Not so long ago, gardeners in climates that are stressful to tomatoes faced overwhelming challenges in their efforts to grow great-tasting heirloom varieties organically. A few researchers such as North Carolina State University’s Cary Rivard thought: Well, growers in Asia routinely graft tomatoes, so why not do it here? Many meticulous field trials and educational seminars later, tomato grafting has emerged as one good way to bring resistance to soilborne diseases to susceptible heirloom varieties.
But there’s more. As we explained in Graft Tomatoes to Prevent Diseases, it’s not difficult to learn tomato grafting, and groups like the Chinquapin Community Garden in Alexandria, Va., report success with their early efforts.
As it turns out, once you learn to do single grafts on tomatoes, it’s not that difficult to do two. For example, in addition to offering flavor favorites like ‘Brandywine’ and ‘Japanese Trifle’ grafted onto hybrid rootstocks, Territorial Seeds is offering several double-grafted plants. By growing Territorial’s Sungold/Sweet Million double-grafted tomato, a space-squeezed gardener could harvest two outstanding varieties thanks to two tomato grafts.
Many small greenhouse growers are learning tomato grafting in hopes of offering tasty, trouble-tolerant plants to local customers this spring. Meanwhile, Oregon-based GardenLife envisions a growing demand for mail-order grafted tomatoes. Its initial launch includes 15 interpretations on tomato grafting, like growing ‘Hawaiian’ and ‘Green Pineapple’ on the same plant.
“We do not use any GMOs, and next year all production of grafts will be in a facility that is certified to be 100 percent organic,” says GardenLife president John Bagnasco.
As a budding tomato grafter, you can use any disease-resistant variety as your rootstock, though recent research from Arizona State University suggests being cautious with rootstocks that are resistant to tomato/tobacco mosaic virus (TMV) because an immune system response can cause a resistant rootstock to reject a susceptible scion.