Three Ways Your Soil Can Ruin Your Tomatoes

It's a cool evening on a late summer day. You enter your garden and can't help but notice the beautiful, red, ripe tomatoes growing there. You pick one from the vine and take a bite.

Delicious. Way better than anything you can get at the grocery store. This is why so many people are growing their own tomatoes at home.

But, things don't always go as expected, and sometimes your tomatoes don't come out like you'd wish. Let me show you the three biggest problems tomato growers face, and the easy ways to solve each one.

Hint: They all find their roots in your soil.

1. Tomato Split

We've all seen split tomatoes. An otherwise beautiful piece of fruit, ruined by a tear down its side. This doesn't always ruin your tomatoes, but it can take some joy out of the tomato growing process.

If the tomato splits while it's still in the early stages of growing, a tear doesn't mean the end of the world. It will have to scab over and heal. You'll still be able to eat it if you want to.

However, if your tomatoes split as they're ripening, they won't have time to heal. They'll likely rot and spill out their insides.

So, what causes tomatoes to split and tear?

The main culprit here is inconsistent watering. That means, a lot of water at once, and then no water for a while, then a lot of water again. Imagine if you did the same thing to your own body.

Do a month of fasting and you'll lose a bunch of weight. Then, gorge out on food and water for the next month and watch your weight explode. You'll find yourself with a bunch of new stretch marks.

Your skin is flexible, but it can't handle those kinds of extremes. The same is true for the skin of a tomato. Having too much water, all at once, will cause the tomato to stretch and split.

How to fix splitting tomatoes.

Soil, by itself, isn't great at holding water. It dries up pretty fast and can get hydrophobic. Meaning, it won't hold water at all.

There are two ways to fix this problem, and both of them are pretty easy to accomplish.

1. Self Irrigating Planters, and
2. Using a Soaker Hose or some Drip Tape

Self Irrigating Planters

SIP Systems work by keeping a reservoir of water underneath your soil. They use a divider to keep your water separate from your soil, with a gap of air between the two.

Your roots grow down through the soil, through the air gap, and into the water. This gives them a steady supply of water, and makes consistent watering a lot easier. Instead of relying on soil saturation for water, your tomato roots have direct access to the water in the reservoir.

  
self irrigating planter

If you're not above growing in a bucket, look into something called "Hempy Buckets". They're pretty popular among cannabis growers, but they also work great for growing tomatoes.

You can find SIP systems specifically for tomatoes at your local hardware store.

There's a company called GroTech that makes inserts for growing in a five gallon bucket. They also make a product called the "GroBuddy". It allows you to get all the benefits of a SIP system, even if you're growing in the ground or a raised garden.

Soaker Hose / Drip Tape

The science behind this technology is pretty simple. You hook a hose to your faucet and run it through your garden and around your plants.

The hose has a bunch of holes in it, measuring the entire length.

You turn the faucet on and get consistent water across your garden. Each of these tools works a little bit differently, but both work better than just watering from a can or the mouth of a hose.

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2. Blossom End Rot

The next big problem that most growers run into is something called Blossom End Rot. You can spot it when you see white spots or bruising at the bottom of your tomatoes. If you catch it early, you can do something about it.

If you don't catch it early enough, it'll start to spread throughout the tomato, resulting in a giant, rotted-out crater on the bottom of your tomato... Not something you want to put in your body.

If I ever have this happen to my tomatoes, I toss them in the compost pile. This is a soil problem that's better to avoid, altogether.

Fortunately, I almost never have this problem anymore, and about to show you why.

What causes Blossom End Rot?

The short answer is, calcium deficiency.

Not enough calcium in the soil. Not enough calcium getting into your plants. And without that calcium, your plants can't build strong cell walls. This leads to weak tomatoes that rot out on the bottom.

Sometimes overwatering will make it hard for your plant roots to absorb calcium. Using the SIP system above will solve this problem. If that doesn't work, you need more calcium in your soil.

How to get more calcium in your soil.

Eggshells work great for getting calcium into your soil. Save your shells, dry them out and crush them into tiny pieces. The smaller, the better. I recommend using a coffee bean grinder.

