Southern organic gardeners are discovering what could be The Next Big Thing in tomatoes: grafting.
If you grow tomatoes, you know that it often seems nature conspires against you. If it’s not too much rain causing root rot, or too much heat causing flowers to fall off, or too much humidity causing blight, then it’s something else. This heat and humidity thing can make it almost impossible to grow tomatoes in the South some years, with disappointing harvests. (Nor are tomato problems confined to the South: Northeastern gardeners well remember the late blight fiasco of 2009 that decimated crops.)
But now, some gardeners are reporting great success by grafting new and tasty tomato varieties onto perhaps less tasty but more disease resistant root stocks.
Dr. Brian Baldwin and Dr. Rick Snyder of Mississippi State University gave a hands-on workshop on tomato grafting at last November’s Mississippi Fruit & Vegetable Growers Conference. But it’s not just agricultural producers looking for greater yields and less disease who can benefit. In fact, grafting is tailor made for small gardeners who actually may enjoy “fussing” with their plants and even experimenting with new varieties.
Essentially, you are growing two different tomato plants on one stalk. You plant them the same, but once started, carefully cut off the tops and clip the variety you want to grow (the scion) onto the rootstock and plant that one in your garden. The result is a plant that had both qualities.
Try it! It may be “just the thing” for this year’s conditions.
Here’s a grafting “how to” from Johnny’s Select Seeds: johnnyseeds.com/Assets/Information/TomatoGrafting.pdf
Here’s a YouTube video from Ohio State University: youtube.com/watch?v=tHnOYcI6B44
Jim PathFinder Ewing is a journalist, author, writer, editor, organic farmer and blogger. His latest book titled Conscious Food: Sustainable Growing, Spiritual Eating (Findhorn Press) is in bookstores now. Find Jim on Facebook, follow him @edibleprayers or visit blueskywaters.com.