The grafted tomatoes are coming! Marry a disease-resistant rootstock on the bottom to a tasty scion on top, and you get the best wedding of both worlds—tomatoes with vigor and higher yields, as well as the amazing variety of taste choices from artisan-bred home-growns.
This month, I talked with Alice Doyle, co-owner of Log House Plants, the wholesale nursery responsible for bringing the grafted tomatoes—and eggplants and peppers—to market. She told me that farmers grow grafted tomatoes commercially in countries like Japan and India for higher productivity and disease resistance (no more fumigating greenhouses).
For home growers, it’s really about vitality and taste. She describes the new Bumblebee™ Pink a yellow-striped cherry tomato: “It pops with extraordinary flavor—sweet, acidy and tingly, all at the same time.”
Look for these tomatoes at independent garden centers under the name SuperNatural Grafted Vegetables, and Bumper Crop Burpee Home Gardens. The price is higher than non-grafted because of the careful work that must go into every plant, but they are worth it. I’ve been growing grafteds for the past three years in Oregon’s cool non-tomato-producing summers. With these vigorous plants I finally have had tomato success.
I follow Alice’s advice for planting and care.
#1. Plant at the same level as the container soil. No more burying the lower stem for extra root growth. These tough rootstocks don’t need it, and you don’t want to cover the graft.
#2. Pruning and staking are a must. Even if pruning is not usually your thing, these vigorous plants will benefit from it. For best production, prune each tomato so it has two main upward-growing vines and nip out the suckers. Provide a tall cage—these are indeterminate vines—or tie to a vertical set of ropes or an open fence.
I asked Alice to name a couple of her favorites. But if you don’t see these, buy what’s available. Any grafted will take your tomato growing to a whole new level. And for small space/big yields, also try the grafted eggplants and peppers.
Indigo™ Rose – This two-inch black-skinned deep red tomato is attractive in salads and fun to eat off the vine. Reputed to have 20 percent more antioxidants than blueberries.
Pink Berkeley Tie Dye – Beefsteak type, early fruiting—even in cool summers—it has deep rich tomato flavor. In farmers’ market tests, it’s said to be preferred over Cherokee Purple.
Bumblebee™ Purple – Dark green stripes decorate violet-colored fruits; it’s a tasty non-cracking cherry tomato.