Saturday, September 17, 2011

Grafted Cool Season Tomatoes


Marianna's Peace

Planting tomatoes in September?  I've never done this before, but I was given three grafted cool season tomatoes today so I'm going to give it a try!  I'll let you know how it goes.

What is a 'cool season' tomato?
If you've ever grown tomatoes, you probably planted them in the spring,  watched them ripen and harvested over the warm days of summer, and pulled them out when the cool days of fall arrived.  The varieties you planted probably needed warm temperatures to set fruit.  However, there are varieties that have been developed for cooler climates with short growing seasons that set fruit at much lower temperatures.  The benefit of these tomatoes is that they can be planted in the fall for a crop in cooler weather when we usually don't have any tomatoes left in the garden.  Three cool season varieties are shown here.

What is a 'grafted' tomato?
A grafted tomato is one in which two tomatoes are grown from seed, one for its hardy, disease resistant root stock, and the other for its flavorful fruit.  When the plants are very small, the top of the rootstock plant is cut off and thrown away and the top of the desired fruiting plant is cut off and attached to the rootstock plant.  If the stems are lined up correctly, the plants will grow together to become a single plant.  The result is a very disease resistant, prolific plant.

Personal experience:  Last spring a Master Gardener friend grafted tomatoes for the first time and gave me one to try.  All I can say is:  AMAZING!  While the rest of the tomatoes I planted suffered from a variety of fungal diseases due to a cool wet spring, the grafted tomato thrived.  It ended up taking up the entire end of one of my raised beds, climbed up and over its trellis, over the retaining wall behind it and is now on the boysenberry trellis on my back slope.  Currently it probably has over 50 tomatoes on the vine and is still blossoming.  The rest of the tomato plants are looking pretty sad and are ready to be pulled out.

Bottom Line:
Definitely try a grafted warm season tomato next spring.  They are pricey at $10 - $15 per plant, but well worth it given the yield and disease resistance.  As far as planting a grafted cool season tomato, I'll let you know how it performs!  Or live on the wild side and try one yourself this fall!

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