After patiently cultivating tomatoes, it’s concerning when the fruit is hollow! Find out the common causes of hollow tomato plants.
Sliced stuffer tomato cultivar with hollow tomato fruit....PROCEED.FULL.READING>>>
Tomatoes are a popular choice for home gardeners! After planting tomato seeds, scrumptious tomatoes are usually ready to harvest 52 to 90 days later. So, after carefully cultivating tomato plants, and looking forward to a bumper crop, it’s disappointing to slice into a fresh tomato only to find it hollow inside! Several factors cause the fruit on your tomato plants to form hollow cavities. Find out the culprit behind your hollow tomatoes, and get tips on how to avoid empty tomato fruit.
There Was a Lack of Pollination
Bee pollinating a tomato plant
When tomato flowers don’t self-pollinate correctly, the fruit develops puffiness or a hollow cavity. Tomato puffiness makes them look like bell peppers. A puffy tomato will develop normally on the outside until you cut into it. Then, the inside looks empty, similar to how a bell pepper forms.
Tomato plants are self-pollinating. That means each flower contains both a male, stamen, and female, pistil, part. For pollination to successfully occur, the pollen has to move from the anthers, where the stamen produces pollen, to the pistil that rests below.
When wind and pollinators like bees move the bloom and its pollen, it promotes self-pollination in the flower and prompts the fruit to set or begin developing. If the flowers have low-quality pollination, due to unfavorable temperatures or improper fertilizing, it impacts yield.
Temperatures Influence Pollination
When it’s unseasonably hot or cold, pollination suffers. Chilly temperatures below 55 degrees Fahrenheit, stunt tomato plants and reduce the fertility of the pollen. Then, sizzling heat waves also cause problems. As temperatures reach 88 or 90 degrees Fahrenheit, high heat prompts flowers to fall off before pollination.
Excessive Nitrogen Fertilizer Prompts Flower Drop
As well as temperature, improper fertilizing practices are also detrimental to fruit set in tomato plants. Nitrogen (N) is essential for healthy green foliage in tomato plants. When tomato plants experience nitrogen deficiency, the whole plant changes colors from brilliant green to yellow.
However, overfertilizing with nitrogen encourages rapid foliage growth and spurs blossoms to drop, reducing pollination. Avoid the problem by fertilizing tomatoes properly. Wait for the first fruits, then, apply ½ cup of 46-0-0 fertilizer for every 100 feet of tomato plants, in a 6-inch strip beside them. Place the fertilizer directly on the soil, 4 to 6 inches away from the base of your plants (to prevent fertilizer burn), and work it in by using a trowel to scrape the soil’s surface.
After fertilizing, water the soil with 1 inch of water, if it doesn’t rain. Tomato plants benefit from 1 inch of water per week. If your soil has a sandy texture, it should feel moist 10 inches deep, and if it’s heavier, like clay, you should feel moisture 6 inches down.
You’re Growing Stuffer Tomatoes
Stuffed tomatoes for baking
Don’t forget to check the type of tomatoes you are cultivating. ‘Yellow Stuffer,’ ‘Red Stuffer,’ and ‘Green Stuffer,’ are all tomato varieties that naturally produce hollow tomato fruit. When you cut into a stuffer tomato it looks like someone came by and scooped the seeds right out! They’re a great choice if you enjoy stuffing tomatoes for recipes and baking them. So, if you are growing stuffer tomatoes and the inside is empty, it’s a good sign that your tomato is growing properly.
Your Tomato Plant Has a Rot Infection
Rotting tomatoes on the vine
If the inside of your tomato plant’s stems are hollow, it’s worrisome. Hollow stems are a sign that tomato pith necrosis or soft rot bacteria (Pectobacterium carotovorum) or (Erwinia carotovora subsp. carotovora) are infecting your tomato plant. Soft rot bacteria flourish when weather conditions are mild and rainy, so they often infect plants during the spring.
Symptoms of Bacterial Soft Rot
Watch for signs of infection, like brown or black patches that form around the stem near the leaves or around the base of the plant. As the bacteria spread, water patches can also develop on the fruit, making it smell like rotting produce as it decomposes inside.
Advancing bacteria then take over the inner portion of the stems, resulting in symptoms such as stems that appear to shrink or sink inwards. Then, the entire tomato plant may wilt, as the stems get increasingly hollow and lose the ability to provide adequate support.
Managing Soft Rot in Tomatoes
Soft rot bacteria flourish in spring, so sometimes, as temperatures warm the plant can recover. Support recovery by irrigating the soil near the base of the plant. Watering your tomato plants encourages healing by replacing the water the plant lost as a result of the infection. However, if the plant dies, make sure to completely remove it from your vegetable garden, so you can reduce the risk of it spreading.
Prevent Soft Rot
Soft rot bacteria is tricky to get rid of because it can live in the soil for up to three years. Avoid a recurring infection by rotating your crops (planting a different type of vegetable) in that section of your garden next planting season.
Then, pick a different spot for your tomatoes. Leave 3 feet of room between them to boost airflow, and reduce the risk of the bacteria spreading during spring rain. Soft rot bacteria also prefer cool weather, so avoid infection in the first place by waiting until soil temperatures are a minimum of 55 degrees Fahrenheit before sowing seeds outdoors.
Crack the Case of Hollow Tomatoes
If your tomato plants are hollow it’s important to identify what’s causing the problem! Some cultivars are naturally empty like ‘Yellow Stuffer’ or ‘Red Stuffer’ tomatoes, and there’s no need to worry. However, it can indicate problems with pollination or a bacterial soft rot infection. Reduce the chance of pollination problems by fertilizing properly. Then, sow tomato seeds when it’s at least 55 degrees Fahrenheit to lower the risk of bacterial soft rot damaging plants.
How do you treat and prevent hollow tomatoes? Share your tips and tricks in the comments below to help gardeners keep their plants healthy!
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