Tomatoes are mad science

Carefully connect two stems

Carefully connect two stems

Even though we now grow spinach and other greens in our unheated greenhouses all winter long, it is still an event when we fire up the propagation greenhouse in the beginning of February. The first thing we seed is our tomatoes. This officially signals the beginning of the next growing season!

We have to start our tomato plants about a month earlier than we would otherwise because we graft them. Here’s how that works: we grow a special rootstock for its robustness and we also grow our favorite varieties of hybrid and heirloom tomatoes selected for their delicious flavored fruits.

After about a month, we take the rootstock plants and chop off their heads! Then we take our favorite heirloom varieties, lop off their roots, and very carefully match the little top guy up with the cut stem of the rootstock. We clip them together and over time they heal and just keep growing. We aren’t really reenacting Alice in Wonderland’s Queen of Hearts, although I do sometimes shout,  “Off with their heads!”, as I imagine the Queen would. I made it sound much more dramatic than it really is . . . In fact, grafting is really a rather delicate process that we do carefully one by one. Once the new top is clipped to the rootstock, we put the plants under a plastic dome to keep them in a high humidity environment so they can heal and fuse together.

Off with their heads!

Off with their heads!

Winter Greenhouse Woes……

This February has been unusually cold and it is hard to think about the increased amount of propane we are using to keep our greenhouse warm.

A few weeks ago, we received a delivery of propane. It was a sunny day so the heater didn’t need to run. I happened to be out of town visiting my mother and Tim went that evening to Tunbridge to call the numbers for Bingo. When he returned he found that the regulator on the propane take was frozen up and so there was no heat in the greenhouse.

The heater fan still was running and just blowing frigid air onto the plants. Tim put a back-up heater into the greenhouse but it was too late for most of our tomato plants that were destined to be the tops on our grafted plants . . .

Clipped together and growing

Clipped together and growin

The rootstock was okay because it was in a warmer spot . . . but rootstock is no good without tops . . . Everything else is the greenhouse was fine because nothing else was so sensitive to cold for a short period of time.

We have reseeded and also ordered some organic grafted plants from California so we won’t lose too much time getting ripe tomatoes . . . it will just be costing us twice as much . . . or more.

Ah farming . . .

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