The advantages of grafting tomato rootstock onto your favourite tomato varieties include:
- More Tomatoes – especially useful for heirloom varieties where quantity of fruit may be low.
- Earlier Tomatoes – avoid green tomatoes at the end of the season and get them ripened before late blight takes over.
- Plant in same soil* – reduces the hassle of having to sterilize containers and buy new bags of multi-purpose compost which can be expensive – a real advantage for the greenhouse border!
This happens because rootstock provides the following benefits:
- Increases the yield of your favourite variety – more tomatoes!
- Increases the speed at which the plants grow – earlier tomatoes!
- Increases disease resistance – use soil from last season!
If you’ve heard of rootstock and grafting but haven’t quite investigated it yet, here’s how it works.
- A rootstock seed is sown at about the same time as a tomato seed.
- When both seedlings are between 4 to 6inches (10 to 15cm) tall, the rootstock seedling and the tomato seedling are cut about 2inches above their base.
- The top part of the tomato seedling is joined to the bottom part of the rootstock seedling – hence, the tomato seedling gets a new root system. The cut is then allowed to heal and the plant grows as normal.
It may sound a bit confusing but here’s a very short video which shows seedlings being cut on a machine and new roots grafted (clipped) on!
When I first saw the video above, I was both amused and alarmed that these poor seedlings were treated in this way! However, it is a lot more caring when the process is done by hand, as below!.
In this next video, a (very experienced) tomato grower shows two different techniques for grafting – this is more my style!
If you intend to grow medium or large varieties, I think that grafting is definitely worth a try and comparing plants of the same variety – one that has and one that hasn’t been grafted will show the advantages.
The grafted variety should produce more tomatoes earlier in the season and be protected from the many diseases that the rootstock is resistant to. However, tomato blight will still be a problem, but perhaps less so, as plants should be healthy, vigorous, more resilient and therefore less vulnerable to blight.
I’ve ordered my rootstock seeds and hope to be grafting soon!
*If you use the same soil as last season, it is best to give it a good dig to get air back into the soil and add a good organic fertiliser. If growing in containers adding perlite and or water retaining gel is also useful.
Please leave comments below and if you have had experience of “grafting your own” we would love to hear your views.
See also: Techniques for Tomato Grafting