Grafted what? OK, as home gardeners, most of us are familiar with grafting apples, roses or grapes for disease resistance and vigor. But right now, around the world—from Japan to India, Israel to Greece and New Zealand—commercial growers are grafting hybrid rootstocks (bottoms) to single-season scions (tops) like watermelons, eggplants or tomatoes. Within a few years, grafted vegetables will be widely available for U.S. home gardens. And believe me—you’re going to want to grow these plants. Here’s why.
Grafted Vegetable Advantages
- Disease Resistance – There’s a reason old-timey heirlooms fell out of favor with farmers. As last summer’s tomato harvest disaster on the East Coast attests, many lack resistance to diseases. No perfect hybrid combines all the qualities of disease imperviousness and great taste. Hybrids are selected to withstand ailments like fusarium wilt or critters like root knot nematodes, but then something’s got to give—and it’s usually texture and flavor. However, when the tougher hybrid rootstock is united with the heirloom scion, you get the best of both worlds.
- Vigor – Powering a mouth-watering heirloom, such as a ‘Brandywine’ tomato, with a hybrid rootstock, results in more productivity. The rootstock boosts the plant’s ability to quickly generate fruit—a plus, especially in short-season summers.
- Fewer chemicals – Vigor and disease resistance are a boon for organic gardeners. And commercial greenhouse growers are turning to disease-resistant grafted tomatoes, which reduce the need for sterilization with methyl bromate between crops.
- Small space gardening – Consider two different kinds of tomatoes on one vine. How great to snack on red pear and yellow pear growing up the same support. They’re coming.
Grafted Vegetable Disadvantages
Unlike their woody counterparts, the grafts on the soft vascular stems must be treated carefully. And these veggies will carry a premium price. But for what they offer, that’s not unreasonable.
No, the real downside is that grafted vegetables are not here yet. Unless you live in Great Britain—Suttons and Dobies have starts— or in the Pacific Northwest, you’re out of luck this year. Oregon wholesaler Log House Plants is bringing to market a limited selection in retail stores like Portland Nursery, Good News Nursery in Hood River and Christianson Nursery near Seattle.
But start asking around. Probably other growers around the country are perfecting the exacting skills for grafting vegetables. Next year, Log House will have a mail-order source.
Grafted vegetables are coming—you heard it here first.