Grafted tomato plants

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Primrose
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Grafted tomato plants

Postby Primrose » Thu Apr 09, 2009 9:45 pm

I was intrigued to receive this e-mail offer from Suttons.
"SAVE 50% on this collection - now only £14.95 - plus FREE Tomato Feed! Bumper crops of these Turbo tomatoes picked straight from the vine. Trials have shown that grafted plants are incredibly healthy and grow into stronger, larger plants giving bumper crops of juicy tomatoes. We have chosen five different varieties in this collection to offer you,"

In my ignorance I've never come across grafted tomato plants. Can somebody please explain to me exactly how it's done. And what variety of tomato is best used for the main rootstock? I can understand permanent bushes like blackcurrants or roses being grafted where you reap the benefits of an improved variety for years, but for tomatoes which only have a lifespan of a few months I wonder whether increased yields are worth it, especially when the cost of 5 plants is so expensive, especially when you consider how many tomato plants you could raise from one packet of seeds.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Johnboy » Fri Apr 10, 2009 7:58 am

Hi Primrose,
I will attempt to explain. Tomatoes suffer from a multitude of diseases and especially viruses. Root stocks that are resistant to many of these ailments were introduced many years ago into the commercial growing world where most tomato plants are grafted.
You have the rootstock and simply graft on the variety that you wish to produce.
Another example is that there are now varieties of very good tasting supermarket on-the-vine tomatoes for which there are no seeds available.
I suspect that the varieties have been perfected and in order to keep them the same because they will not replicate by seed they are perpetuated through successive grafting.
After several years this commercial practice is now creeping into the amateur world and Sutton's offer is one of the first of I suspect many to come.
JB.
It would be interesting that if you decide to take Sutton's offer you save some seed and grow on next year and note the result.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Primrose » Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:11 am

Thanks for the explanation Johnboy. I must be very naive about how commercial tomato growers grow their crops because I imagined that every year thousands of new plants were raised from seed and cropped in the normal way. Are the stems of the tomato plants saved then, from year to year and where do the pieces of new plant come from to be grafted onto the main stem if they're not grown from seed?

At the cost of £15 for 5 plants I'm not likely to be taking up the Suttons offer and saving the seeds. However I am conducting my own experiment this year. Last year I allowed a self sown mini plum tomato plant to grow to maturity on my compost heap which grew from some manky supermarket mini plum tomatoes I'd tossed out. I don't know what variety it was but as they had a nice flavour I saved a few seeds. These have now been sown and I have a couple of fine seedlings so I look forward to seeing what the next generation grow and taste like.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Primrose » Fri Apr 10, 2009 9:30 am

As an afterthought on the topic of tomato viruses, I've been growing tomatoes for many years and apart from two years when my crops were almost totally wiped out by blight I've never really suffered from any serious viruses (despite the fact they're grown in the same location on alternate years). I admit that my humble two dozen annual plants is not on the mass scale that commercial growers have to cope with so any financial loss from a mass virus outbreak would not cause my bankruptcy. However, if somebody could breed a tomato that was totally immune from tomato blight I think I would be prepared to pay extra to grow it. I'm growing some Ferline this year, amongst other varieties, as they're supposed to be blight resistant so if blight arrives it will be interesting to see how they react compared to the others. However, if the weather turns "blighty", I shall spray again. I'd rather do this than end up consigning all my efforts to the dustbin.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Johnboy » Fri Apr 10, 2009 11:43 am

Hi Primrose,
From what I can gather Ferline has succumbed to blight in the last two years so I've got my fingers crossed for you.
The ailments with Tomatoes seem to show up more in commercial crops and also the amateur gardener may not be able to recognize why his plants are suffering whereas the commercial boys/girls are all trained to identify these things.
I suspect that with the grafted stock and no seed brigade there might be several intermediate plants. Commercially Tomatoes are grown throughout Europe most of the year so there is no problem there.
I suspect that Sutton's are thinking that they are on to a good thing and really I would think only those who know no better will invest.
Good luck with your experiment.
JB.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Larkshall » Sun Apr 12, 2009 10:42 pm

Slightly off track, but relevant.

