Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Free Tomato Plants

Not only can you propagate herbs from cuttings, you can also do it with tomatoes! Tomatoes are well-known for rooting very easily, so they're actually one of the easiest plants to propagate this way. I currently have two tomato "mamas" growing in front of my kitchen patio door, and can't wait to plant cuttings from them in the spring.
I actually started them sort of by accident - I was tying up my tomato plants in the garden in July, and accidentally broke off two side branches. Instead of just throwing them in the compost pile, I decided to try growing them as cuttings to see if they would take hold. I didn't use any rooting hormone, I simply sunk the stems in well-moistened soil and kept them watered. I had them outdoors in pots until our first frost in September, and before I brought them in they each had tiny tomatoes starting to grow on them (we ate them in October - boy, was it good to have fresh, home-grown tomatoes while the snow was flying outside!)

They haven't flowered since (decreased light? lower temperature? the dog's tail constantly knocking off small branches?), but since I'm not counting on them for fruit over the winter, just vegetation for cuttings in the spring, I don't mind.

I'm very excited about this experiment because it means not only will I have a head start on spring planting (cuttings get going much faster than seeds) but, since each cutting is an exact copy of the parent plant, I don't have to worry about cross-polination. Since I grow more than one type of tomato (I usually have at least one cherry, one brandywine, and a bunch of roma-type for sauce) I usually end up with "mutts" when I save seed. This can be a fun little experiment, but it's a little less amusing when I meant to plant a bunch of meaty romas for the winter's supply of spaghetti sauce and end up with a bunch of cherry tomatoes instead!

But if I save a couple "mamas" from each type of plant in the fall, I should be able to start as many new cuttings as I'd like in the early spring, sure that they'll turn out to be the kind of plant I want (I'd save more than one plant of each kind, just in case - one of the plants I saved this summer got knocked over by an over-excited dog, and is barely hanging on).

I can't wait to see what other plants I can grow this way (although I may need my husband to build me a sunroom for all of these plants to overwinter in!)

No comments:

Post a Comment