DIY: Graft a Tomato
|Bigger and Better Cherry Tomatoes|
During past few years, seed companies introduced “ grafted tomatoes” that produce high yields and bigger sets of tomatoes. I came to know about grafted tomatoes from one of such seed catalogs from UK. I had to experiment so I watched several tutorials to learn how to graft my own tomatoes. Here is what I learned.
Stronger Roots, Better Harvest
Tomatoes are usually grafted on a plant with stronger root system this absorbs more nutrients from the soil and help tomatoes produce better fruits. Many heirloom seed savers also use this method for saving best seeds but commercially, seed companies and garden stores offer grafts on a hybrid rootstock that is grown for pest and disease resistance. I used OP Eggplant as a root stock for grafting Sungold Tomatoes.
Make a Top Graft
|(R) non-grafted Sungold Tomato plant; (L) Grafted Sungold Tomato Plant|
Making a top graft is generally very simple. You just need a little practice and a couple of extra seedlings!
It is important that the stems of your root stock and scion (tomato) stems have same diameters. Ideally, you should sow both plants at the same time. I started my tomato plants from seeds in late August 2012 and bought eggplant seedlings from Mom’s Garden, which were slightly bigger than my tomatoes. Make grafts when your plants have 2 sets of true leaves.
Use a sterilized razor to make a clean V cut on the scion stem just above the seed cover leaves. Quickly, insert this stem into a vertical cut made on the rootstock. Use a graft clip or a smooth string to keep it in place. Water your pots and cover it with a plastic bag to keep it humid. I placed my plants in shade for a week until the grafts were made. Use bamboo to support long stems.
If some of your plants wilt immediately, they dint make it. Be prepared for this. Always graft several seedlings at one time to cover for any losses.
Once your grafts are made, take your time to bring the plants back into the full sun. There is no need to remove the clip or the string at this stage.
Grafted vs Regular Tomato Plants
I wanted to learn if grafted tomatoes are really that impressive for this reason , I planted a plant of the same variety without grafting along with the grafted plant. It was very clear in just few days that the grafted tomato was growing faster and healthier. The leaves were bigger, greener and disease free while the non-grafted tomato had signs of an attack by leaf miner and the leaves were too small as compared to the grafted tomato. Grafted tomato also had thicker stem.
Grafted tomato produced first set of flowers sooner than the regular plant and produced fuller sets of fruits too. However, at one point, the grafted plant stopped growing taller, instead it became denser while the regular one, kept growing taller. After a week or two, it started growing again.
|Right: Grafted tomato; Left: regular tomato[ April 2013]|
Grafted tomato was almost double the size of the regular tomato and the plant kept fruiting till April 2012 that is 8 months!
I think, with better fruiting varieties I can get better yields. But so far, grafted tomatoes have impressed me by their super healthy leaves and bigger tomatoes.
Do grow some grafted tomatoes the next season and share your progress with us on our page Crops In Pots or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Happy Gardening !