Last year I saw a posting about Tomato cuttings and thought I would give it a try. After all, the price of some seeds is way over the top. I had some seed grown plants of "Shirley", I took out the side shoots and treated them as I would shrubs. The result was many more "Shirley" plants than I had bought seed. I can see from the previous posts about "Grafted" Tomatoes that if you manage to keep the plants alive over Winter then you could propagate them. It would be worth doing when seed can be around 20p each. A way of producing F1 hybrid plants.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Johnboy » Mon Apr 13, 2009 7:20 am

Hi Larkshall,
I suspect this is what commercial people who grow plants for which there is no seed available do. Of course this doesn't actually mean that there is no seed only that if they exist they are exclusive to a particular company who are not prepared to release them for general growing.
It could also mean that having produced the seed they have not managed to do it again successfully so propagation will have to be done by cuttings. We a very unlikely to find the truth on this.
With the price Primrose quoted on grafted plants I cannot see any advantage because there are some wonderful Tomato varieties available without spending a fortune.
If you were to grow a few plants early in the season and allow the side shoots to grow to about 3" you can take many cuttings to serve as you main crop. Also having plants at several different ages will prolong your season by a considerable amount of time.
JB.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Primrose » Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:38 am

I'm intrigued by this business of using the sideshoots to produce new tomato plants and wonder if anybody who has done it could give us a complete idiot's guide to doing it. Do you just pinch out the sideshoots & plant them? Do you have to put them in water until they develop roots (as one does in reproducing new basil plants for example?). Do you need hormone planting powder?
My reason for asking is that sometimes people start their tomato plants off too early and they get too leggy to produce healthy plants & crops. In such cases, could you just use the sideshoots to produce new plants which might be a quicker process than starting again, waiting for a fresh batch of seeds to germinate?
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby alan refail » Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:52 am

Primrose

Let side shoots get a few inches long, break them off rather than "pinching", stick them in the border soil or damp compost. They will droop for a while then pick up, root and grow on.

Johnboy may give you a more technical approach, but the above is foolproof.

Alan
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Larkshall » Mon Apr 13, 2009 10:07 am

As said before in my post, treat them the same as shrub cuttings.

Break them off when about four inches long, dip in hormone powder and plant in a 3-4" pot. Keep moist. Pot on into 10" or 12" pots or however you grow your Tomatoes.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby alan refail » Mon Apr 13, 2009 1:22 pm

Larkshall wrote:As said before in my post, treat them the same as shrub cuttings.

Break them off when about four inches long, dip in hormone powder and plant in a 3-4" pot. Keep moist. Pot on into 10" or 12" pots or however you grow your Tomatoes.



Tomatoes are so programmed to grow that they definitely do not need rooting powder.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Primrose » Mon Apr 13, 2009 2:06 pm

My next silly question. Does it have to be the sideshoots you use to generate a new plant, or can you snap off the main stem of a leggy plant and use that instead ?
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Johnboy » Mon Apr 13, 2009 4:59 pm

Hi Primrose,
Firstly there is no such thing as a silly question. You could do exactly as you say with the very top. I would be inclined to simply plant it a few inches deeper and the axils that you bury will produce roots in time.
I believe both Alan and I have tried hard to prevent people planting things too early. This is what you have to persevere with!
I think I shall have to send your husband some Elastoplast so he tapes your hands up until around now! Planting far too early is the silly part. :wink: The question was very legitimate.
JB.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Colin Miles » Mon Apr 13, 2009 5:43 pm

One year way back in the late 60's I sowed Tomato rootstock seed and grafted normal plants on to them. Fiddly - and I can't really say that it produced better plants so I never bothered again. I think the seed was from Suttons.
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Re: Grafted tomato plants

Postby Johnboy » Mon Apr 13, 2009 9:22 pm

Hi Colin,
The question back in the 1960's how much grafting had you done?
Grafting can be a fiddling job but it is one of those things that the more you do the more proficient you become. Even for those of us who have done a lot of grafting which is mainly done at one time of the year by the next time it's grafting time it takes a few days to really get into the swing again. With Tomatoes grafting can save you a fortune and also grafting onto a rootstock that will give you protection from a whole host of ailments is no bad thing.
JB.
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