Okay, Log House Plants, I’m in. This Oregon nursery has developed a line of grafted tomato plants that they have branded “Mighty ‘Mato.” As I understand it, these tomatoes are available online this year and are starting to be distributed at independent garden centers.
The idea is this: Commercial tomato farmers already graft their tomatoes onto modern, disease-resistant rootstock that is intended to not only help fight disease but also increase yield and survive temperature swings and other such abuses. Just as roses and fruit trees are grafted onto modern rootstock, so, apparently, can tomatoes, eggplant, pepper, melon, cucumber, squash, and (I hear, but have not yet seen) basil.
Alice Doyle, the owner of Log House Plants, has talked to me about these grafted vegetables a few times and she knows well the challenges I face: living eight blocks from the giant air conditioner known as the Pacific Ocean means that temps never, ever exceed 80 degrees in my backyard, and tend to hover around 70 all summer long. It’s not prime tomato-growing weather. Add to that the soil-borne diseases that turn healthy green tomatoes into black monstrosities overnight late in the season, and–well, let’s just say I support my local farmers who have the sense to live inland, where proper summer weather can be found. I have more or less given up on growing tomatoes.
So. I (along with a lot of other garden bloggers, I suspect) have been sent two tomatoes to test: A grafted ‘Big Beef’ and an ungrafted ‘Big Beef’. I’ve planted them side-by-side in identical containers, where they can get the best sun and heat my sad little fog-bound garden can offer. The grafted version is on the right, and the ungrafted version is in the middle. (On the left is a Sweet 100 cherry tomato I bought at my local garden center on impulse.)
Normally I would never attempt to grow a tomato with a name like ‘Big Beef.’ I’d try a cherry tomato or a small cool-weather variety like San Francisco Fog. I mentioned that to Alice and she promptly popped a few more varieties in the mail. More on those next week.
Meanwhile, here’s the test setup. I’ll report back throughout the summer.
For the complete list of grafted tomato varieties, go here and look at page 3. Although the cost is higher, I’d happily pay a little extra for a tomato that actually produced food I can eat. The 2-in-1 (two tomato varieties on one rootstock) are a great idea, especially for containers and hanging baskets. And I am wildly excited about the basil, which is the other plant I desperately need but simply can’t grow in the chilly weather.
If anyone else is trying out these grafted vegetables, please do let us know where your reports on the experiment can be found.