18May2008

Grafting Tomatoes

After much debate we decided to go through with it and graft tomatoes this past Thursday. Mara attended the Vermont Vegetable and Berry Growers Association farmers conference this past December, and learned a lot about grafting. We decided it would be a good idea because we are focusing more and more on heirlooms (which are so much more susceptible to diseases), and decided that we should take a leap and see how it works. Under the tutelage of the able-bodied grafters at Intervale Community Farm, Keri (l), and Becky (r), we grafted 1/2 of our expected tomato crop this year – hopefully all the grafts take and we have more tomatoes than ever. The idea with grafting tomatoes is to use an extremely hearty rootstock (we chose MaxiFort from Johnny’s Seeds Company) and graft it to a tomato that is not so hearty to infuse the plant with more disease resistance and larger, more vigorous plants. We’ll see how it goes! We are trying to have a grafted tomato of one variety and a non-grafted tomato of the same variety next to each other in our field hoophouse so that we can see if it was worth all the stress. Should be interesting! We are really curious. For now, we wait while the grafts take root. Suspense!

Spencer creates our super-high-tech dark incubator from cardboard – his preferred building medium.

Spencer takes a picture of Mara attempting a “cleft” graft – not the clear winner for ease and speed, it turns out. Oh well, it was our chance to try different techniques and see what works best. Turns out the “tube” graft is MUCH faster and feels more secure.
Securing the graft for clipping…

Clipped and labeled grafts.

Spencer with a misted high-dome covered grafted tray ready for the incubator.

Our high-tech incubator hard at work! We placed it under a greenhouse table in a boot tray. We’ll check on them on Tuesday and slowly re-acclimate them to the sunlight and normal ambiance. Then, the survivors will be transplanted to 4″ pots, THEN, we’ll move them to the field (of course, after the favas come out of the field house! They’re flowering right now – pictures to come!).

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