|Thirsty sweet potatoes are happy to see the rain. Aren't we all!|
Okay, it only rained for about 10 minutes while I was in a meeting and the streets were dry by the time I got outside. But, hey....it hasn't rained here forover two weeks and it may be closer to three weeks now that I think about it. It doesn't take much to get us excited at this point. I guess washing my car worked. :-)
Now, on to my super secret topic that I mentioned we would talk about today: grafting. First, let me just say that this new obsession that I have with grafting is being bourne out of all the problems I'm having with my tomatoes. As you know, I had to rip out one Early Girl tomato due to wilt (fungus) and now a second one is just about gone and it may be spreading to the heirloom Rutgers plant next to it. I'm scared to death that I'm going to lose my entire tomato bed. And, from what I've been reading, I'm not the only one with tomato woes this year.
Once your soil is infected with fusarium or verticullium (for example), it can be particularly difficult to get rid of it. One tactic is to sterilize the soil with steam (very costly!) or to cover over the soil with transparent plastic for the entire summer (no garden for an entire year!) And, if you have a small garden, rotating your tomato plants as a way to try to deter disease may not be possible.
Enter grafting. Basically, it's taking a less vigorous, less resistant variety of plant (which many heirlooms are) with the desirable above-ground characteristics like visual looks, taste, etc. and growing it on a tougher, more disease-resistant and insect-resistant rootstock. This is actually a practice that has been used for thousands of years and you may be more familiar with it in terms of apple or other fruit trees. Most trees you buy at nurseries are grafted. In Japan, 95% of watermelons and oriental melons, tomatoes, cucumbers, and eggplants are grown with grafting (Ohio State).
If you're interested in reading more about grafting, here are a couple of interesting resources on the topic:
And here's a really great video from the folks at Ohio State University that shows how to graft tomatoes: