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The Joy of Gardening

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Grafted Tomatoes

Should I be buying grafted tomatoes? What are their advantages to warrant the higher price? Will the wild growth from the base of the plant ultimately take over?


There is no straightforward answer to that question! Grafted tomatoes, or any other vegetables, do certainly have advantages over their non-grafted counterparts. Grafted tomatoes have soil-borne disease resistance, increased- vigor, yield and overall resilience. Whether these features are necessary or not depends on the individual gardeners expectations and current growing challenges. If you are experiencing persistent soil-borne disease from year to year, yes, than I would say, pay the extra money and purchase grafted plants. Otherwise you will be unable to plant anything from the nightshade family in that area for many years to come, including peppers, potatoes, eggplants and tomatillos. To counteract the persistence of soil-borne diseases the investment is well worth it. However if you are trying to avoid air-borne diseases; i.e. early and late blight, than grafted plants will not provide a solution. Although these plants are quite resilient, they are not immune to our most common diseases. The best course of action is still the use of traditional cultural practices; spacing plants generously, watering early and at the base so plants do not go into the night wet, removing excess foliage for air circulation, and planting in full sun. Grafted plants will provide higher yields, however with tomatoes this might not be as important as with other vegetables, as tomatoes are by nature great producers.

What is a grafted plant? Grafted plants combine the characteristics of two plants. The bottom plant serves for vigor, disease resistance, and yield; whilst the top plant provides the desirable fruit; i.e. flavor, aroma, color etc. Grafting is a natural method of combining the best traits of both plants without compromising the character of the desired fruit. Because the bottom plant is the more vigorous, yes, if you allow sprouting from the base, it will ultimately take over. This can be easily avoided by simply removing any shoots that emerge from below the graft.

Do I favor grafted plants? I grow both grafted and non-grafted. As a gardener it is always nice to experiment, observe and learn. Another option would be to carry out the grafting one's self. With the correct rootstock, some basic guidelines and little experience, everyone has the potential to be a grafter.

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