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Planning for grafted tomatoes

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Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 2/8/2013, 4:08 pm

I just recently learned about grafted tomato plants from a number of seed catalogs that arrived in the mail this year. After last year's mediocre tomato season, I was intrigued by some of the claims and plan to try a couple in 2013. I did a little research on my own and posted an article on my blog here. Grafted tomatoes have long been used in the commercial sector and became available to home gardeners about 2011. From a search, I see furbalsmom was going to try them in 2011. I have seen other articles on the internet, but no one seems to follow through with actual results.

Since I am going to be growing these in a SFG, I have a couple of questions for which I am seeking advice now while I am doing my garden planning for 2013. The concept of grafted tomatoes is that a desired scion tomato is grafted onto vigorous, disease-resistant rootstock. The rootstock is said to produce 4-5 times the root mass of a conventional tomato. So much energy is put into the vines that they recommend training tomatoes to two leaders rather than one to absorb the vigor and avoid excess vegetative growth.

So, given the conventional SFG wisdom of one tomato per square trained to a single leader, what do you recommend I do with a grafted tomato plant? One square is not enough to accommodate the root structure and one trellis cord is not adequate to train two leaders. I am considering planting the tomato between two squares and training it up two trellis cords, assuming the roots will consume the adjacent two squares (where I might plant shallow rooted veggies that won't compete with the tomatoes). That means one tomato plant needs 4 squares in a bed. Any advice?

Note: I hope to monitor this thread but given that Nemo has arrived in NE, I may not be responsive if the power fails. The firewood is inside, LED lanterns are in place, the porta-potty is fueled up, but The Internet still depends on old fashioned electricity.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  camprn on 2/8/2013, 4:49 pm

Hi DV, I was wondering about your reasons for using the grafting technique... What variety are you grafting onto what rootstalk? Indeterminate? Determinate? I ask because my answer may vary with what you need to know and what you are planning on growing.


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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 2/8/2013, 5:16 pm

camprn,

I am planning to purchase grafted plants, I'm certainly not up to grafting my own plants yet! I will limit myself to indeterminate varieties so they can be trained up a trellis cord a la Mel. I am thinking of trying a Juliet and planting it next to an un-grafted Juliet for comparison. Another consideration is trying an heirloom such as Cherokee Purple to see if I get more production and disease resistance. Most of the plants available to me are produced by Log Cabin Plants, are grafted onto SuoerNaturals rootstock, and are sold through various retail seed companies (see my blog for more info).

--Dave

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  camprn on 2/8/2013, 5:34 pm

Well then, I would say every other square and checker board them through the bed. If you plant the stems deeply or lay them horizontally when you transplant them you will have more root growth and a more vigorous vines. If you are going with two lead vines of an indeterminate type tomato you have plenty of space above. Because of the brilliant root growth I would suggest that and underplanting be minimal, such as a few basil plants or a few garlic. The tomato roots will need all that space and nutrition from the compost in the mix.

I have a friend that grafts plants at a local organic farm. She likes her results.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 2/9/2013, 12:15 pm

camprn, that's basically what I planned to try. In the case of Juliet, which is already a prolific producer and fairly disease resistant, I will plant a grafted Juliet on the line between two squares and plan for the root mass to occupy those two squares and the two adjacent squares in the next row. Then I will prune to two leaders and train them up two cords. I'm going to have to count and weigh the fruit from the grafted plant to compare it with what I get from an un-grafted plant. I better get at least twice, if not more, fruit from the grafted plant.

By the way, you can't follow the traditional planting technique for tomatoes with grafted plants. You must keep the grafted joint above the soil level to keep the scion from sending out roots and negating the benefit of your $8 plant.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  johnsonjlj on 2/9/2013, 9:36 pm

If you are worried about the ability of the trellis cord to handle the extensive growth of the grafted tomato, have you considered using a cattle panel and trellising it? These are strong and the metal used to make the panel is very smooth.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 2/10/2013, 7:45 am

I wasn't thinking of the weight of the fruit and vines being a problem, but if you believe the photos they print of grafted tomatoes, it could very well be. Thanks, I'll keep the cattle panel idea as a backup in case I'm buried in tomatoes. I hope that's the case.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  camprn on 2/21/2013, 8:18 am

More about grafted tomato plants from Margaret Roach. She has some good informational links in the body of the blog post.
http://awaytogarden.com/tomato-grafting-a-tactic-for-heirloom-success

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There are certain pursuits which, if not wholly poetic and true, do at least suggest a nobler and finer relation to nature than we know. The keeping of bees, for instance. ~ Henry David Thoreau

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 2/21/2013, 8:57 pm

Good link, camprn. That Ohio State video shows a third method for grafting tomatoes, not that I ever plan to try it. I have trouble simply growing healthy transplants. The Tomatoville.com forum, however, has lots of people talking about doing their own grafts. Grafted tomatoes obviously work for greenhouse growers or they would not waste their time. But I have yet to find a home gardener (much less an SFG gardener) who reports actual results. If I do this, I promise I will provide some feedback. And thanks for reminding me I need to order my plants. Right now, I'm still obsessing about getting my onion seeds planted.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  Boz on 2/21/2013, 10:18 pm

Not sure about this site but I did order one kit.
http://betterheirlooms.com/

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 2/22/2013, 7:51 am

Boz, I have looked at that site. They repackage supplies into smaller quantities for home growers, which makes it affordable to try grafting. If you care about things Monsanto, note that the Maxifort rootstock seeds they sell are produced by a Monsanto subsidiary, as are Multifort, Beaufort and Cheong Gong. Johnny's sells organic rootstock seeds called Estamino, but in 50 seed quantities for $27.50. You can get the same seeds at High Mowing in a 10-seed packet which makes it more affordable.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  Boz on 2/22/2013, 8:12 am

Thanks for the info on High Mowing

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  RoOsTeR on 2/22/2013, 9:12 am

Be sure to keep us posted and how it goes Boz

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  Boz on 2/22/2013, 9:23 am

will do Rooster

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  yolos on 2/22/2013, 12:36 pm

camprn wrote:More about grafted tomato plants from Margaret Roach. She has some good informational links in the body of the blog post.
http://awaytogarden.com/tomato-grafting-a-tactic-for-heirloom-success

I clicked on some of the links in this article and the videos were very informative. - Thank you.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 5/16/2013, 1:15 pm

My Mighty 'Mato plants from Garden Life arrived yesterday, right on schedule. They are shipped in a cardboard box with a plastic insert holding 3 tomatoes.



The insert holds and protects the plants, which are identified with little plant stakes that can be used when setting out the transplants.



When you unsnap and unfold the bottom of insert, the three plants are folded up inside. They are dry and a bit wilted. I assume they withhold water for a few days before shipping so the plants can be folded up without snapping. The instructions say to soak in water for 5-10 minutes to re-hydrate them. The soil ball is contained by a spun-bond fabric that they claim is bio-degradable.



After soaking the plants, I potted them into 18 ounce plastic cups with McEnroe organic potting mix. They are sitting in a shady spot for a few days before they go out in the sun. It will be a few weeks before they can go into the garden, so that will give them a chance to recover from their journey. Below is the Big Beef grafted tomato (on the right), next to its competitor, an ungrafted Big Beef from a local garden enter. Looks like an unfair competition, but the grafted tomato is supposed to have the advantage of its vigorous rootstock. Time will tell.


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