We are in the midst of a new farming adventure right now. We have been cutting the heads off of some of our little tomato plants and sticking them on to other plants. What!? Grafting tomatoes is becoming a more and more common practice. The idea is that if you graft the tomato you want (a high-producing greenhouse variety, or on of our tasty heirlooms) onto a rootstock that is resistant to disease and extra vigorous in it’s growth habit. You can potentially combine some of the best features of both varieties. Over the past couple of years, we have hired out this precision job of grafting, getting plants shipped in from a greenhouse in California that has the facilities to crank out grafted plants; the price of those plants was pretty low compared to putting in the effort ourselves and having less than optimal results since our facilities were less than ideal. We definitely saw dramatically improved growth in those grafted plants. But that California greenhouse has big minimum orders, so we organized a big group order with several other farms. I decided that the effort for that group order (you should see my spreadsheet for that one!) was no less than the effort to try and set ourselves up and train ourselves on how to do the grafting ourselves! So here we go, and so far so good!
Here are some little tomato plants that we are germinating under lights in the farmhouse. We decided that since we are investing a lot in the success of these plants, we wanted to have them come up nicely.
We cut the tops off of the scion tomato and off of the rootstock using the blue plastic knife that can be lined up to cut the plant off at just the right angle. Then we line up the cut parts of the two tomato plants (roots from the rootstock and tops from the scion) and use a little plastic clip to join them together. The cuts must be at exactl ythe same angle, and the more closely matched the size of the stem the better. Then the de- and re-capitated plants are put into a healing chamber where we keep the light low and the humidity high for 24-36 hours, after which we gradually acclimate them to lower humidity and more light until they seem to be healed. Our light bench in the warm farmhouse has been a key aspect of the success of the healing chamber. Our first practice round netted 28 plants out of 38 grafted, not a bad success rate when we read that we should expect no more than 50% success on the first try! Monday, we have 200 plants to graft, and then another 300 for the week after that! Cross your fingers for us that we have something close to the same success rate.
Here are the 28 survivors!