Grafted Tomatoes 101

by Patrick on April 20, 2015

Can is grafting

Inserting the scion into the rootstock to create the graft.

 Credit: Mighty ‘Mato

The concept of grafting plants is a centuries old practice used primarily in fruit trees and vineyards. The concept is quite simple. A plant with a much larger rootstock or one more resistant to soil-borne diseases is fused to one with a more refined taste with generally lower yields.

The grafting practice in vegetables was first adopted n Korea and Japan in the 1920s when watermelons were grafted onto squash rootstock. Since then, grafting has been used in many crops and in just the last three years, all the media and public attention is being focused on tomatoes in the United States. Some say it’s the biggest single change in this country since people started hybridizing tomatoes in the 1920s and 1930s.

Fine Gardening reported in this month’s issue that “Some of the benefits claimed by the producers of grafted tomatoes are that they’re resistant to many soil-borne diseases; less likely to develop blossom-end rot, more likely to shrug off diseases like late blight; and more likely to bounce back after drought or extremely hot weather.”

How does it work? The stems of the rootstock variety that come from wild species and the desired variety (the scion) are cut at opposing and complementary angles. The two parts are fit together and held in place with a spring clip. The newly amended plants are subject to an environment with extremely high humidity to help the union heal.

 

Completed graft with clip

Completed graft with spring clip

Credit: Mighty ‘Mato

The rootstock variety is selected for its root mass that some researchers have found can be up to double the size of a standard variety. For this reason, grafted tomatoes definitely aren’t for containers. The heartier root system allows for more nutrients and water to be taken up by the plant. In fact, the researchers associated with Fine Gardening, tested two growing technique. One group, let’s call them the coddlers, regularly watered, mulched and fertilized their loved ones. The other group, let’s call them the survival of the fittesters, received hardly any input besides weekly watering for the first few weeks (In the Kansas City area, the plants would have to be deeply watered weekly for the whole season). In the coddlers group, there was a negligible difference in yield but the fittesters yield bump over those without grafts was significant. The results reinforced that grafted tomatoes are at their best when the environment is at its worst.

Side-by-side trial research by prominent growers and garden writers on whether the grafted plants actually increase yields have lead to widely varying results. In fact some research has proven yields can increase as much as double but this is counter-balanced by others proving there is negligible difference. University trials do verify that grafting makes the most sense with heirloom variety that yield less due to the lack of hybrid vigor and weaknesses in disease resistance.

Mighty Mato thumbnail

So it comes down to whether the yield bump is worth the much higher cost of grafted tomatoes. Spurned on by high-impact graphics and branding, the Mighty Mato offers many different varieties under the umbrella brand. At last three retailers in Kansas City area only offer the Mighty Mato brand of grafted tomatoes in 1-gallon containers for $9.99 compared to a three-inch pot for $2-3 each. One retailer is incredulously offering a 3-gallon option for $24.99. That better be one darn mighty tomato!

Considering the high-price point, some suggest the best way to determine if grafted tomatoes are effective in your garden, is to conduct your own research by tracking the yield results with a few of both the grafted and standard varieties. This makes a lot of sense to me if you’re growing a dozen plants or more and want to know if you’re wasting $120 or more per season.

Many of us over the years have learned to increase the yield by burying the stem up to the first set of leaves. But this process buries the graft as well and leads to the union being compromised and loosing any benefits of the graft. You also need to ensure the plants are staked well because where any part of the scion touches the ground, the new resulting plant will not receive the added advantages of the rootstock.

