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Wetness is culprit in tomato split

Nancy Brachey
Nancy Brachey
Nancy Brachey writes about gardening for The Charlotte Observer's weekly Home & Garden section.

Q. We have planted Celebrity tomatoes for the past two years and have had a problem with them splitting from the top of the core, and the tomatoes go bad quickly. It does not happen to all of the tomatoes, but it does affect about two-thirds of them. What causes this and how could we prevent it? Would you recommend a different variety for us to plant next year?

Celebrity is one of the best tomato varieties for home gardeners, and it is supposed to be one of the better types to resist cracking. So, I hope you will not give up on it.

Cracking is caused when the soil goes from dry to wet. The wetness causes the inside of the tomato to expand faster than the skin, which leads to the cracks you are seeing. This is not a disease but a physiological problem that tends to develop when the tomato is still green and water is inadequate. Once ripening begins, the fruit grows bigger but the skin splits. Often, excessive rainfall, rather than overwatering with the hose, creates the problem.

Two things will help your tomatoes avoid cracking: regular watering that keeps the fruit ripening normally, and a layer of organic mulch that will help keep the soil evenly moist.

Mother plant can live on

Q. I have a house plant called “mother-in-law's tongue.” It is blooming with three spikes of small white flowers, which has never happened before.

Does this mean the mother plant will now die or just that the plant is happy? I have read that some plants die after flowering. This is a large pot, maybe five gallons, so there are several plants in it, mothers and babies. I did not divide it this spring before putting it outside.

Your plant is happy, and you are not the first person to be thrilled when a sansevieria throws up blooms suddenly. It is almost always a surprise that results from a combination of factors, including the right amount of light and water and its maturity.

The fact that the plant's roots have filled the pot is also believed to be a factor in the surprise flowering of a sansevieria. So you are on the right track.

The plant will not die after flowering (the bromeliads tend to do that, but long after blooming). Once the flowers are gone, snip off the stem and let it continue to grow in the same pot.

You should see blooms again, but I cannot predict how soon.

Nancy Brachey: nbrachey@charlotteobserver.com; 704-358-5034.

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