Tomato Grafting - Healing Chamber discussion

smithmalFebruary 4, 2014

I'd like to start a thread containing information/experiences with the construction and use of healing chambers for plant grafts.

From what I've read, the main step which would increase/decrease graft success is with the design and use of the healing chamber.

I've read several posts on people's different experiences with healing chambers and thought the creation of a thread to localize all this information would be helpful.

Some healing chambers are relatively simple and some are more complex. If you could provide information on your setup and experiences with using your chamber that would be great.

To ensure consistency of information, please use the following sub-topics for your healing chamber information:

1. Construction materials and cost
2. Design
3. Chamber use notes (providing info on a day to day basis would be the most helpful) concentrating on:
- Humidity reduction over time
- Light increase over time
- Venting
4. Success rate
5. Lessons learned
6. Optimization Thoughts

It goes without saying that pics say a thousand words so any and all pics would be very helpful.

Linked below is a video specifically on Healing Chamber use by Dr. Cary Rivard.

One thing I'll mention, which Dr. Rivard has indicated in past conference videos but not in the video below, is that it's best to perform grafts at night time to reduce the transpiration stress on the plants immediately following a graft procedure (2 - 3 hours post darkness).



Here is a link that might be useful: Healing Chamber Use Video

This post was edited by smithmal on Tue, Feb 4, 14 at 13:48

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excellent video. here's more info.

Here is a link that might be useful: healing chamber construction

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 4:49PM
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Nice link. Here's a link from your link. Interesting information within the "Healing the Grafted Plants" section.


Here is a link that might be useful: Vegetable Grafting Eggplants and Tomatoes

    Bookmark   February 4, 2014 at 7:56PM
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i tried this last year with little success. no time to try again this year. last year i started the rootstock and scion seed at the same time and ended up with difficult to match stem sizes. no healing chamber could make that right.

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 4:57AM
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Jarrod_King(zone 7 OK)

I tried grafting last year and had amazing success, I couldn't believe it. I think one died and that was not due to it drying out, I think it fell or something, I can't remember.

I did a lot of reading about what the requirements were for grafting healing chambers and thought why not a 20 gallon aquarium with water in it to assure humidity? You fill it partially with water and then float a seed starting tray on it. Add an aquarium heater to the water so it is the perfect temperature for grafting and this warm water causes 100% humidity or so in the aquarium. The aquarium hood is the light source (leave it off at first) and you can remove water as the plants grow so they don't hit the lights. The chamber stays perfectly humidified and I think this is the key to my success. I grow the seedlings in jiffy pellets and then after the graft put them in the tray in the aquarium. You keep it sealed up for many days after the graft. Then slowly try to open the lid some to reduce humidity. When I would do so too soon, the tomatoes would droop almost instantly so I can see the trouble you would have doing this another way. When you turn on the light or reduce humidity just keep watch and if they start to droop badly stop.

I used maxifort root stock and grafted to all sorts of tomatoes and gave them away to family and friends and planted them myself. I even grafted huge overgrown maxifort root stock to tiny tops. I used silicone grafting clips and as long as the plants were in the chamber they didn't seem to care at all and grew right together. I encourage anyone to try this method and grafting in general, it is a lot of fun!

When I do it again this year I may try to make a thread and show pics of how to set it up but I think you can understand from the text.

This post was edited by jarrod_king on Wed, Feb 5, 14 at 15:44

    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 3:40PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)


Thanks for the information. I am trying grafting (first year) using a 31 gallon tote and an Air-O-Swiss cool mister inside to maintain high humidity. I do the grafts this Sunday evening so hopefully, I will have some healed plants out of the process in 2 weeks. Getting the Maxifort and scions to "align" grafting diameter is the challenge!


