Nothing beats growing tomatoes in your garden. For most gardeners, the joy of summer is waiting to pick and eat their tomato harvest. But sometimes, the long-awaited first bite can be a disappointment-mealy. So most gardeners are asking, why are my tomatoes mealy?
Tomato plant stress, such as extreme heat, overwatering, and insufficient nutrients, cause mealy tomatoes. Excess nitrogen and low potassium are a high risk to tomatoes being mealy. But, you can prevent it by growing tomatoes in the best conditions, like adequate space for deep root growth.
It’s hard to spot mealy tomatoes just by sight. In most cases, it takes a bite or a slice to notice a different texture.
Here’s all you should know about mealy tomatoes. Read to the end.
Why Are My Tomatoes Mealy?
Growing your tomatoes in poor conditions makes them mealy. The most common causes include imbalanced nutrients, excess heat, under and over-watering, extreme heat, and poor spacing.
Mealy tomatoes have soft flesh with a unique texture that is somehow grainy. Usually, the grainy texture occurs when the tomato plant converts its sugar into starch.
The grainy texture is not harmful but edible though not fresh and juicy as you’d like. Plus, it feels crumbly but not crispy when you bite through. Mealy tomatoes are alright when cooked because you’ll hardly notice the texture.
It’s also vital to note that tomatoes become mealy right from the vine. So, it’s a condition that you have no control over once you harvest your tomatoes.
What Causes A Mealy Tomato?
A stressed tomato plant produces mealy tomatoes. Usually, tomato plants’ poor growing conditions result in anything but not desired juicy and tasty fruits. The best way to prevent a mealy tomato is to know what causes it in the first place.
If you harvest mealy tomatoes, it would be best to do tissue testing. Testing a plant sample helps reveal the exact cause through the elimination process.
Ruling out different growing conditions allows you to remain with a possible cause. For instance, if it’s not a mineral or water problem, then most likely, it’s a temperature issue.
Let’s look at how different growing conditions cause mealy tomatoes.
Undeniably, poor soil conditions cause mealy tomatoes.
Plant your tomato plants in well-aerated loose soil. Tomatoes grow well in acidic soil; otherwise, you need to boost the acidity.
Before planting your tomatoes, ensure you test the soil using soil test kits. Break the soil and add suitable fertilizers before planting to ensure it gains adequate nutrients.
Overwatering your tomato plants is very easy. When it’s hot, gardeners tend to overwater the tomatoes to maintain hydration, not knowing they could be overwatering the plants.
First, feel the soil at the base of the plant and ensure it’s moist and not muddy. Also, look for any discoloration of the leaves to yellow.
Preferably, a slow irrigation system that waters the plant only at the base would prevent overwatering.
Similar to overwatering, it’s also very easy to underwater. Most gardeners find it hard to provide a perfect moisture balance for their tomato plants, perhaps because of busy schedules.
Drip irrigation would also help in this situation to ensure the moisture level is steady throughout the growth of tomatoes. You can still decide to water the plants frequently by setting a timeline and adhering to it.
Furthermore, remember that potted tomato plants dry out faster. Preferably, plant your tomatoes in a large container because it stays moist for longer. Above, make it a habit to check the moisture levels regularly to avoid dehydration.
A plant grows well depending on the appropriate levels of nutrients and minerals- nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium, sulfur, calcium, and magnesium. In the case of inadequate nutrients or minerals, the fruit will likely become mealy.
Among other nutrients, nitrogen is the most important for tomato plant growth. With adequate nitrogen, the plant grows healthy roots, stalks, and leaves.
However, excess nitrogen levels cause poor fruit production. Feeding your tomato plant nitrogen during the flowering and fruiting stages would be best. Ensure the soil, too, gets adequate nitrogen.
But, there are natural nitrogen sources if you don’t want to use chemicals. You can incorporate manure and bone meal in the soil from garden stores or still make your manure.
The best time to grow tomatoes is in summer. Though they love heat, extreme heat is not ideal for the best growth. When it’s scorching, your tomato plants struggle to survive and produce mealy fruits.
