the automated watering systems rather than a manually set drip feed one. The downside of these, in my opinion, is that they come on at the same pre-programmed time each day and deliver the same amount of water regardless of the weather conditions and the plants’ needs. They do, on the plus side however, allow you to take a holiday!


  13. Rod
    | Reply

    Flying Insects and Small Bees
    Does anyone know what these are called? There are lots of them flying around the tomato flowers in my garden and doing a great job of pollinating!

    Looks like a Hover Fly to me?

  14. Rhys Jaggar
    | Reply


    Do you or any other members of the club have experience using controlled drip systems for tomatoes? I was reading up about them and wondered if this is a way to try and control watering rates if tomatoes are grown either in glasshouses or outdoors in soil?

    I have also read somewhere that someone claims that ensuring water is 24C or more before watering is a yield enhancer. Has anyone tried this and how, short of adding hot water from the kettle, do you actually get water to that temperature?

    Cost benefit analysis is what I am after, I guess……

    Any insights appreciated.

  15. Angela
    | Reply

    Hi Nick – I have always known these as Hover Flies. I have a Fennel which is 6′ and flowering and there are literally dozens of them round the flower bracts. Have just checked and if you Google them on the images function they come in all shapes and sizes.

  16. Roy
    | Reply

    Hi Nick
    Many thanks for the info growing tomatoes in different places.I grow tomatoes outdoor
    and had varying results due to weather conditions.Any info you give is gratefully accepted.

    Many thanks

  17. john
    | Reply

    I think these are hoverflies,they seem to be around in great numbers this year.

  18. Sylvi
    | Reply

    I really enjoy all the information on this site. Thank you.

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