Planting tomatoes isn’t complicated

It doesn’t take a theoretical physicist to figure out that tomatoes are probably the most popular vegetable planted in gardens today, so you would think that planting them would be easy.

Tomato plants have the uncanny ability to grow roots all along their stems, as long as the stems are beneath or even just touching the soil. Nearly everyone who has grown tomatoes has picked up a wayward tomato vine lying across the ground only to find it has begun to root and is grabbing on.

My favorite way to plant tomato seedlings is to dig a trench, pinch off all but the top four leaves, lay the stem along the trench, and bury it leaving only the leafy top exposed. But with grafted plants, it is a bit different.

Cultivators discovered they can graft the part of the plant that produces fruit (the scion), of heirloom varieties with the rootstock of hybrid plants that have vigorous root systems. The result is a plant that produces copious quantities of flavorful heirloom tomato varieties. Grafting is common with fruit and other trees, but hasn’t really caught on with vegetables, until now.

The process is not easy and grafted plants are more expensive. But for those who are up to the challenge, there are Internet videos that demonstrate the process. When I first heard of grafting tomatos, I though it sounded interesting, but was not willing to take on the challenge. They can be purchased online from various suppliers.

Grafted plants have an obvious scar where the scion and the rootstock are joined. Always plant with the scar well above the soil line. Pinch off any sprouts that appear along the lower stem or at the soil line.

For commercial growers, grafted plants might be an option, but because of the higher price tag and the fact that most backyard gardeners are content with what they can grow during the season, I don’t see grafted tomatoes becoming a hot item among backyard gardeners. But they are out there, and the choice is yours.