When the New York Times, which writes about gardening about as often as I write about dog grooming, writes about grafted tomatoes, you know we’re onto a trend here. But there it was, at the end of May–a 3 page (online) article about grafted tomatoes.
To be sure, they’re a little late to the game. Grafted tomatoes have been around for awhile. I grew my first last year one last year, and even then, I felt like I was getting into the game late.
Margaret Roach has been blogging about them for a couple of years now. They’re available in several widely respected mail order catalogs. Mine last year came from Territorial and the Times talks about White Flower Farm as well.
This year, I am trialing 3 different varieties for Harris seed. I am trialing heirloom grafted tomatoes next to ungrafted tomatoes to compare vigor, and yield, among other things. Harris recommended that I plant each variety side by side in the same bed, so I did. It’s going to be an interesting experiment, if my experience with last year’s grafted plants is any indication.
Last year, I ordered 1 plant from Territorial, a ‘Tomaccio’ cherry tomato. The only reason I ordered the plant was because I couldn’t get the seed, and to be honest, I didn’t realize it was a grafted plant when I ordered it.
It arrived about a foot tall with a tiny tomato already on it. I planted it and it took off! I think I was harvesting within 5 weeks or so–and every time I walked by the plant, I had dozens of cherry tomatoes to choose from to pop into my mouth. It was a fabulous experience.
The plant was $5.95 and shipping from the West Coast was as pricey as the tomato. It might be less so from an Eastern grower, although with gas prices, perhaps not.
Still, for someone with a very short growing season, this was absolute heaven. Tomatoes are the “holy grail’ for most gardeners and I know very few that don’t want them earlier.
That being said, I think it pays to concentrate on varieties that really produce, like smaller fruiting varieties. For me, ‘Brandywine’ has always given me about 3 tomatoes before frost. So even if the grafted variety doubles the output, what can I expect? 6? I’m hoping for better things from the ‘San Marzano’ that I’m growing. Time will tell.