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Herald staff | jloerch@heraldnet.com
Published: Tuesday, May 8, 2012, 9:51 a.m.

With tomatoes, grafting can make magic happen

  • Ezra's Organic Tomatoes

    Ezra's Organic Tomatoes

Yes, I am disseminating more info on growing tomatoes. One might wonder why I would go to such lengths for a fruit like tomatoes (my former father-in-law referred to them as poison apples and my oldest son still prefers not to eat them) but the simple fact is that there is nothing quite as delectable as a home grown tomato, especially considering that most of what we have to buy in the store are greenhouse grown and are tasteless. Case closed.

So, with all the hoopla about tomato greenhouses and red plastic on the ground and growing in black plastic pots I thought I would throw in one more consideration, that being grafted tomatoes. Yes, they graft tomatoes and in fact I believe they are now also grafting eggplant and peppers and who knows what else. What, you might exclaim, is the point of grafting tomatoes?

Well, it turns out there are some very good reasons for grafting vegetables just like there are good reasons for grafting fruit trees. The magic is all in the root stocks. Breeders find “wild” tomato plants that have a very vigorous rate of growth and good disease resistance but lousy fruit. When they graft a favorite variety like our good old Early Girl onto one of these wild root stocks magical things happen. The Early Girl plant grows several times faster, withstands colder temperatures, has better disease resistance and in the end produces 4-5 times as much fruit. What's not to like about them apples?

While most of us are fairly successful with the standard varieties like Early Girl and Oregon Spring and most of the cherries, growing a good old beefsteak variety is another story. Most of the time these larger varieties and especially all the exotic heirloom varieties turn out to be disappointing. By late September we are looking at a vine loaded with beautiful green tomatoes that never ripen up. Grafted tomatoes have the potential to change all that or at least that is what they claim.

You can currently find these grafted tomatoes under two different labels. Mighty-Mato is one of them and Ezra's Organics is the other. Both of these companies graft an assortment of varieties onto their root stocks so be sure and take a close look at the variety when you purchase one. Ezra's Organics has done a superlative job with their packaging and their website and you will find a wealth of information about how they create these plants and how we should grow them. I highly recommend a visit to their site.

One major difference with grafted tomatoes is in how we plant them. Traditionally, when I plant a tomato I bury it several inches deeper than it was growing in the pot. This allows the plant to produce more roots. Sometimes gardeners will even lay their tomatoes down horizontally and bury all but the very growing tip. But with grafted tomatoes it is important not to do this so that the only roots on the tomato are coming from the grafted root stock. Look for the graft union near the soil line and be sure and keep it above ground level. Other than that, growing grafted tomatoes is the same except you may need to give them some extra room to accommodate their vigor.

I guess there is one more minor difference with grafted tomatoes. They can be quite a bit more expensive but when you consider that you may realize 4-5 times the harvest then it's not a bad return on your investment. Live dangerously and give one a try this season.

You can reach me with your questions on my website at www.sunnysidenursery.net.
Story tags » Gardening

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