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Grafting Tomatoes – Will It Work?

May 22nd, 2014

On Tuesday I grafted my first tomatoes. It should be an interesting experiment. The grafting seed stock was purchased earlier this spring and the seeds were started at the same time I started all of my tomatoes. You’re supposed to wait until your tomatoes have two sets of true leaves, which mine finally grew.
grafting tomatoes 4
grafting tomatoes 3
It’s really not difficult to graft tomatoes since tomatoes seem to want to live. I used this method from Herman’s Farm, I replanted a root grafting tomato and an heirloom tomato in the same pot. Then I simply cut the top off the grafting rootstock at a 45 degree angle and then cut a slit in the plant I wanted to graft and slid the rootstock stem up into the slit. I taped it with medical tape and in a week I’ll cut the stem of the heirloom tomato from the roots. Some methods have you cut the top off the heirloom tomato and graft it to the rootstock. This method seemed like I’d have better success for my first go at grafting.
grafting tomatoes 2
After grafting all of them I spritzed them with water and down into the basement on a heating mat they went to give them the warm dark environment they will need. I also put a clear plastic tote over them to hold in the moisture. They were left in darkness for a day and when I checked on them yesterday they had all perked up and looked great. Today the grow light will be turned on and hopefully they will start healing their wounds.
grafting tomatoes 1
I’m planning on planting these grafted tomatoes side by side with their own root counterparts in the garden. This will give me a good idea of how the grafting affected both disease resistance and fruit production. Stay tuned, it should be an interesting summer!

Are you doing any interesting garden experiments this summer?

11 Comments to “Grafting Tomatoes – Will It Work?”
  1. Lemongrass on May 22, 2014 at 5:39 am

    Have not trying grafting, but it is my list. I had two tomatoes seedlings that are getting too big for their containers, and need to put them in the ground. But, I am waiting for the rainy season to start. Yesterday I trim them to the first shoot, trim off some of the roots and re-potted them. That way I do not have to search for a larger pot to house them, while waiting for the rain.
    Will do some reading of grafting and prepare myself for the process. My did grafted a few mango and citrus trees when we were growing up, but I was too young to take not. Will be following your tomato-grafting-experiment.

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  2. Robin on May 22, 2014 at 7:15 am

    I tested grafted tomatoes for a seed company last year. They did produce considerably more and were last to succumb to late blight. I was skeptical but the results were great.

    Reply to Robin's comment

  3. Luci McKeown on May 22, 2014 at 8:05 am

    This, in my opinion, is EPIC! I didn’t know it was possible to graft tomatoes – though once you consider it, it doesn’t seem so far fetched. I will be watching this experiment with much interest!

    Reply to Luci McKeown's comment

  4. Texan on May 22, 2014 at 8:24 am

    I have not had time to read up on grafting tomatoes and the why its a good thing. I had seen them selling grafted tomatoes so knew of it. Will be interesting to see the results of this experiment.

    Reply to Texan's comment

  5. Andrea on May 22, 2014 at 8:45 am

    I am going to try this! What type of heirloom did you use and why? Was your root stock from a hybrid or a heartier heirloom? This is interesting. I’ve never tried it. I tried getting suckers to root in a bottle before taking them off the plant, but it didn’t work too well. Of course, that may have been my fault as I was not very diligent. I may try that again, too.

    Reply to Andrea's comment

    • Susy on May 22, 2014 at 9:55 am

      I used a variety of heirlooms: Principe Borghese, Brandywine, Cherokee Purple and Goldman’s Italian American. I used grafting rootstock from Territorial seed. This is how the rootstock I used is described “Territorial Exclusive! Vigorous and disease-resistant rootstock.
      SuperNatural® rootstock greatly boosts yield and vigor when grafted to either heirloom or hybrid tomato varieties. Its formidable resistance to a broad range of soil-borne diseases and nematodes keeps plants healthy and productive all season. It also increases plants’ tolerance to both cold and heat for an extended harvest. The same exclusive rootstock used for the Mighty ‘Mato™ line of grafted tomatoes, SuperNatural® is one of the only readily available rootstock seed that is untreated and suitable for certified organic production and always non-genetically modified. V, CR, FOR, F1, N, TMV.”

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  6. Nebraska Dave on May 22, 2014 at 9:35 am

    Susy, I understand the concept of grafting and I have heard of grafting tomatoes. To me it’s interesting the plants produce more from grafting. For now I’m sticking with the old traditional nature’s way of growing tomatoes. I’ll be interested to what your opinion is after the growing season is over.

    As for me, two experimental things going on. One is the rain gutter growing system and the other is the multilayer potato bed. So far the rain gutter with multilevel growing is coming along great. The automatic watering is working wonderfully well and the in the ground planting of cabbage, radishes, lettuce, and onions under the rain gutters are doing super. The potatoes are almost ready for the second level of planting. Only five out of the eight hills grew and one hill froze from the late frost. I’ll plant eight more hills on top the last planting and cover it up with eight inches more special growing soil. I was hoping for four layers of potatoes but it looks like I’m probably only going to get two or maybe three at most.

    Have a great grafting tomatoes and experimental gardening day.

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  7. Sara on May 22, 2014 at 10:14 am

    I have to admit I’ve been a little skeptical of the grafting idea, mostly because the descriptions are so superlative it reminds me of those ads in the back of magazines for “8 fruit trees in one!” And also just because tomatoes grow pretty darn well here, so it doesn’t seem worth it for me.

    BUT, I’m really glad gardeners I know (IRL and online) are trying it out because they will have a true perspective on it. And I can totally see how it could be useful in locations with climate/pest/disease issues, so I’m glad it’s catching on–’cause someday that could be me! Can’t wait to hear how it turns out.

    Reply to Sara's comment

  8. MN Reid on May 22, 2014 at 11:53 am

    I have not grafted, but planted a grafted Mortgage Lifter, and I guess the graft line got buried. I ended up with bland Roma type tomatas!

    It wasn’t in my budget this year to buy a grafted plant. I am looking forward to seeing the results. Next year I will have to try grafting myself.

    Reply to MN Reid's comment

  9. Kyle on May 22, 2014 at 12:10 pm

    I’ve got two experiments going. The first is a swale fed by one of my downspouts. I placed it in front of an area of my yard that I inherited with nothing but one plum tree that I think has brown rot. I’m trying to use the swale to provide sufficient moisture to replant this area with a loosely permaculture bent.

    The other experiment are two bastardized hugelkultur beds. The first blackberry canes (no roots) and some small branches mixed with some chicken manure and encased in straw. I needed to simultaneously heavily mulch to battle back the existing blackberry I pulled out of the ground while doing something with the canes. I created a next of potting soil and planted two sugar pie pumpkins. It’s either going to be great or a disaster…but no substantial loss either way.

    The second hugelkultur bed is filled with wheelbarrows of muck, leaves, and branches, hauled out of an abandoned pond I am restoring. I am much more optimistic about this bed taking off this year than the first one. I put in a chocolate cherry tomato and a summer squash.

    Nothing ventured, nothing gained!

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  10. bonnie knox on May 22, 2014 at 3:20 pm

    The plastic tote for maintaining humidity is a clever idea.

    Reply to bonnie knox's comment


This is a daily journal of my efforts to cultivate a more simple life, through local eating, gardening and so many other things. We used to live in a small suburban neighborhood Ohio but moved to 153 acres in Liberty, Maine in 2012.

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