Growing your own tomatoes is something that a lot of people love best about the summer. After all, there’s nothing quite like taking a bite of a plump, juicy tomato that you grew yourself. But tomatoes don’t always come out perfect. If you notice that yours are coming out mealy or mushy, you’ll want to know why.
Mushy homegrown tomatoes can be caused by inconsistent watering, too much or a lack of nutrients, the type of tomato you choose to grow, the temperature you’re growing it in, and storage methods.
This article will explore why homegrown tomatoes can turn mealy, plus seven easy ways to stop this from happening.
Why tomatoes become mealy and how to prevent it
Here are the top causes of mealy homegrown tomatoes plus how to solve each one.
1. Inconsistent watering
Tomatoes need plenty of water to grow, but overwatering can cause them to turn mealy. The easiest thing to do is stick your finger into the soil about one inch deep. If it’s damp, no more water is needed.
If it’s dry, you should add more water from the bottom where the roots are. Usually, this means watering the plants every 2-3 days in summer and everyday as they are establishing often in the beginning.
Keep in mind that if you’re growing tomatoes in containers they can dry out quicker. Larger containers will stay moist for longer so choose a container as large as possible. Check the moisture level the soil regularly to make sur ethe tomatoes do not dry out.
2. Lack of nutrients and minerals
The levels of three main nutrients, nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, known as NPK will all influence the way that tomatoes grow. Too much nitrogen can cause excess leaf growth and small tomatoes. A lack of any nutrient or mineral such as calcium, sulfur, or magnesium can cause the fruit to turn mealy.
Tomatoes will need a higher ratio of nitrogen during their first stage of growth and more phosphorus to form fruit as they get bigger. Give them some pelleted chicken manure when you first plant them out and then 4 weeks after. Give them a dose of fruit promoting fertilizer once they start to form flowers to help the fruit set and form.
Check the pH balance of the soil, it should be between 6.2 and 6.5.
3. Tomato type
There are some tomato varieties that are naturally more mealy than others. Some of these include pear and roma tomatoes. Smaller cherry tomatoes are great to grow if you have high rainfall as they grow small, juicy and will not be mealy. They can handle less consistent watering and are less likely to split.
The outdoor temperature and the temperature of the soil will impact how your tomatoes turn and whether or not they are mealy. That tomatoes love warm weather, so before you plant your seeds, make sure the soil temperature is at least 55 to 60 degrees Fahrenheit and the outdoor temperatures are a minimum of 60 degrees.
Once you plant your tomatoes, watch out for any cold spells and if that does happen, make sure protect your plants with such as a sheet or a piece of newspaper, shadecloth or plastic cover. When tomatoes get too cold, the fruit can break down and become mushy.
5. Tomato storage
Many people are unaware of this, but even if you end up with perfectly grown tomatoes, they can still get mealy if you don’t store them properly. While many people automatically place their tomatoes in the refrigerator, most experts recommend against this practice because tomatoes thrive in warm temperatures.
When tomatoes are placed in a cold environment, one of the chemicals in them disappears, and the result is a mushy tomato. Instead of putting your tomatoes in the refrigerator, place them stem-up in a basket or on your kitchen counter.
6: The first tomato harvest
If you’ve done everything right when growing your tomatoes and you still notice that they are mealy when they first bloom, be patient because sometimes it is only the first batch of the tomatoes that comes out mushy.
There are numerous tomatoes that start out mushy, but turn out just right starting with the second batch. This makes mealy tomatoes not that uncommon in some varieties, so don’t panic if the first batch of your tomatoes comes out a little on the mushy side.
7. Very hot weather
Tomatoes that get burnt or scorched in very hot weather can turn mealy or mushy. The sun can damage their skin and cause them to collapse and turn soft. When temperatures are above 100 degrees it is best to provide tomatoes with shade so their fruit is not damaged.
For on some great tomato varieties to grow at home, check out this video below.
Mealy tomatoes have a taste and texture that is different from a fresh, juicy tomato. Mealy tomatoes work well in stews and casseroles where they are cooked down and broken down, Put them in sauces to cook them and you won’t notice the mealy texture.
To avoid mealy tomatoes plant them when the weather is warm, avoid mealy tomato varieties like Romas, water them consistently and maintain good nutrient levels in the soil. Mealy or mushy tomatoes that are homegrown will still taste delicious and are always going to be better than store bought.
I am an accredited practicing dietitian, experienced gardener and a dedicated cook. I love writing and sharing my experience so you can learn from my successes and mistakes.