We are all familiar with grafted fruit trees and roses but perhaps you haven’t yet heard about the newest addition to the world of grafting for the home gardener – grafted vegetables!
Grafting is when the fruit bearing part of one variety is attached to the roots of a different one. This way you can choose a rootstock that is strong, vigorous and resistant to pests and diseases and attach it to a variety which grows the best tasting fruits but may be weak, slow growing and susceptible to pests and diseases. It really is a way of getting the ‘best of both’ in one plant.
For many years commercial growers have used grafting as a way of overcoming pests and diseases, however it does also have a significant extra benefit as it produces a much more vigorous plant which will be healthier and crop for longer. Currently over 60% of tomatoes grown commercially in the UK have been produced on grafted stock
It’s not a new technique as it was first used commercially in Japan around 1914, when they found that the soil in which they grew their Watermelons had become badly infected by Fusarium root rot disease. Rather than lose the whole of their crop they grafted their best watermelon variety onto a rootstock that was Fusarium resistant. Not surprisingly the most common form of grafting is called ‘Japanese Top Grafting’. This is when both the fruiting variety and the rootstock are cut at a 45% angle when they are a few inches high, the ends dipped in rooting powder then clipped together. After a couple of weeks in humid conditions and protected by fleece the join will have completely fused and the clip taken off.
Over the last few years, here at Suttons we have undertaken extensive trials to find the best root stock and variety combination. Currently we use 5 different rootstocks as not every variety performs well with one type, so we need to find the perfect partner.
There are many advantages for the home gardener – perhaps the most popular is earlier (Aubergines can be 4 or 5 weeks ahead) and increased cropping periods. Grafted veg will grow when the days are shorter and the weather is cooler, meaning they are easier to grow out of doors and in an unheated greenhouse. The stronger root system also helps the plants to make better use of the nutrients in the ground and so grow bigger and healthier, needing less feeding. While their increased resistance to pests and diseases means that you can plant direct into greenhouse soil so doing away with the need for growbags or ring culture. And finally perhaps the best reason of all which is up to one and a half times more produce from a grafted plant than a normally grown variety!
Last year Suttons introduced grafted tomatoes, which proved very popular – we’ve had extremely positive feedback from our customers, so this year we have extended the range to include Sweet and Chilli Peppers, Cucumbers, Melons and Aubergines.
Here at Suttons we are excited about the opportunities that grafting offers – we hope you are too!