There are gardeners that have greenhouses, propagation rooms, misting systems, and so on — and then there are normal people. Normal people have a dining room table or maybe a living room that their cohabitants have graciously given up for the start of the garden season. If you’re capable of starting your own seeds, then nothing is stopping you from grafting your own tomatoes. Grafting is the tomato equivalent to taking a person, and combining a great sense of humor with drop-dead-sexy looks. Right, it’s a no-brainer. Grafted tomatoes produce more fruit, produce later into the season, and are more disease resistant than ordinary tomatoes. Here are some methods that helped me achieve over an 85% success rate grafting tomatoes — in my dining room.
Start by seeding a rootstock tomato and a scion tomato (your favorite tomato variety) at the same time. Start your seeds 6 – 8 weeks before you plan on going outside with the plants. The rootstock and scion should be as close to the same size as possible. Grafting should only add about 10 – 14 days of propagation time over normal seed starting. Using this time table, a 50 count cell tray works best for starting your plants.
Use fluorescent lighting if possible. You don’t want to expose the fragile grafted plants to direct sunlight, but a simple fluorescent shop light will help the process along.
Use silicone grafting clips. Silicone clips fall off of the grafted tomato plant on their own when the graft has taken. When 3/4 of the clips have fallen, it’s time for the garden.This takes a lot of the guess work out deciding if the plants are ready or not. The size of your clip will determine the timing of the grafting cuts. The smaller the clip, the younger the plants need to be. I grafted my plants between 3 – 4 weeks old.
Keep the tray temp at 80° F. Assuming you don’t run your home’s thermostat in the 80s, use a heat mat to keep a higher temperature at the graft point of the tomato plants.
High humidity is critical for grafting success. Get yourself a tall humidity dome to put over the top of the cell tray. As long as the tray doesn’t dry out, the air will have the appropriate humidity for successful grafting.
Watch this video. Once you graft your own, you’ll never go back to the old, ordinary tomato.