    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 5:30PM
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I've seen individuals mention using aquariums before, but not quite in the way you describe. Any thoughts of a good, inexpensive aquarium heater? Could you give us an idea what your temp was and how you gradually increased you light? I was thinking of building a healing chamber from scratch, but I have an extra aquarium that could be used. It's a little small though, probably 24" x 18" x 12". What size aquarium would you suggest? Also, when growing your tomatoes with the maxifort rootstock, how many days did you delay your maxifort vs. your scions? My understanding is that maxifort grows very quickly and you need to delay germinating it 3 - 5 days after you've started your scion seeds.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2014 at 8:27PM
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Jarrod_King(zone 7 OK)

Rnewste, keep us updated on how it is going! I wouldn't worry too much about having them being the exact size, I had some that were ridiculously mismatched after I had used all the ones close in size and they turned out okay. I think it just all depends on how good the rest of your process and chamber is.

Smithmal, I kept the aquarium heater around 84 deg. as that is the optimal tomatoes grafting temp from my literature. As to an aquarium heater, I highly recommend the Aquatop 150 watt from Amazon. It is very cheap at 15.99 and the best heater I have ever owned. But any should do pretty well.

I gradually increased the light by doing just a few hours of the fluorescent after many days in the dark. You slowly build up and the wilting will always let you know when you've gone too far. When they are really robust I put them by a window as well for sunlight in addition to the fluorescent, but be very careful. You do the same with the humidity. Cover any large holes in the lid, I had a space at the back for the power filter and even uncovering that at first resulted in drooping.

Any aquarium would be fine it just depends how many plants you want. A big jiffy tray fits in a 20 gallon long aquarium. These are often very cheap at Petsmart.

I didn't delay the seed starting for the two different seeds but it would probably be best. Maybe even seven days different. I can't stress enough how vigorously the Maxifort grows. When I was doing the grafting, I threw all the tops and old jiffy pellets in a big pile and was amazed to see the Maxifort tops root somehow and start growing beautiful plants in the pile with no light or care whatsoever!

When you do this make sure and plant out some non-grafted versions of your tomatoes as well so you can compare the two. I'm a scientist in real life and don't like poorly controlled experiments, so do both kinds so you can see if it is worth it. I really enjoy the grafting and it isn't a hassle, it is more like a delight to feel so powerful that you can join two different plants together with nothing more than a sharp razor blade and a clip. My in depth comparison between grafted and non-grafted was messed up by a late frost last year that decimated my tomatoes, leaving few that I could directly compare, but I have had two different people say that the grafted plants i gave them kept producing far into the fall when the others they had had ceased and that is one often mentioned advantage for grafting I have seen. Have fun!

    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 9:09PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

I am using 2 HydroFarms heat mats under the Burpee XL tray, sitting on top of a 1/2 inch foam insulating layer. At the moment, the internal temp of the Healing Chamber is running at 81 degrees. The Air-O-Swiss on a timer, maintains the RH between 85% to 95%. The grafted plants will go in on Sunday evening, so I wanted to get the system stabilized a few days ahead.


    Bookmark   February 6, 2014 at 11:00PM
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rnewste(8b NorCal)

Did the "surgery" today:

So, we will see if the Healing Chamber works:

The 3 days wait until I can take a peek is killing me!


    Bookmark   February 8, 2014 at 10:08PM
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socalgal_gw Zone USDA 10b Sunset 24

My healing chambers are very low tech. I spray the inside of a quart ziploc bag with water, invert, and place one over each grafted plant. I make sure the bag doesn't touch the leaves (requires some trimming). When there is no moisture on the inside of the bag I take it off and respray. After a few days I cut a hole in the bag to reduce the humidity. Plants are at room temperature. When ready for more light I put them near a window. Works for me.

This post was edited by socalgal on Wed, Feb 19, 14 at 21:47

    Bookmark   February 9, 2014 at 10:07PM
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yardenman(z7 MD)

I would like to suggest an easier humidifying technique. Earlier this year, for a separate reason, I bought a 4 shelf plant stand at Lowe's for $30. I needed some space for new-planted flats to sit upstairs in warmth for germination.

But when I went to graft tomatoes, I realized I had the perfect space for them. The plant stand is called Weatherguard Early Start Greenhouse. I'm not pushing it, just what *I* found that seems suitable for recovery. The inside of the plastic cover is dripping water after only 2 hours, so it has to be near 100% humidity.

But I have a blog post about it HERE with more details about what I am trying.

Here is a link that might be useful: Grafting Tomatoes

    Bookmark   April 15, 2014 at 11:57PM
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