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Garden Ready Grafted Tomato Plants

Why Graft?

When we talk about heirloom tomatoes, flavor, history, and color are the devoted topics. Rarely does disease-resistance get any positive mention. Grafting is a natural method that allows heirlooms the benefits of a hybrid while maintaining the true essence of the heirloom fruit. Grafting is a centuries-old technique dating back some 7,000 years ago in China. It is an un-refined way of providing flavorful heirloom varieties with the disease-resistance, high yields, and stress tolerance that are so often lacking.

The Method:

There are two parts to a grafted plant: rootstock, the underground rooting portion; and scion, the fruiting portion on top. The rootstock is chosen for its vigorous growth, disease-resistance, high fruit yields, and tolerance to stressful growing conditions. The scion is selected because it is a delicious heirloom, often with large colorful fruits, that lacks in productivity. Each of the varieties chosen are grown to the seedling stage. Both the scion and rootstock seedlings are cut, by hand, at 45 degree angles. A small plastic clip is slipped over the newly cut rootstock and the scion is slipped in to the other end of the clip, aligning the cuts. After a few days of healing in a sterile, light-restricted, high-humidity environment, the scion has grown on to the rootstock, creating the newly grafted plant. When the plants come out of healing they are hungry and thirsty. After some food and water the plant will begin to push new roots and new leaves. Here’s the exciting part: The roots that take up nutrients to support healthy plants, will be of the mighty rootstock variety. The tops, that yield the beautiful and delicious fruit, will be of the heirloom scion variety. With this merging you’ll have lush plants loaded with delicious heritage fruits.

Planting in the Home Garden:

Plants should be planted in the soil with the grafting scar [Figure 1] well above the soil level. Since tomatoes are vines, they naturally root along the length of their stem, a trait known as ‘adventitious rooting’[Figure 2]. If the scion part of the stem comes into contact with the soil, it will most likely root, negating the benefits of the rootstock. The easiest way to be sure that the graft point remains above your soil line is to plant the tomato root ball level with your garden soil, not deeper. Once planted in the garden, suckers may form below the grafting scar, on the stem of the rootstock. If this happens simply pinch or snip them off. Suckers will rob the scion of nutrients imperative to growing healthy and tasty fruit.

Figure 1

Figure 2

 

Scion Descritpions

Black Krim

This medium-sized, very dark maroon beefsteak, with wonderfully rich flavor, originated in Crimea, an island peninsula in the Black Sea with perfect 'tomato summers'. Extremely tasty. Indeterminate.

Brandywine Red

Flavorful but not acidic, it is a large-lobed, beefsteak-shaped tomato with a thin, pinkish-red skin. Very vigorous. Best if staked, caged, or trellised. Perfect for slicing. Indeterminate.

Brandywine Pink

Brandywine, which dates back to 1885, is the heirloom tomato standard. One taste and you’ll be enchanted by its superb flavor and luscious shade of red-pink. The large, beefsteak-shaped fruits grow on unusually upright, potato-leaved plants. The fruits set one or two per cluster and ripen late—and are worth the wait. Brandywine's qualities really shine when it develops an incredible fine, sweet flavor. Indeterminate.

Big Rainbow

What an astonishing feast for the eyes! The flesh inside is marbled with red in the bottom half of the fruit. It has a big, lumpy beefsteak shape with a very mild and sweet flavor. It's a knockout on a platter with slices of our other tomato varieties. The large fruits (often 22 ounces) are borne on tall plants. Indeterminate.

San Marzano

The long, blocky fruits mature with a small, discreet seed cavity that can be scooped out, leaving all meat. This means much less boiling to get a first class paste. The shape is also good for canning, and excellent for drying. Indeterminate.

Mortgage Lifter

This huge heirloom beefsteak (up to 4 pounds; average 2 ½ pounds) consistently wins taste-tests. Developed in the 1930's by a gardener who planted the four biggest varieties he knew, and crossed one with pollen from the other three. He did this for six seasons and created a variety that produced immense, tasty fruit. He sold the plants for $1 a piece $1,000 a year - and paid off his mortgage in six years. Indeterminate.

Cherokee Purple

This large dark purple tomato from Tennessee is rumored to have come from Cherokee gardeners. With its rich, full flavor, it's often compared to Brandywine. The flesh is brick-red and very attractive sliced on a plate. Plants make large vines that yield tomatoes fully 5" across and 3½" deep. Indeterminate.

Gardener's Delight

Many clusters of 6 to 12 tomatoes form all summer long on this cherry. Proven tops for performance, flavor and wide adaptability. Indeterminate.

Rutgers

The legendary Jersey tomato, introduced in 1934, is a cross between J.T.D. (an old New Jersey variety from the Campbell Soup Co.) and Marglobe. Its flavor, both for slicing and cooking, is still unequaled. Red fruits are slightly flattened. Tall vines, fusarium resistant. Indeterminate.

Yellow Pear

This extremely old variety makes a vigorous plant, which bears enormous numbers of bright yellow, bite-sized fruit. The flavor is deliciously tangy. Perfect for summer party hors d'oeuvres. Indeterminate.


Rootstock Resistances
C Cold (Sub-optimum temperature)
TMV Tobacco Mosaic Virus
N Nematodes
V Verticillium Wilt
F2 Fusarium Wilt (Races 1 & 2)
PL Corky Root Rot
FOR Fusarium Crown and Root Rot
Read the next Article: Tomatoes- Staking and Caging

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