Tomato Grafting Fail


The results are in on the tomato grafting project I last wrote about in July and they aren’t pretty. The plants grew slowly and reluctantly. The tomatoes had blossom end rot and were inedible. I even managed to attract tomato hornworms for the first time ever.

Two early mistakes led to subsequent problems. First, I should have purchased or made a seed starting mix rather than the potting soil I used. I ended up with weak seedlings. Secondly, I did not manage the post-graft period well. Having a greenhouse within which to create a “healing chamber” for the grafted plants would have made the process much easier.

Since I have no space or desire to build a greenhouse I’m, most likely, going to give up on attempting to graft my own tomatoes. I did this project out of a geeky sense of fun but it resulted in a summer with no homegrown tomatoes and that’s a life not worth living.

A better project, for our climate, would be to figure out how to grow tomatoes with little or no supplemental water. The feral tomatoes on the side of my mom’s house prove this is possible. For years, we also used to have volunteer cherry tomatoes along a wall now dominated by a massive Vitus californica vine. Next year I’m going to keep things simple, choose a drought tolerant tomato from Native Seed Search and plant it directly in the ground early in the season.

How did your tomatoes do this year? What kind did you grow?

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  1. I have a massive SunGold that was irrigated by nothing but rainfall and a large clay pot with a lid – inspired by the book I found on your site! I pulled another clay pot out of my garden bed mid-summer and the ground was bone dry, yet the tomato plant did just fine with the water it was drawing from the pot. Amazingly tasty tomatoes, too.

  2. The dreaded hornworm. I remember the first time that I found one of those among my cherry tomatoes. Little bastard ate about a third of a tomato and then moved on to the next tomato. What a jerk wagon to not even eat the entire tomato. Thankfully, cultural control is quite easy and oh so satisfying.

    Tomatoes were an absolute bust for me this year. Planted some new varieties that cam highly recommended by locals. Plants grew all spindly and produced very little fruit. At least my melon crop was killer.

  3. My tomatoes were a bust also. No matter how much water they got, they struggled. I am going to look for the cherry tomato that I grew several years ago from Native Search. I had wanted larger ones but guess I will have to be happy with what will survive in this heat. Seemed like the sun was more intense this summer. Even my huge older bushes suffered from leaf burn.

  4. We had varying success with our tomatoes this year. The winner in our garden this year was the “Spoon” tomato: The vines are still growing and producing and are probably 8-10′ long at this point. The only annoying thing is since they’re so small and the fruit clusters don’t all ripen at once it takes what feels like a long time to pick more than a few handfuls. The flavor is great and the hornworms couldn’t keep up with the production.

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