There’s a new superhero in the garden, thanks to the veggie scientists at Log House Plants.
The Cottage Grove wholesale nursery that brought grafted tomatoes to home gardeners in the United States in 2009 and introduced a tomato-potato combo called Ketchup and Fries in 2014, has now outdone their double grafted tomatoes with the introduction of several triple grafted varieties.
This means gardeners can get plants that will grow three varieties of tomatoes. So from one plant, you can grow a slicer, cherry and paste tomato or, say, three different colored cherry tomatoes.
The options are numerous, with an emphasis on contrasts. Varieties are matched up that will ripen around the same time but that contrast in shape, color or size, said Alice Doyle, co-owner of Log House, which released the Mighty 3’Mato this year to the public, adding to its Mighty ‘Mato brand that also includes double-grafted tomatoes called Mighty 2’Mato.
“It’s like a science project. It’s just fun,” she said.
But Doyle and those who have grown grafted tomatoes, claim they are much more than fun.
When taking gardening calls at the Oregon State University Extension Service Gardener Help Desk, Master Gardener Harry Olson recalls getting questions such as, “I have a small space in my backyard that gets sun, but my tomato plant isn’t doing as well as it did last year.”
He would tell them that’s because tomatoes, like other crops, need to be rotated and they were out of luck.
He wishes he could talk to all those callers again. He would tell them about grafted tomatoes.
“With grafted tomatoes, because of the incredible disease resistance, you can plant in the same little spot year after year; you don’t have to rotate,” said Olson, who got a sneak peek at the triple grafted tomatoes from Log House last year as part of early trials. “It’s a cool solution for someone who has limited space.”
Grafted tomatoes marry well-loved varieties to a wild tomato rootstalk, which are known for their ability to resist disease, pests and drought, in addition to producing more, bigger fruit later into the season. The practice has been around for nearly 100 years and is used throughout the world to save farmers money on chemicals and pesticides and increase their yield.
Doyle said the grafted plants in general increase a gardener's chances of a successful yield, and the triple grafted ones really are like three plants in one and can produce triple the fruit of a regular grafted tomato.
"The reason we grow the varieties we grow is because we like them," Doyle said. "This is a really great way to get more varieties in a garden in the same space."
What’s next? How about a triple grafted eggplant or a plant that combines two varieties of eggplant with a tomato? You’ll be able to see those from Log House at The Oregon Garden this summer.
There still is time to get tomatoes in the ground. Harry Olson said he usually shoots for the first of June but anytime this month will work. Here are Olson’s tips for planting:
- Dig a hole deeper than needed.
- Add lime and fertilizer, and fill the hole with water.
- Place some dirt back into the hole, and plant the tomato. “Roots will hit a treasure trove of fertilizer and be off to the races,” Olson said.
- Most importantly, if you are planting a grafted plant, don’t bury the graft or you will lose the benefit of the wild tomato root stalk.
- To prune, cut off all the suckers, the baby growth coming out of the armpit of the stalk and branches. Olson also guides each stalk up a different side of the cage. He learned last year not to let one of the stalks get hidden in the back, which will shade it. You also can let the plant grow bushy or train it up ropes.
Where to find a triple
Log House Plants is a wholesale nursery, but you can find their Mighty 3’Matos at 13th Street Nursery.