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Garden Newsletter: Split Tomatoes and Green Tomatoes

Our backyard garden looks pretty wild these days. The timed drip irrigation has really helped. We had to increase the watering frequencies given the scant rainfall these past two weeks. What’s that joke…?

“It was so dry we saw two trees fighting over a dog.” ūüėĄ

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With these dry spells comes the prospect of bad things happening to tomatoes when we do get a big rain. Our “perfect” unripe tomatoes can only handle so much water before the tomatoes split into cracks. As tomatoes approach maturity the skin becomes more fragile and more tightly stretched. So they split and crack which often invites intruders like ants to access the soft interior.

As tomatoes approach maturity the skin becomes more fragile and more tightly stretched.

Cracked and Split Tomatoes

Ripening Tomatoes

What to do? Some gardeners pick their ripe and trending ripe tomatoes before a big rain. Others wait to see the effects and then pick the damaged ones. It’s best not to leave split or deeply cracked tomatoes on their vines because opportunistic pests like insects and fungi can move in and make the fruits inedible. If picked early, at least you have a complete fruit that can be coaxed into ripening.

It’s best not to leave split or deeply cracked tomatoes on their vines.

There are many approaches to ripening tomatoes. Among these methods are: leaving them on the windowsill exposed to light, wrapping individual tomatoes in newspaper and storing in a box, or pulling up the entire plant and hanging it by the roots from a rafter.  1)

Methods for Ripening Tomatoes

  • Place on a windowsill exposed to light
  • Wrap individual tomatoes in newspaper and store in a box
  • Pull up entire plant and hang it upside down
Female Squash Flower Blooming

Green Tomatoes

You can also use the green tomatoes to make salsa verde, chutney, or a mess of fried green tomatoes. There’s some controversy over the safety of eating green tomatoes. From what we gleaned, green tomatoes are safe to consume if they are cooked. Raw green tomatoes can be toxic. So take those green tomatoes and cook them some way. Here’s a good way.

Raw green tomatoes can be toxic, so be sure to cook them.

Roasted Green Tomato and Pepitas Salsa Recipe
Serves 4

5 medium green tomatoes, quartered
1/2 large yellow onion, cut into large cubes
1 jalapeno, seeded and sliced
1/2 tsp salt
Olive oil spray
2 1/2 Tbsp lime juice
1/4 cup salted roasted pepitas

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. ¬†Spray a baking sheet with olive oil spray. ¬†Place tomato quarters, onion and jalape√Īo onto the baking sheet. ¬†Spray with olive oil spray, then sprinkle with salt. ¬†Bake for 20 minutes, or until the edges of tomatoes and onions turn lightly brown. ¬†Remove from oven.

Place contents of baking sheet into a large food processor and add lime juice and pepitas.  Mix until a smooth puree is formed, adding additional salt as needed to taste.  Place in refrigerator for 2-24 hours prior to serving to enhance flavors. This recipe is from Eat 80 20.

Staking Tomato Plants

Our Tomato Jungle with Bamboo Props

In an earlier article, we covered pruning and found there’s a trade-off between pruning and the quantity of tomatoes. This season, we’re pruning a few “suckers” off our tomatoes, but we’re also letting the plants go a little “wild”. Typically we prune more. This year we’re leaving a lot more stems on to see if it produces more fruit, and so far it certainly looks that way.

To keep fruit laden branches from flopping over and breaking, we’re setting up bamboo supports wherever needed thus allowing more tomato foliage and (we expect) more tomatoes.. This array of props definitely gives an organic look to our tomato jungle.

Heirloom Tomatoes Are Delicious but…

We lost a tomato plant to sudden wilt from the base to the tip. It’s likely the fungus, fusarium, due to the hot temps. We extracted the sick plant completely and put it on our burn pile a good stone’s throw away. So far, the surrounding plants are OK. We really enjoy the heirloom tomatoes, but be forewarned, they don’t have the VFNT (Verticillium, Fusarium, Nematode, Tobacco mosaic) resistance found in many hybrid tomatoes.

Heirloom tomatoes are not as pest and disease resistance.

Container Growing Purple Beans

We experimented this year with growing beans in containers. The containers are salvaged terra cotta flue tiles. We coated them with white latex to keep them cooler, filled them 3/4 full of garden dirt/compost mix and planted 3 Purple Tee Pee beans in each. Bamboo poles were stuck deep into the dirt and tied off at the top to form a tee pee.

Purple Beans and Blossoms – Image by

We’ve found that bush beans don’t really stand up to being bushes and harvesting can be a challenge as the plants flop over. So we tried this trick. The tee pee containers have done quite well and have yielded an amazing quantity for the size and number of plants.

Bush beans aren’t really bush-like.

Our purple beans potted and supported with bamboo teepee – image by

Container Growing Squash

We had extra zucchini plants and had just cleared out all the spinach in two large containers. So, why not try growing summer squash in pots? Since zukes tend to form a cluster, they’re not likely to range far. We walk right by them numerous times a day making it easy to inspect and treat any issue as needed. So far, so good. Looks like we’ll have some zuke “spaghetti” before long.

Zukes in a pot

That’s a wrap for our garden report. But before heading out the door, here’s a short video of our resident hummingbird.

Ruby Throat Hummingbird Female

This little girl appears to be a ruby-throated hummingbird, but, of course, the male has all the vivid coloring.


Have you anything to share about tomato gardening? How about growing squash or beans in containers? You can post comments and/or photos up on our Facebook page, or send us an email. We love to hear from you and learn what you’re doing and your wins and lessons.

May your gardens flourish and your harvests be bountiful, and when you look upon your little Eden, may you see that it is good.
~Coleman Alderson,


Tally hoe!

~ Coleman for

Keep on Growing!

Coleman Alderson

G. Coleman Alderson is an entrepreneur, land manager, investor, gardener, and author of the novel, Mountain Whispers: Days Without Sun. Coleman holds an MS from Penn State where his thesis centered on horticulture, park planning, design, and maintenance. He’s a member of the Phi Kappa Phi Honor Society and a licensed building contractor for 27 years. “But nothing surpasses my 40 years of lessons from the field and garden. And in the garden, as in life, it‚Äôs always interesting because those lessons never end!‚ÄĚ Coleman Alderson

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