Growth cracks are a problem most gardeners will have to contend with sooner or later. Fortunately, the problem is structural in nature, and therefore will not cause an epidemic.
Commonly affected plants include:
- Tomatoes (especially beefsteak varieties).
Jalapeño peppers frequently crack, as well, but this is normal and not likely to cause a storage problem.
Growth cracks appear when the skin of the fruit in question cannot expand fast enough to keep pace with a rapid increase in pressure inside the fruit. This can be caused by a number of conditions:
- Irregular or excessive rainfall.
- Irregular temperatures.
- Excess nitrogen.
- Concentric circles around stem end of fruit.
- Starlike cracks spreading from stem end of fruit.
Growth cracks will usually correct themselves given time and the proper growing conditions.
A good starting point is to look for fruit and vegetable varieties that are resistant to cracking.
Your next best bet is to promote even growth:
- Choose a garden site with good soil drainage.
- Water deeply but regularly.
- Mulch to keep the soil moisture steady.
- Use compost, not chemical fertilizer, to keep nitrogen levels even.
Of course, we can’t control the weather. If a heavy rain is in the forecast, take a walk through the garden and harvest any vegetables that might suffer from the effects. If the fruits are almost ready, you can pick them a little early and ripen them on a sunny windowsill.