By Kate Copsey
Even though it is not July 4th yet, I am eagerly waiting for that first ripe tomato which is due any day now! The winner, unless something uproots or destroys it, will be a grafted Japanese Black Truffle. Looking at the specs for the tomato it should be a truly dark skin and pear shaped. Mine are missing the pear shaped bit and looking nicely rounded right now. The heat in the next few days will no doubt ripen at least this tomato.
This is my first experience of a full season with grafted tomatoes and I am trialing three – two are Black Truffles and one is a double graft with Sungold and Sweet Million. The obvious advantage to the grafted tomatoes is that they arrive already a good size and were thus given a head start over my seed grown tomatoes. Some of mine have caught up size-wise but are barely past the flower/pollination stage and it will be a few weeks before the fruit is ripe. Being able to produce on young, sturdy plants at such an early stage makes them good choices for short northern summers.
The touted reasons for growing a grafted tomato are not just that the plants are larger to start with, but they are grafted onto stock that is less prone to disease, particularly blights and wilts which affect many varieties including some great heirloom varieties. Cool, damp summers or excessive humidity happen to many areas each summer allowing the diseases to thrive and cause havoc to both home and commercial growers, particularly those who grow organically . So these problems can be alleviated with grafts.
The trade suggests that the tomatoes are still heirloom albeit that the root stock is not – but purists disagree. Root stocks can affect height and stature as well as ward off disease which could affect the look of the heirloom if not the fruit. Of course the grafted plants cost a little more too.
The bottom line for many people may be that it opens up new varieties that they could not grow before and if they produce early enough that makes it possible for more people to grow successfully. With two grafts on one stock, those people who are restricted to a container for growing can be happy too because they can have a cherry plus traditional plant in the space of one.