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Garden Blogger’s Bloom Day April

by Patrick on April 15, 2015

Well it seems a warm spring, even a day in the high 80s, has pushed things at least two weeks earlier here in Kansas. To my northern friends where spring is just starting, nobody would fault you if you believed the images below were actually taken in Ar-Kansas. This has been my most extensive bloom day ever. So on with the show…

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This double pink crabapple is on one side of the front canopy. The plant is kept in line by a nearby pin oak whose bare branches are creating the shadow that add texture to this image.

bare crab

I’ve never see anything like this but this long bare branch is appearing as some sort of modern vase with a sprig of blooms in an opening in its middle. Can branches look sexy? Read more →

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When we came to America from Sydney in November of 1978, our poor subtropical bodies were battered by one of the harshest winters in recent memory. So imagine our joy when the weather began to wane, when we were greeted by a stunning shrub like one we had never seen before. Daffodils2 But fast forward 35 years, as first noted in Chaucer’s Tale of Merribee in 1386, familiarity breeds contempt. I now perceive it as too harsh for one’s eyes and I wouldn’t think of wasting valuable space on a 10 day display . But I think I’ve found a way to breath life into it by pairing it with some unique daffodils to enhance the quality of both. Our chaplain Brother Leroy is a patient soul whose arms I borrow and whose patience I test in creating these displays. His calm voice and persona adds to the creative juices flowing. Read more →

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The Aneurysm Update

by Patrick on March 22, 2015

Hey friends,

I finally had my appointment with the neurosurgeon and while things are very complicated, Mum and I agreed I’m in the very able hands of a superior doctor. Now the rundown:

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My Friends, I Have an Aneurysm

by Patrick on January 21, 2015

Hey my friends,

As some of you know, my world was rocked again yesterday after a MRI of the brain uncovered an 8mm aneurysm in the back of the brain. They believe there’s only a 1 % chance it may rupture but they probably would have said the same thing about the AVM in my spinal chord as well before it ruptured. The initial results of the MRI were clear according to the doc but he came by an hour later to share the shattering news that a more extensive analysis had uncovered the growth.

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Greetings from ICU (Kinda Sort of)

by Patrick on January 2, 2015

Hey my gardening friends,

Well actually, greetings from PCU (Progressive Care Unit). I glad to report it’s one step down from ICU. Was sent from my nursing home because I could a barely talk and couldn’t tell my nurse her name. Been though this before, according to hospital records, in November 2012. It’s a tell-tale sign of an urinary tract infection (UTI). While I was in the ER, although my nursing home nurse sent instructions I had wounds and need to be turned from one side with two pillows above and below my derriere and then every two switch sides. But I spent four hours in the ER in a hard stretcher-type bed without pillows. I’m afraid there will be lasting damage.

Unfortunately my boys were down to see me (12/30-1/3) as well as my brother Andrew and his family. His wife Kelly thought she might have something so she stayed at home while Andrew and my nieces Sarah, Annie & Emily and my brother Tim’s step-daughter Kelsie and daughter Adele, all came to visit today.

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The Muirs know never to visit someone empty handed, so all five of my nieces decided on the above arrangement in a cup that will keep on giving on a shelf in my room.

I’m hoping to be out tomorrow as we now know the bug in my urine which cannormally the urine analysis (UA) takes 48 hours. Say a little prayer for me, my friends, for a quick recovery.

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A Pink Christmas for a Friend in Need & Indeed!

by Patrick on December 25, 2014

Well it maybe hard to believe, but as I’m turning 50 next year, I’ve never been touched by breast cancer. But unfortunately, a very good friend I’ve known since high school, is in the middle of that fight. There’s not a lot of things I can do or say to her, but in honor of her journey, I wanted to show my support for her in the medium I know best: horticulturally. So to mostly cheers (with a few loud exceptions), Trinity is bathed in pink for my friend and to provide more support to the perception that I’m a contrarian (just for the fun of being contrary to most things).

If you were to visit Trinity during the year, you’d probably notice a 9′ stone cross across from the front entrance. It was made from  limestone fence posts that formerly tried to  civilize the open range of Western Kansas (Also known as Bob Dole’s territory). Look for an upcoming post on the history of the 18-year old and the details of the sculptor who I’ve met and who was a relative of one of our former residents.

UneditedTree

As you can see here I asked our Director of Plant Maintenance, aka: the maintenance dude, to wrap the cross in white lights and place a 9′ tree next to it. If there ever was a better snapshot to represent — Jesus Is the Reason for the Season — I can’t imagine what it might be? By design, the bigger glow is on the cross. The tree is decked in pink and silver balls. And the whole this was blessed with 4″ of snow last week. Read more →

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