New tomatoes developed by Oregon’s Log House Plants came from experiments involving centuries-old techniques used to produce fruit trees and grapes
The hottest thing in tomato-growing this spring is a new breed of grafted tomatoes called Mighty Mato.
These are classic varieties, such as ‘Big Beef ‘, as well as heirloom tomatoes such as ‘Black Krim’ and ‘Brandywine’ that been grafted onto special solanum rootstock to create better disease resistance and more robust yields.
Mighty Matos were developed by Alice Doyle and Greg Lee, of Log House Plants, of Cottage Grove, Ore., a nursery that for more than 30 years has been cultivating a range of classic and unusual plants for the Pacific Northwest, especially edible and ornamental plants.
In B.C., Mighty Matos are being made available to local garden centres by Heritage Perennials in Abbotsford.
“It’s not always easy to get the abundant harvest we’re looking for,” says Heritage president John Schroeder. “We’ve all experienced the disappointment when blight and disease spoils our harvest. That’s why we’re so excited about this line of grafted tomatoes. They promise gardeners higher yields and healthier plants.”
Schroeder says the idea came out of experiments using the centuries-old technique of grafting that was used to produce fruit trees and grapes.
“More recently, this technique has been tested on vegetables, with the top part of one plant [the scion] being attached to the root system of a separate plant [the root stock].”
Schroeder says when the two halves fuse into one plant, the best qualities of each are captured.
“The root stock contributes vigour and disease resistance, while the scion provides exceptional fruit flavour and quality.
“The resulting plant is more vigorous and productive in a way that is still natural,” he says.
Tests conducted by Log House Nursery has shown that the grafted tomatoes are bigger than on the same variety grown without the graft.
“These don’t always have the same generous yields as newer varieties, which have been improved through traditional plant breeding efforts,” says Schroeder.
“What they do have are unique colours and flavours. By utilizing the strength of the root stock, heirloom varieties become more productive.”
Schroeder says other qualities of Mighty Matos include reduced susceptibility to over or under watering and earlier and longer and more abundant harvests.
“For the home gardener, this means grafted plants can be planted earlier and harvested later in the season. And – grafted tomatoes are able to uptake water and nutrients more effectively than non-grafted plants, making them healthier, stronger and higher-yielding plants, even in poor soil and using less fertilizer.”
In terms of growing technique, Schroeder says they have to be planted deeply, but ensuring the grafted area, which is clearly visible at the bottom of the stem, remains above the soil surface. If this is not done properly, the scion (top) will form its own roots, eliminating the benefits of grafting.