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Grafting

January 27, 2011
By Stephanie Bethke-DeJaeghere

Have you ever seen an ad for grafted tomatoes? Have you ever tried it? Grafting is used in horticulture for many reasons.

A good example is that very often a fruit tree such as an apple is grafted onto dwarf rootstock for controlling the size of the tree. There are three primary techniques used for grafting: tongue approach, cleft grafting and tube grafting. The main reason that someone would graft tomatoes is for the same reason that any other plant would be grafted. This is to help control some aspect of the tomato plant such as disease or size.

Grafting tomato plants is something that often happens in a greenhouse environment. We all probably at one point or another have eaten hydroponically raised tomatoes or greenhouse grown tomatoes.

So other than the obvious ideas for grafting a tomato, why else would someone want to do this? Well, they are easy to work with and can give you some experience in grafting, so if you want to graft something a little more delicate or something more expensive, a tomato plant is the way to go.

There are those who also graft tomato plants to save space or as a novelty item for the vegetable garden or patio. You can graft two different varieties onto the same root stock and have two types of tomatoes in one growing season. Of course, I guess you could also just plant two of the plants and be done with it as well. But, hey, it is winter and we do have a little time on our hands, right?

Cleft grafting and tube grafting are very similar in that the shoot of the fruit producing variety is completely cut off from its own roots and attached to the severed stem of the rootstock plant. Tube grafting is quicker and less complicated to do than cleft grafting because it only requires a single straight cut on both the root and the shoot areas of the graft.

This is the best technique to use on small plants as well. These two types of techniques require that the plants be kept from drying out until the graft is healed.

The trick with these two types of graft techniques is if the ends of the cuts are not exactly the same size and do not match up perfectly, it takes longer to heal. The rootstock will slowly starve to death.

The technique of cleft grafting starts with having your rootstock a little bit older then the material that you will be grafting onto the rootstock.

Once the rootstock and the shoot stock have reached a stage with about four to five leaves on them, make a right angle cut on each. The stem of the shoot (also called the scion) is cut in a wedge and the tapered end is fitted into a cleft cut in the end of the rootstock.

The graft is held very firm with a clip. Again, it is very important not to let the plant dry out and keep it in a bag in order for the wound to heal over nicely.

Tongue grafting is a technique that allows the scion (shoot) to remain on its own rootstock until the graft heals. This method is used quite often with plants such as cucumbers or melons. This method also allows you to use bigger plants. The top of the rootstock are cut in such a way that they tongue into each other and the graft is secured with clips. The roots of the scion are left intact for three to four days while the graft union heals and then the stem of the scion-donor is crushed between the fingers or partially cut below the graft.

This step is used to wean the scion off of it's own roots. Finally, the stem is completely cut off with a razor blade three or four days after being crushed.

The last tip is just before grafting any plant, whenever possible; subject them to some water stress before grafting to increase their tolerance to water stress.

This will help the graft to be more successful.

For more information on gardening you can email me at Stephanie@starpoint.net

 
 

 

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