Solving Problems with Your Tomatoes

A post I wrote about growing great tomatoes was recently featured on the lovely blog Black Fox Homestead.  Here are part one and part two of that post.

Having that post be brought up again got me thinking.  What if your tomatoes don’t turn out great?  What if you put in a bunch of effort and time and your tomatoes end up with blossom end rot or they start cracking on the vine?  What then?  The sad part is that these problems don’t start rearing their ugly heads until you have ripe (or almost ripe) tomatoes on the vine.  However, there are some things that you can do.


Irregular watering can be a real enemy to tomato plants and cause the skin of the ripe/ripening tomato to crack.  As much as possible, you should keep your tomatoes on a regular watering schedule and stick to it.  Obviously, you can’t control the weather, but mulching around your tomatoes will help keep the soil moist.  I’ve also read that over-fertilizing can cause cracks.  (As a side note, over-fertilizing (especially with a fertilizer high in nitrogen) can also cause a lot of vegetation growth without any fruit being produced.)

Blossom End Rot

This is the first year that I haven’t lost any tomatoes to blossom end rot.  For one thing, I’m not growing a bunch of heirloom varieties (sadly, this is mainly due to the move that we experienced in November). I’ve been told that it is not abnormal for the first few heirloom tomatoes on the vine to experience blossom end rot, while the rest of the subsequent tomatoes will ripen beautifully.  This problem is primarily a result of the root of the plant being unable to transport sufficient water and calcium to the ripening fruit.  The best way to prevent this is to have warm, well-drained and well-aerated soil.  I’ve also read that a fertilizer lower in nitrogen and higher in phosphate will be helpful in the long run.

Sun Scalding

I’ve had this problem affect my tomatoes on occasion.  Green and ripening fruit can be very sensitive to hot, direct sun.  Protect plants from intense sun rays if possible.  A sun-scorched tomato is still edible but the scorched spot (evidenced by light or white patch on the tomato that occurs on the side of the tomato that is most exposed to the sun) should be cut off, as it won’t be pleasant to eat.  You can also consider growing tomatoes upside down as well.

Greenbacks/ Green Shoulders

When the tops of your tomatoes (the part of the tomato surrounding the stem) stay green, this condition is called greenback.  It is caused by high temperatures and/or too much exposure to sunlight.  As with sun scalding, protecting your tomatoes with a screen or some other fabric that will reduce its exposure to intense rays should help.

HOWEVER, enough with the bad news and negative vibes.

What is more likely to happen is that you’ll have a bumper crop of tomatoes and you won’t know what to do with them all.  So, when that happens, here is a great, easy recipe to try.


  • 2 cups quartered cherry tomatoes
  • 1 cup diced cucumber
  • 3 tbsp olive oil
  • 2 tbsp red wine vinegar
  • salt and pepper to taste


  1.  Mix all ingredients and serve.


  • Balsamic vinegar works great in place of the red wine vinegar.
  • Adding basil or oregano is also delicious.
  • Feta or fresh mozzarella also accompanies the flavors in this salad really well.
  • Salad can be served warm or cold.

Books on the Topic:

Where to Buy
You Bet Your Garden
Growing Upside Down Tomato Plants
How to Grow World Record Tomatoes
Carrots Love Tomatoes


You Bet Your Garden Guide to Growing Great Tomatoes: How to Grow Great Tasting Tomatoes in Any Backyard, Garden, or Container 

This 120 page book by Mike McGrath was written with humor. As an organic gardener, McGrath shows you how to grow a variety of tomatoes even if you have very little gardening skills. Whether you’re growing them from a balcony or a garden, you will learn how to choose, germinate, plant, stake, and care for your tomatoes.

Growing Upside Down Tomato Plants: Learn How to Set Up a Topsy Turvy Planter (Gardening)

Written by Kaye Dennan, this 52 page book shares how to grow tomatoes upside down and how to maintain the tomatoes as they’re growing. Learn the tricks you need to succeed at growing tomatoes regardless of how you grow them.

How to Grow World Record Tomatoes: A Guinness Champion Reveals His All-Organic Secrets

Written by Charles Wilber, this 131 page book goes into Wilber’s system to grow world-record size. He says that composting is important as well as how to prune and water them properly.

Carrots Love Tomatoes: Secrets of Companion Planting for Successful Gardening

In this book by Louise Riotte, you will learn which plants can be planted close together and which should be grown further apart. The 224 page book explains how to grow tomatoes, fruit and nut trees, small pots or window-box gardens.

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