How do you know you are getting a bit behind in garden chores? When the 2014 seed catalogs start arriving and you have not completed cleaning out the garden beds! I was enjoying the newly arrived Pinetree and High Mowing catalogs when I realized I have not finished my chores with this year’s garden. We already had a garden work day but I spent more time helping put a wood chip border around our deer fence to protect the fragile plastic mesh deer fencing fabric from the town’s mowers than cleaning up my own plot.
We always recommend gardeners pull disease-prone plants like tomatoes, peppers, squash and cucumbers and dispose of them in the trash, the task I had yet to finish in my own garden beds. So today I headed to the garden with a black plastic trash bag. My first discovery was a pleasant one. I had left some Golden Ball turnips in the ground after pulling the larger ones and they survived nicely. I now have a nice batch of turnips to use for Thanksgiving dinner.
Next I pulled all the dead solanaceous and cucurbit plants. The plants were dead brown stems, the leaves long blown away. The biggest distinguishing characteristic was the roots, and how easy or hard it was to pull the plant. Particularly interesting to me was to compare the root structures of the grafted tomato plants to the ungrafted control plant. I have already declared the grafted tomato experiment a failure, and I won’t be planting them next year. Looking at the root balls, you can see why. Below is a photo of the Juliet tomatoes. The ungrafted tomato is the one at the top.
Alright, maybe I should have removed the fabric from the grafted tomato, but roots are supposed to grow through it and actually did. Also notice the size of the stems. The ungrafted Juliet at the top was grown in a 4 inch pot by a neighbor and was a beautiful transplant with a thick, stocky stem flushed with red. The grafted tomato was a mail order plant and arrived as a small, spindly plant and was never going to compete effectively with my locally grown ungrafted plant. Next I pulled the Big Beef tomatoes, shown below.
Again, the ungrafted Big Beef is the plant on the top. The Big Beef grafted plant was a bit more successful than the pathetic Juliet grafted plant, but did not compare well to the ungrafted Big Beef. So much for the theory that the rootstock used for grafted tomatoes is far more vigorous and produces huge root volumes. In my case, that clearly is not true, but there must be a reason. Commercial growers are huge consumers of grafted plants, so it must work in the right conditions. For the time being, I will sit out the grafting experiment and go with ungrafted plants next year.