You can cover your tomatoes with a shade cloth to protect them from the excess heat. The shade cloth is readily available in many garden stores. Ideally, a temperature of 50 to 85 degrees is appropriate to grow tomatoes.
Also, don’t forget to mulch as it prevents moisture loss.
Why Are My Homegrown Tomatoes Mushy?
Like any other plant, homegrown tomatoes require the best-growing conditions like adequate watering, best storage methods, an ideal variety, and patience.
You may also ask, why are my homegrown tomatoes floury?
Weather and water play a significant role in growing tomatoes. Taking too long to ripen causes the sugar to turn into starch, while too much or too little causes the mushy or floury effect in the fruits.
Some tomato varieties are naturally prone to mealy, such as the Beefsteak. The cherry variety likes heavy rainfall to ensure they are juicy and not turn mealy. The cherry can stay longer without watering and won’t split like other types.
Still, those vulnerable to being mealy don’t mean that all of them should turn. But, they are more likely to be mealy if the growing conditions are not favorable.
In most cases, watering is the main issue. It would be best to adapt to a deep watering schedule after three days instead of watering daily.
Tomatoes turn mealy from the vine that is before you harvest. But, your ideally harvested tomatoes can still get mealy if you store them poorly. After harvest, ensure your tomatoes don’t over-ripen.
Many people store their tomatoes in the refrigerator. This is not advisable because tomatoes don’t do well in cool temperatures in growth and storage. Why is that?
The cold condition below 50 or 55 degrees F. eliminates pectin, a chemical that helps to ripen. Without pectin, the tomato turns mushy even though it lasts longer. Putting your tomatoes in an open basket on your kitchen counter would be best.
Refrigerating the tomatoes also destroys the flavor.
Even after you ensure ideal growing conditions, it’s still possible to get mushy tomatoes. Sometimes, the first bloom that you’ll harvest can be mealy.
But, be patient because it might only be the first harvest with a problem. Though strange, it happens for most tomato varieties and gets better from the second harvest.
Usually, your homegrown tomatoes become mushy because of high nitrogen and low potassium.
Preferably, appropriate nitrogen levels should be 4 to 5.5%. When the nitrogen is high, the flowers fail to bloom, and the leaves overgrow.
Also, low levels of potassium cause poor fruit development. Potassium should be about 4 to 7%.
Conversely, extreme heat can cause mushy tomatoes. Ensure you also space your tomatoes while planting. This way, the roots have enough room to grow deeper and reach for nutrients.
How Do I Know If I Overwatered My Tomatoes?
Overwatering a plant gives it more water than it requires. Usually, overwatering tomatoes has a clear impact on the plant and the surrounding soil. You can tell overwatered tomatoes by the following signs;
First signs include leaves with bumps and blisters and also cracked fruits. If the gardener misses this sign and continues to water the plant, the leaves with bumps or blisters start to discolor.
Also, the roots start to rot and die. Because they are drowning in excess water, the roots stop taking in more water that reaches the stem and leaves.
Meanwhile, the stem and leaves start to yellow and become weaker. In the end, the stems can’t support the plant anymore, making it collapse and die.
Still, if you water and a puddle remain on the soil surface long after watering, you are likely overwatering. Still, the squishy or wet feeling of soil to the touch shows that you are overwatering.
So, what should you do?
If you act promptly, you can save your overwatered tomato plants. For potted tomato plants, you need to remove the soaked compost from the plant.
Use three newspapers to hold the root area, drawing out excess moisture. Then, plant the plant in a sizeable pot that fits the roots and has enough space for fresh compost.
Cover a transparent plastic sheet to prevent more rain if your tomato plants are outside and prolonged heavy rainfall causes overwatering. Remove the cover after the rain stops.
Why are my tomatoes mealy? A sure way to determine the cause is to do a tissue test. Also, testing the soil before planting is the first step in ensuring ideal growing conditions.
Mealy tomatoes are not harmful but edible. Preferably, you can make meals that don’t require too much stew, like spaghetti sauce or salads.
But, you can implement the above remedies to different causes to ensure you harvest the juiciest and sweetest tomatoes from the first bite.