Forum - Banjo Ben Clark

Grafted Tomatoes?

First off, I’m addicted to home-grown tomatoes. My entire family is too; and because they live in a cooler climate they rely on me for their tomato supply. The last few years we’ve had problems with various soil borne viruses that have impacted the tomato supply. I generally plant 24 tomatoes, 12 eaters and 12 canners. To address the tomato supply issue, we are planning to graft heirloom varieties onto virus resistant rootstock this year. If the plan is successful, and if the grafted tomatoes produce as advertised, I’ll be swimming in tomatoes by July. I’ve got plenty of experience grafting fruit trees, so I’m confident the process will work. There are a lot of different techniques to graft tomatoes, so if someone has some advice I’d love to hear it. In the meanwhile, I can’t wait to get a toasted tomato sandwich.

Soil borne virus! - Crop rotation springs to mind. If my memory serves me correctly Tomatoes are the same family as Potatoes which is also prone to soil borne diseases - leave the patch of soil fallow for a season or two. Grow other crops in the meantime. Search Google

I don’t have any experience grafting maters but this is really interesting!

As they say, “You can’t buy love, and you can’t buy homegrown tomatoes.” I used to know a guy over at the Agricultural Extension. I would see him drive by my house every now and then. I might have to run out into the street to get him to stop. That is, I hope he’ll stop! I don’t have the room to rotate crops. I’ll give it a try and report back later. If anyone else wants to try a grafted tomato, you can buy them at nurseries, etc. They are a little pricey but if you are just getting one or two it isn’t too bad.

Here in the UK, most gardeners grow tomatoes in pots or growbags in a greenhouse. Replacing the compost each year and using a liquid feeding all adds up. Not sure what the economics of doing that is.
Many gardeners will grow from seed others favour plug plants. The UK is pretty much geared up with factory style nurseries there is a huge demand for fruit, flower and vegetable seedlings. We also import a lot of plants from the Netherlands
The up side is you can choose to grow a variety of tomatoes.

The UK? I watch a lot of your TV shows. (Sometimes I wish they were subtitled.) Here in California’s Central Valley we’ve got a pretty good climate for growing tomatoes, no greenhouse necessary. Grow bags and special potting soil would be nice, but we are pretty dry and bags require more irrigation water due to evaporation. We are constantly in a drought so I opt for water conserving techniques. Anyway, we’ve got the rootstock tomatoes germinated, hopefully the heirloom seeds sprout soon. Otherwise the size won’t match and the grafts may not take.

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Yes, some of our regional accents are hard to decipher the same thing is true of many North American accents.

I appreciate what you are saying about growing in drought conditions. Tomatoes need water and it’s hard to get the balance right. I visited my sister in Australia some years back and I was astonished how plants survived the scorching heat and lack of water. Whilst there she snapped a flower that was getting a bit leggy and pushed the stem in the sandy soil. I said to her shouldn’t you water it in, sure she said and tipped a cup of water round the base of the plant which was sitting in full sun. I didn’t say anything but what went through my mind was that will surely die before the sun sets. I headed off next day to the eastern states and when I returned three months later I was astonished to find that little stem she had pushed into the ground was in full bloom. I learned a lot from that experience. It was on that trip that I learned about water retaining chrystals. Growing plants under nets and below tin roofs to reflect the sun and reduce evaporation. You might want to check out some Aussie Gardening Vids on YouTube about this topic. I also noticed some guys from the USA on YouTube using 10 litre recycled plastic food containers to build a continuous cycle irrigation system. Where the water passes from one container to the next. A kind of water conservation system.

Stumbled on this Vid, and thought it might interest you. BTW how did you make out with the grafted toms ?

