How To Graft Tomatoes
These instructions cover the specific steps that go into the process variously known as head grafting, tube grafting or Japanese grafting. This technique is used to graft your chosen tomato variety (the scion) with rootstock. Rootstock does not produce fruit or foliage but is vigorous and resistant to diseases. Grafting takes practice to get consistent results, but those who develop this skill are rewarded with a more productive and disease resistant tomato crop.
What you need:
- Silicone grafting clips (two different sizes can be useful);
- A straight edged razor blade, preferably new so it is sanitary;
- A spray bottle filled with water;
- Rootstock plugs;
- Scion plugs;
- A clear plastic bin with lid, large enough to hold a tray of grafted plugs.
Plant Your Scion and Rootstock
Your rootstock and scion plugs may grow at varying rates. Through trial and error will you find the ideal timing to plant each so the diameter of the scion stem matches the diameter of the rootstock, but a rough estimate for each is 21 days after planting the seeds. The scion is ready when it is at the 2 or 3 true leaf stage. Not all your grafts will be successful. Until you develop your grafting technique it is recommended that you plant 2-3 times as many scion and rootstock plants as you think you will actually need.
Organize your materials:
When it is time to perform your grafts, prepare a clean working surface large enough to keep your tools and plug trays within easy reach. Get in the habit of putting the scion tray and the rootstock trays in the same location (one left, one right) so you don't get confused about which is which when you begin cutting. Wash your hands before beginning.
Begin by removing one rootstock plug from the tray. Determine where you will cut. The cut should always be just below the cotyledons and at least 1/2" above the soil line. Using your razor blade, remove the cotyledons so they are not in your way. Then cut just below them at an angle between 30 and 45 degrees. When this is done, slide a silicone tube over the cut end of the rootstock. The tube should slide on and fit firmly for the best results.
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