Vegetable grafting is the big craze in home gardens this year! Though the process is centuries old it is only recently that this method has become popular among home gardeners. By bonding the rootstock of one plant to the top portion of another you can create a “Frankenplant” resistant to stress, resilient to disease, and eminently more productive.
What is grafting?
Grafting in its simplest terms is the bonding together of two plants’ vascular tissue. The rootstock of one plant is bonded to the top portion, or scion, of another with the intention of retaining the desirable characteristics of both. For hundreds of years this process has been used to grow woody plants and during the last century farmers in Southeast Asia have begun using it in the cultivation of food crops. It is only within the last few years that home gardeners have started to use this method to grow durable and bountiful vegetable plants.
What kinds of plant can be grafted together?
While it is possible for inter-species grafting to take successfully, plants of the same species will readily bond. Grafting is however very common between genera, allowing us to graft things like a tomato and eggplant together. It should be noted that grafting does not produce hybrids, rather two distinct plants bonded together at one point.
What are the benefits of grafting?
Plants are grafted especially to have increased resilience against stress and soil borne disease, like bacterial wilt and nematodes. It will produce the delicious fruit variety of the scion but with a carefully selected rootstock can produce 50% more yield.
How is grafting done?
There are various methods of grafting but the simplest for novice gardeners is tube grafting. A rootstock is chosen for qualities like fruitfulness, the ability to grow in certain types of soil and genetic fitness. A scion is chosen for the qualities of its fruit, like taste, color or size.
The seed of the rootstock is planted a day or two before the scion so that the root stock is stronger and bigger than the scion. When they are roughly 4” tall and the rootstock is topped and a small slice is made down the center. The scion is cut from its roots, inserted into the slit of the rootstock and a grafting tube is then used to secure the two together. The new plant must then be kept in humidity and temperature controlled environment until it is able to fully heal. Keeping the incision free of bacteria is imperative to the success of a graft.
The portion of the plant below the point of grafting will continue to display characteristics of the rootstock while the portion above will receive nutrients from the stock. Typically the rootstock’s limbs are trimmed back and what’s left for harvesting is the delicious fruit of the scion.