To Graft or Not to Graft

When the New York Times, which writes about gardening about as often as I write about dog grooming, writes about grafted tomatoes, you know we’re onto a trend here. But there it was, at the end of May–a 3 page (online) article about grafted tomatoes.

To be sure, they’re a little late to the game. Grafted tomatoes have been around for awhile. I grew my first last year one last year, and even then, I felt like I was getting into the game late.

Margaret Roach has been blogging about them for a couple of years now. They’re available in several widely respected mail order catalogs. Mine last year came from Territorial and the Times talks about White Flower Farm as well.

This year, I am trialing 3 different varieties for Harris seed. I am trialing heirloom grafted tomatoes next to ungrafted tomatoes to compare vigor, and yield, among other things. Harris recommended that I plant each variety side by side in the same bed, so I did. It’s going to be an interesting experiment, if my experience with last year’s grafted plants is any indication.

Last year, I ordered 1 plant from Territorial, a ‘Tomaccio’ cherry tomato. The only reason I ordered the plant was because I couldn’t get the seed, and to be honest, I didn’t realize it was a grafted plant when I ordered it.

It arrived about a foot tall with a tiny tomato already on it. I planted it and it took off! I think I was harvesting within 5 weeks or so–and every time I walked by the plant, I had dozens of cherry tomatoes to choose from to pop into my mouth. It was a fabulous experience.

The plant was $5.95 and shipping from the West Coast was as pricey as the tomato. It might be less so from an Eastern grower, although with gas prices, perhaps not.

Still, for someone with a very short growing season, this was absolute heaven. Tomatoes are the “holy grail’ for most gardeners and I know very few that don’t want them earlier.

That being said, I think it pays to concentrate on varieties that really produce, like smaller fruiting varieties. For me, ‘Brandywine’ has always given me about 3 tomatoes before frost. So even if the grafted variety doubles the output, what can I expect? 6? I’m hoping for better things from the ‘San Marzano’ that I’m growing. Time will tell.

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6 thoughts on “To Graft or Not to Graft

  1. I am aso growing 4 grafted tomatoes for the first year. They are growing like crazy, but so are my hybrids that I started from seed. I chose grafted heirlooms due to problems with wilt here and other issues with trying to grow heirlooms. Can’t wait to see how they all turn out.

  2. Donna,
    It’s interesting–last year the tomato I had from Territorial took off like wildfire. This year’s grafted tomatoes are keeping pace with the ungrafted–but we really haven’t had a lot of hot weather yet–just a couple of 90 degree days and not that many 80 degree days either–and way too much rain. So we’ll see. At least “mother nature” is doing the watering, I guess.

    Thanks for reading and sharing!

    Karla

  3. Thanks, Bridget. I had no choice of what they sent me, sadly. None of these would have been what I would have chosen. But heck, for free tomatoes, I’ll give it a go.

    Of course I planted the tomatoes I like as back-up. But with all our rain and cool temperatures this year, none of them are growing very fast so far. We’ll see.

    Maybe I need to try a poly-tunnel like you have. Of course, that would be the year we have 100 degree plus temperatures and I’d fry them!

    Thanks for reading and sharing!

    Karla

  4. I’ll be interested in how the experiment turns out. I am struggling with the idea of grafted vegetables, somehow it seems like such a huge amount of labout to create.(I know it isn’t really, but still!) I am getting the impression that they may be very useful, for, as you say, some types.

  5. I’m not sure this year is going to be the best test, because it’s been rainy and cool here so far and none of the tomatoes, grafted or not, are growing very much.

    But there’s quite a bit of my growing season left–after all, “summer” just started a week ago–so we’ll see.

    As I think I said in one of my comments above, had I been the one choosing, these varieties would not have been the ones I would have chosen–but I do still like the idea of the grafting for their disease-resistance. It may prove to be very useful I this wet year. Time well tell.

    Thanks for reading and commenting!

    Karla

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