Grafting Tomatoes

A beginner's guide to grafting tomatoes.

By Amy Grisak

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Tomato Grafting—side techniqueTypes of Grafts

One of the simplest grafts is a top graft. Mefferd recommends working with small plants, which might be only 2 to 3 inches tall, not only to fit the silicone grafting clip size but to increase success.

Choose a rootstock plant and scion that are nearly identical in stem diameter. Carefully cut the rootstock plant at approximately a 35-degree angle with a razor, and discard the top. Using the same angle, slice off the top of the scion. Some people pinch off several of the scion’s leaves to reduce respiration.

Pinch the clip and slide it over the rootstock stem with half of the clip above the stem in order to receive the scion. Slide the scion into the grafting clip, matching the angles as perfectly as possible.

Tomato Grafting—side techniqueSupport the plant with a bamboo skewer or toothpick, and place a plastic bag over the container to create a humid environment. Keep the newly grafted plant in a darkened, warm area to reduce growing stress on the plant. At this time, it needs to put energy towards healing. A warm, shaded area is fine, or at the very least out of the direct sunlight. Keep it here for at least 4 to 5 days; even up to a week. If it wilts immediately, it didn’t take.

Take your time returning it to direct sunlight or grow lights. Depending on the intensity, it might require another week under more subtle lighting. There’s no need to take off the clip; it will fall off on its own.

Tomato Grafting—side techniqueManix uses the side graft, also known as the approach graft, in which larger plants are sliced partway through the stem at a 45-degree angle. One angle is slid into the other, and the plants are attached with a spring-loaded grafting clip. Cut off the top of the rootstock and the roots of the scion after 4 to 5 days. You can take off the grafting clip in a few more days.

When you’re planting your grafted plant, don’t bury the graft below the soil, because the scion can root and negate the reasons you grafted in the first place.

And don’t be afraid to prune. Both Manix and Mefferd say grafted plants thrive under the knife.

Tomato Grafting—side technique“If you want to stick a plant in the tomato cage and watch it grow, don’t get a graft,” says Mefferd. You need to actively prune it throughout the season, because the plants grow incredibly quickly. By pruning, you’re allowing it to send more of that energy to fruit production.

Grafted plants are great way to grow your favorite tomato in huge amounts. Once you start grafting, you might never settle for less.

Where to find rootstock and grafting clips:

Johnny’s Selected Seeds
‘Estamino’ rootstock; flexible silicone and spring-loaded grafting clips

High Mowing Organic Seeds
‘Estamino’ rootstock

Amazon
All of the grafting clips; several varieties of rootstock

Photos: Amy Grisak

Keep Reading: Grow Huge Tomatoes!

 

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