New Project: Grafted Heirloom Tomatoes

'Pruden's Purple' seedlings

As a horticulture major (at Nebraska), I’ve recently become very interested in grafting. I’m familiar with several types of woody grafting such as cleft, side-veneer, chip-budding and so on, but the field of herbaceous grafting is new to me.

Not any longer.

I’ve started a project that I intend to follow throughout the growing season, and it involves tomato grafting.

Tomato grafting has long been used in the commercial hydroponic or greenhouse tomato production field, and usually involves grafting a desired variety (scion) to a vigorous rootstock. This allows for increased production and quality in a greenhouse setting.

But what about taking some of the positives of that rootstock, such as vigor, disease-resistance, production, etc… and re-directing it into an heirloom variety instead of a commercial variety? This isn’t a novel idea that I dreamt up, of course, but it something that has been taking hold with a few growers around the country.

So, I decided to try it for myself. I ordered several different heirloom varieties from Johnny’s Seeds, a few interesting standard hybrids, and even an eggplant cultivar (another member of the Solanaceae, eggplant is closely related to tomatoes, and is graft-compatible).

The heirloom varieties I started are ‘Brandywine‘, ‘Pruden’s Purple‘, ‘Striped Cavern‘, and ‘Moskvich‘. In addition, I started some ‘Brandywine Sudduth’s Strain’ seeds that I got from the annual AHS seed exchange program. I also ordered some ‘Stupice‘ seeds from Morgan County Seeds, but they haven’t arrived yet. They’ll be too late to get into the project, due to size incompatibility between rootstock and scion.

I also started seeds of ‘Mountain Fresh Plus‘, ‘Celebrity‘, ‘Valley Girl‘ and ‘JTO-99197‘, all F1 hybrid types.

The eggplant I’m going to use is ‘Fairy Tale‘, a F1 hybrid type.

All of those are the desired cultivar for fruit characteristics, but the idea behind the project is to graft them onto a vigorous, disease-resistant, high-production rootstock. I selected ‘Maxifort F1‘, a selection that will give me great results — I hope.

As of now, the seedlings have all emerged, the cotyledons are fading and the first and second sets of true leaves are expanding. A couple more weeks and it’ll be time to graft!

For the grafts, I’m using silicone tomato grafting clips and standard double-edged razor blades. I’ll have an update on the progress soon!

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4 responses to this post.

  1. Anxiously awaiting the results of your grafts.
    You have a very interesting website. Please
    keep up the good work!

    Reply

    • I’ll have a new post in the very near future about the status of my grafts. In short, they’re doing very well, and the project has very encouraging results so far. They’ll be transplanted into the field in the second week of May, and we’ll compare them to standard heirlooms throughout the season.

      Reply

  2. Posted by Brian Larsen on April 22, 2010 at 8:26 pm

    Was looking for info on grafted tomatoes. Did not expect to end up at my TA’s website. Are grafting clips available locally anywhere?

    Reply

    • Not that I know of. I bought my grafting clips from Johnny’s Seeds. If you’re looking for a few, I can give you some. I bought a bag of 200, and I’d be happy to give you a few in the name of horticulture!

      Reply

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