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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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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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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  llama momma on 5/16/2013, 4:28 pm

Amazing to see the way it was shipped, thanks for those pictures. I babied my maters from seed and worried and fussed as they sat on shelves! Never again. And here those babies were yanked out, packaged up, and knocked around in shipping, hmm. I would not have guessed they were that tough.
It will be very interesting to see the production results, I'll be watching for this thread closely.
Best wishes!

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Very fascinating information

Post  Windmere on 5/16/2013, 4:35 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

That was extremely fascinating. Thanks so much for posting this camprn. I actually winced a bit and when saw the tomatoes sliced with razors!

I do not feel capable of doing this myself. I think grafting is a skill to acquire down the line for me.

I also winced when I saw the price of Beaufort tomato seeds. 50 seeds for 20.95 Oh my! Too expensive an experiment for me at this time. However, I am very interested in purchasing just a few grafted tomatoes. I am growing Black Krim heirlooms. My neighbor down the street has told me he has had very little luck with heirlooms, so I am a bit nervous about my success.

Oh well, it's all a learning experience isn't it?

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  bwaynef on 5/17/2013, 9:53 am

@dvelten wrote: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.

Why would additional roots be problematic? You'd still have the rootstock roots, but you'd gain additional (if less vigorous) roots with whatever their nutrient/water uptake abilities are.

(I could see it being a problem if the graft isn't completely healed and could introduce the possibility of rot at the graft site, but I'd imagine the danger of that would be past once the plants are able to be shipped.)

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 5/17/2013, 2:20 pm

One of the main reasons for grafting tomatoes is resistance to soil borne disease. Rootstock is specially bred for its resistance to soil-borne disease and its vigor, not for the quality of its fruit. If the scion is allowed to root, it loses the disease resistance of the rootstock and you have now negated the benefits of grafting. In addition, the grafted joint is essentially a wound and burying it in soil may allow other diseases and infection to enter the plant through the wound.

The additional roots would not be a benefit anyway because the rootstock is so vigorous. The claim is that a grafted tomato will have 3-4 times the root mass of a conventional tomato. It has so much vigor that they recommend training to two leaders to absorb the energy being pumped up the stem so you get fruit and not just rampant vegetative growth.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  bwaynef on 5/19/2013, 8:54 am

Thanks! Since I'm not interested in grafted tomatoes, I completely forgot about the added disease-resistance of the rootstocks. Thanks for pointing that out!

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 6/3/2013, 10:23 pm

Last Tuesday I planted my tomatoes, including the Mighty 'Mato grafted tomatoes. The grafted tomatoes were potted up when they arrived and perked up considerably. They got a little leggy while waiting for the wild weather to settle down, but are in the ground now.

The photo below shows a grafted Big Beef tomato on the left and the ungrafted one on the right. The grafted tomato looks a little puny compared to the ungrafted one.



Again, the grafted Juliet tomato is on the left below, with the ungrafted plant on the right.



Finally, the grafted Cherokee Purple tomato, below.



I had to be careful when transplanting the grafted tomatoes to keep the graft above soil level. In addition, I tied the plants to some small bamboo rods to protect the grafts from excessive flexing in the wild winds we are sometimes still getting.

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  Dunkinjean on 6/3/2013, 10:34 pm

I purchased one grafted tomato plant - Rutgers.
It's funny since I am from NJ and never knew the Rutgers Tomato was grafted. It will not get as big or tall as my other tomatoes.
I am excited to see how it does. Very Happy

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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  dvelten on 6/10/2013, 11:57 am

My grafted tomatoes are doing well and catching up with their ungrafted competitors. I have carefully been checking the graft to make sure it stays above soil level. You can see from the photo below why I have to be vigilant. It's a little out of focus but what you are looking at is a mass of roots that have grown out of the scion end of the graft, reaching for soil. I have to make sure they don't reach their goal or risk losing the disease resistance of the rootstock.


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Re: Planning for grafted tomatoes

Post  llama momma on 6/10/2013, 4:49 pm

Have you thought of putting a collar of cardboard around the stem? I'd be nervous otherwise having to check it all the time. Just a thought. The plant is looking really good so far. I enjoyed the update!

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