Grafted plants cost more, but also deliver much more

  • By Dean Fosdick Associated Press
  • Wednesday, December 26, 2012 4:13pm
  • Life

In many of the seed catalogs arriving soon in mailboxes, the headliners will be grafted vegetables, in which one or more different varieties grow from a single rootstock.

Tomatoes seem to be the grafted transplants most frequently offered, providing greater disease tolerance, bigger harvests, increased vigor and better taste.

Side-by-side tests done by Ball Horticultural Co. in Chicago have shown at least 50 percent higher yields from grafted tomatoes than from nongrafted varieties. That total varies from garden to garden and gardener to gardener, but it means more fruit or larger fruit.

Grafted plants are also pricier, in part because grafting is labor intensive.

“You’re also paying for disease insurance and a greatly improved yield,” said Scott Mozingo, product manager for Burpee Home Gardens, a Ball Horticultural subsidiary. “You’re paying more, but what you’re getting is so much more.”

Grafting is an ancient horticultural practice that fuses tissues from one genetically different plant to those from another, combining, for example, disease management with heirloom flavors. Think apple trees, grapevines and roses.

Vegetables have been late entries in large-scale grafting programs intended for home gardeners, particularly in the United States. But that is about to change.

“It’s been primarily because the (horticultural) industry here hasn’t been set up for it,” Mozingo said. “Grafted vegetables have been big in Asia for 70 years. In Europe, for about a decade. It’s been largely a supply problem, but I think they’re going to be a very big thing in seed catalogs next season. A very big thing in retail, too.”

Grafted plants aren’t any more difficult to work with than nongrafted ones, but do require slightly different management. That includes:

Planting them deeper: “They’re tall tomato plants so they need a deeper base,” Mozingo said. “But don’t bury the grafts. Those should be above the soil line or you cancel out the benefits.”

Pruning: “The plants are so vigorous that they produce a lot of vegetative material,” said Josh Kirschenbaum, product development coordinator and spokesman for Territorial Seed Co. in Cottage Grove, Ore. “There won’t be as much fruit production if they don’t get pruned.”

Adding trellises: “Towers or cages are pretty close to being mandatory,” Kirschenbaum said. “These plants are so energetic and grow so tall that it’s important you give them some kind of support.”

Easing off on the chemicals: Grafted vegetables have better natural defenses against ground-borne diseases and insects. Fewer pesticides and herbicides are needed.

The potted plants will be offered with single or double grafts. Grafted peppers and eggplant will be offered along with tomatoes in many catalogs. Grafted cucumbers and watermelons may be added to the inventory once nurseries solve the logistics.

“Both vine out pretty quickly,” Kirschenbaum said. “We aren’t ruling them out, but we will have to come up with a clever way to get those plants shipped to our customers.”

At least one additional benefit can be derived from gardening with grafted plants: their entertainment value.

“It’s fun to say you can grow red cherry tomatoes and orange cherry tomatoes on one plant,” Kirschenbaum said. “Or Beefsteaks with a Roma.”

Online

www.graftedveg.com

More in Life

Marysville theater stages Noel Coward’s timeless ‘Blithe Spirit’

The cast and crew at the Red Curtain Arts Center do a fine job with the 1940s British play.

Stringed instruments get workout at Cascade Symphony concert

Tchaikovsky’s “Serenade for Strings” is the orchestra’s first concert of the season.

Animating Van Gogh paintings proves to be trippy yet flawed

“Loving Vincent” relates the circumstances of the great painter’s death.

Confusing, muddled thriller confounds talented director, cast

“The Snowman,” based on a Scandinavian crime novel, suffers from catastrophic storytelling problems.

‘Breathe’ ignores all the inspirational movie cliches

It tells the story of a polio patient and his wife who helped change attitudes about the disabled.

New Edmonds bakery showcases owner’s mastery of pastry

Desserts are the highlight at Ganache Patisserie and Cafe on Main Street near the theater.

What you’ll see Thursday night on Everett, Edmonds art walks

Third Thursday evenings in Everett and Edmonds offer chances for interesting strolls.… Continue reading

Fur & Feathers: 4 lovable dogs need homes

Meet Lola, Sadie, Scooter and Chance

Shrimp and grits, rendered healthful and Italian? We’re in.

This recipe features a sauce made with olive oil, tomatoes and herbs instead of cheese and cream.

Most Read