Then, sprinkle them on your top soil and let them go to work. Your tomatoes will love you for it.

Crustacean Meal works great as well. Not only is it filled with calcium, it's also got a good amount of nitrogen and phosphorus. You can pick some up at your local grow store.

Another popular soil amendment is Gypsum, which is made of calcium sulfate. Much like the crustacean meal, gypsum is widely available in grow stores, nurseries, and garden centers.

If you're dealing with Blossom End Rot, add some calcium to your soil. That's the fastest way to fix the problem, or prevent it, altogether.

3. Tasteless Tomatoes

If you've eaten tomatoes from a Big Box store grocery store, you know the disappointment of biting into a low-quality tomato. They're often stiff and not very juicy. They almost always taste like a weak imitation of what tomatoes are supposed to be.

When you grow your own tomatoes at home, you want sweet, juicy tomatoes, bursting with flavor. The best way to get that is by making sure your soil is full of beneficial soil microbes and plant probiotics.

What causes tomatoes with weak flavors?

The flavor in your tomatoes comes from their ability to absorb the nutrients you feed them. Sometimes that's the nutrients in your soil. More likely, it's nutrients from the fertilizers you feed them.

But, if your plant isn't able to eat what it needs to grow up big and healthy, the end result is less-than-spectacular tasting tomatoes.

If you feed your plants with organic fertilizers, the nutrients are often too big for your plants to absorb them. Think of yourself trying to fit a whole beach ball into your mouth. It's not going to be easy.

If you feed with salt-based nutrients, you have the opposite problem... Your nutrients are broken down and too small. Instead of sticking to your roots and soil, they wash right out with each watering.

Either way, your tomatoes aren't getting the nutrients they need.

Your soil needs more microbes.

For billions of years, plants have had a symbiotic relationship with microbes in the soil. These little guys live around your plant's root zone. They go out into the soil, collect food and water, and bring it back to your plants. In exchange, your plants deliver sucrose to the microbes.

It's a Win-Win for your plants and the microbes.

Soil microbes, like mycorrhizae, actually attach themselves to your root and work like a secondary root system... It's like having roots on your roots. They give your root zone you a lot more surface area to pull in nutrients from.

Most soil microbes act like a secondary digestive system for your plants. Some grab water and nutrients, and hold them in place until they're needed. Think of the sticky film on your teeth after a long night's sleep. That's the microbes.

If you're feeding with salt-based nutrients, these microbes will hold them in place until your plant can use them.

Other microbes help break down nutrients and make them more plant-available. Think about gut microbes and how they help you digest the food you eat. Many oil microbes do the same thing for your plants.

These microbes help your plants get the most out of any organic nutrients you might be using.

How to Get More Microbes Into Your Soil

New technology allows us to propagate soil microbes, much like brewer masters propagate yeast for beer. It's just a matter of selecting for the right ones.

You want a balanced mix of microbes for the style of plants that you're growing. You'll also want microbes bred for agriculture and horticulture use, specifically. For that, we recommend Recharge.

It's been the secret weapon used by commercial hemp growers since 2014. Now, the secret is out. Tomato and pepper growers are starting to use Recharge soil microbes, and seeing impressive results.

Once a week, you mix some Recharge in with your water, and pour it on your soil. The microbes go to work, growing bigger roots and getting more nutrients to your tomatoes.

Recap

There you have it. The three best ways to get better plants form your soil.

1.Use a Self Irrigating Planter system.

It's a much better way to water your plants that work with your soil, rather than having your soil work against you. I like the GroBuddy system from GroTech.

2.Add some Calcium to your soil.

This will help your plants build stronger cell walls, and prevent things like Blossom End Rot. You can use eggshells or crustacean meals like the one from Down To Earth.

3.Add some microbes to your soil.

They'll help your tomatoes get the most out of your soil. Your plants will grow stronger roots and absorb more nutrients. You'll get healthier plants and tastier tomatoes. We recommend using Recharge.

Make these three chances to your soil and you'll grow bigger, better tomatoes this growing season.

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