I was in the kitchen prepping for a spaghetti dinner when I spied a beautiful string of cherry tomatoes beckoning me from the backyard. I knew they would be a tasty addition to the evening’s meal, and I was so proud of myself for being able to grow my own food. Practically running out of the house towards the tomato patch, my joy turned to horror when I picked up one of the tiny beauties and rolled it over. It was grimacing at me with a huge, angry, gash-of-a-smile. Soon I realized that all the tomatoes in the patch, big or small, were afflicted with cuts of varying pattens.
This has been the story of the summer. (I wish I had a good tomato for everytime one of my Triangle friends complained about their tomato crop this year.) 2014 has been an interesting year weather-wise here in Durham, with some hot dry spells followed by monster downpours. Call it Bull City’s Monsoon Season. From what I understand, it is this disproportionate watering cycle that causes the tomatoes to expand to accommodate the influx of water. When the skin can’t grow enough to hold all the water, it cracks.
Bottom line, tomatoes need consistent watering. This is why they can be so hard to grow, and why some people grow them hydroponically. It has me seriously considering growing them bins or big pots in 2015, using overflow from one of our rain barrels to keep them filled to capacity. If we decide to grow them in the ground again, we’ll probably use slow-drip irrigation from one of our larger rain containers. Increasing the amount of mulch around the plants will also help them retain moisture. Of course, one could always water their tomato plants every day, but what fun is it if you can’t let Nature do part of the work for you?