Grafted Tomatoes

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Right now grafted tomatoes are the newest, hottest trend among tomato enthusiasts. Why the fuss? It’s all about the yield. Plant for plant, a grafted tomato will out-perform a traditional tomato seedling of the same variety. Depending on the cultivar, the improvement can range from a 30% to a 50% greater yield. For small space gardeners, a tomato with more fruit per square foot is compelling.

Grafted tomatoes are built much like any other grafted plant. The top of a desired variety is mated to a rootstock selected for its high performance and disease resistance. Once this is done, the top inherits the strengths of its new roots. For example, Brandywine is a tasty variety that is prone to several soil diseases. A grafted Brandywine is like a turbo Brandywine: the same fruit but a whole lot more of it.

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Strengthened disease resistance is an important selling point because most home gardeners plant their tomatoes in the same place year after year, setting the stage for soil diseases. Rotating tomatoes to a different location every year would solve the problem, but is not always possible in a home garden. Grafted tomatoes will perform better under such conditions.

Another key selling point is the ability to try different varieties in a limited space. Customers often pick up a six-pack of tomatoes because they want one or two plants, then feel guilty throwing out the rest of the tray. With grafted tomatoes, they can purchase a cherry, a sauce, a beefsteak and an heirloom—expecting generous output from each within a limited garden space.

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True, grafted tomatoes are more expensive by their very nature. However, they reward tomato enthusiasts by fruiting earlier, fruiting in hotter weather, and lasting deeper into the season before exhaustion strikes.

It all comes back to the root. A typical tomato root ball might be three or four feet in diameter. A grafted tomato, because the rootstock was selected for vigor, might have a root ball six to eight feet in diameter. All those nutrients plus water help to feed a very hungry tomato plant.

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Pick up some trays to offer to your customers—especially if your center is bustling with vegetable gardeners. Here are a couple of tips you can pass along to improve their end results:

Tip #1: Keep the graft above the soil. We don’t want roots from the top stock to develop—it will negate the advantages of the expensive rootstock.

Tip #2: Prune heavily. Grafted tomatoes thrive under the knife because it diverts energy from the leaves to the tomatoes. These are very, very vigorous plants.

We’ve added six varieties to our new line of grafted tomatoes:

  • Big Beef
  • Brandywine
  • Early Girl
  • Mortgage Lifter
  • San Marzano
  • Sun Sugar

They are available in 4.5-inch pots.