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The tomato grafting experiment is still early in the process but looks promising. The garden is planted now and I can compare non-grafted plants with grafted plants. Here is a photo of the same variety of tomato (Sweet 100), planted at the same time, raised in the same greenhouse, etc. The tomato on the right is grafted onto a special rootstock, the tomato on the left is not grafted. The plants are in the ground now and although the difference isn’t as pronounced, it is still very noticeable. I’ve made a few errors along the way, but so far I’m pretty satisfied. The real test will come later in the year when the soil-borne viruses start to take effect. The video you linked looks like a workable solution for people that don’t use drip irrigation (as I do). But they made one big error. The wire mesh is too small - they will be able to see the tomatoes, but not pick them without leaning into the cage and those cages are going to be filled with tomato vines. Anyway, I think I’m about five weeks from toasted tomato sandwiches.grafted%20tomato


I guess it’s like learning banjo, you gotta make a few mistakes along the way

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Hi @The_Mole

I was trawlin YouTube this morning and stumbled on this vid. Instantly thought of you. and you grafted toms experiment. How did it go?

The tomato grafting experiment was a moderate success. We learned a lot in our first year of grafting. The tomatoes didn’t turn out as well as we hoped but there was some positive outcomes. The grafted tomatoes did display better resistance to soil borne pathogens. But, the grafted tomatoes seemed to be smaller in fruit size. Because of work and other commitments, the grafting ended up being piecemealed. That will be one of the big changes for next year, better organization. Some grafted tomatoes were planted pretty late and the plants grew great, but didn’t produce as many tomatoes as we would have liked. Another lesson learned was make the grafts as high as possible on the rootstock to prevent adventurous roots from bypassing the graft. The graft has to be above the soil so that impacted how the tomatoes could be planted. That impacts how the drip irrigation is installed. We are going to give it another try next year. The funny thing is that the canning tomato varieties are still going strong and we are still getting a lot of fresh canning tomatoes. So next year we are going to try grafting some heirlooms onto canning tomato rootstocks.

I took some time off from work this week and I’m getting a lot of chores taken care of. I went to a metal supply house to buy a new belly plate for my bbq smoker and happened to drive past a nursery. I stopped in and bought onions, lettuce, and garlic. This is pretty good onion planting time in California. I plan on planting onions and lettuce this week. Maybe a little garlic and potatoes too. The seed catalogs will start showing up in the mailbox pretty soon and the dream begins anew.

I’m kind of late to the party but would like to ask if you are attempting any permaculture, no till, hugel, or back to eden style(s) of gardening to help thwart off those viruses?

I moved from tearing up my garden and all the good stuff that lived there with the tiller several years ago. I’ve noticed a drastic increase in productivity and a drastic decrease in soil borne viruses.

I keep around 3K sq ft in a “traditional” garden and another 800-1000 sq ft in raised beds. I practice “no till” and only disturb the soil wherever I need to put in a seed, slip, or plant. I likewise use zero liquid fertilizer, zero weed killer, but pour on the compost I make from chicken litter, wood chips, and table scraps. I also bury my entire garden in roughly 3-5" of wood chips each year. These end up breaking down into fabulous soil. I guess I use 60 yards of wood chips to mulch in my garden and raised beds after planting/sprouts get tall enough. I get all those wood chips free btw from a local tree trimming co.

If you’ve not hear of permaculture or hugelkultur then you should check the theories behind them out, Basically it’s the idea that if you tear up your garden with a tiller then you are killing off all the good things in your garden that will help keep the bad stuff out. A balanced environment will throw up a defense against viruses, and things such as insects.

It took me almost 5 years to transform my heavy clay soils into fantastic topsoil. Still somewhat of a work in process.

Also start saving your seeds from the plant(s) that tend to fend off viruses. I start all my seeds under grow lights and only choose those seeds from my healthiest plants to save. To note I’d say I grow roughly 60% heirloom varieties.

Anyway, if you’ve not heard of “permaculture” or “hugelkultur” check them out. If you are in an area of California that has limited water resources/desert/subjected to frequent drought conditions then hugelkultur methods will help you a lot in the retaining moisture department.

Get that soil healthy and your problems with pathogens and viruses should be minimal…it’s all about healthy living soil.

Good luck.


Thanks for the tips, I’ll look into it.