I love visiting garden centres at this time of the season and checking out the tomato seedlings on sale especially the grafted tomato plants.
Grafted plants are becoming very popular with the advantage of being able to grow a red and yellow variety on the same plant. If you think that’s unusual, you can even buy a tomato and potato plant grafted together called the “Tomtato”.
You may ask … why don’t we just grow two separate plants instead of one – it would be less expensive than buying a grafted plant? good point!
Although one plant with two stems takes up less soil space than two plants, you can probably achieve a better result from growing two plants. If you wish, you can create a double stem on any tall variety without having to graft a plant.
What Is Grafting?
For those who wonder what grafting is, it is growing two plants and healing (grafting) them together – the bottom of a disease resistant plant grafted to the top of a favourite variety.
This maximises disease resistance and vigour in the bottom part, and you can add your favourite variety to the top. This gives a disease resistant plant that produces a bigger harvest.
Here’s a brilliant video – don’t let this machine near your seedlings!
Here’s how to create two stems on one plant.
Allow a side shoot to grow into a second stem below the first truss. This is particularly successful on vigorous cherry varieties.
Some gardeners don’t prune their tall varieties and allow all the side shoots to grow. This works best if you live in an area of the world with a long growing season – I wouldn’t advise it in the UK with medium or large varieties.
Of course the above is for tall indeterminate varieties, bush varieties are not usually pruned because their flowers and fruit grow on leaf branches rather than on trusses that are directly attached to the main stem.
One of the issues with sowing early is that plants may become slightly leggy.
When potting on I always wish that pots were a bit deeper but without being wider at the top because a wider pot takes up more room.
Enter the plastic pint glass and the take away coffee cup!
They are deep and should keep your plants happy until final position planting. The only disadvantage is stability and making holes in the bottom – be careful!
Safety and Support Canes
On the subject of safety, A+E departments see plenty of gardeners each season and one of the most painful experiences is to have the end of a support cane in your eye. Canes around 2 to 4 feet are the most dangerous because it’s difficult to see the tip when you bend down to inspect a plant – it’s easy to make the tips more visible.
Watering – A Big Issue
For me, the biggest issue when growing tomatoes in containers is watering – if I can get that right, the rest is taken care of.
With water comes nutrients, so feeding is sorted and if plants can be watered in a wet/dry cycle, roots will receive both moisture and air.
Over the next few weeks we’ll look at some of the watering systems available and also set-ups that can be put together without spending a lot of money.
If you haven’t sown your tomato seeds yet … now’s a good time!
Two conditions seedlings hate are:
Damp air and wet saturated roots. Try not to over water your seedlings.
Having dry-ish soil just before transplanting makes it easier to pot up and keep the roots from breaking.
Propagators with hoods
If you are using a propagator with hood, open the vents as soon as the seedlings germinate and remove the hood within 24 hours. This will help to reduce the threat of fungal disease and “Damping-off”. This condition is caused by fungal spores in damp conditions.