Grafted Tomato Pruning Tips

Jenny168May 11, 2013

Hi Everyone,

I spoke with a master gardener yesterday who has been doing trials of grafted tomatoes since 2011. His name is Harry Olsen and he has a website called and it shows him being interviewed for local television and radio in Salem, Oregon about growing grafted tomatoes.

He was kind enough to speak with me for about 20 minutes about growing grafted tomatoes. He did tests of a number of different varieties growing ungrafted right next to the grafted. He said he got about 10 times the production with the cherry tomatoes and 3 to 4 times with the beefsteaks. He said that grafted tomatoes MUST be pruned because he said the grow so thick, with stems about 2 inches thick and with so many stems you cannot even reach in and it doesn't allow sun or air in. He called it a birds nest. He said when he finally pruned one he discovered 30 tomatoes hiding inside his Berkeley Tie Dye Pink! He also said when his non- grafted plants had long died, the grafted were still producing fruit well into fall when it was quite cold already.

He said from now on, he will always grow grafted tomatoes. He also grew grafted eggplant and had even better success with that if you can believe it.

He grows in raised beds and he has built custom 12" x 12" cages (yes small) and then he then prunes the grafted tomatoes to 4 stems and ties them up the 4 corners of his 8 foot cages. He said they grew out the top and got to be about 12 feet tall. He was very firm that they must be pruned or they are not manageable.

He still grows some non grafted and he does not prune those.

I just wanted to share what he told me since a lot of us are trying grafted tomatoes this year. Mine are finally going to be planted on Tuesday and I will keep everyone posted as to my progress. Check out some of his interviews, they are quite interesting.

Good luck to all!


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digdirt2(6b-7a No.Cent. AR HZ8 Sun-35)

Good info but it is still only one individual's opinion and one with which many would disagree. Not everything works for everybody or for every garden.

Each gardener has to evaluate the recommendations and the results for themselves and understand that the results may be very different within their particular climate and garden.


    Bookmark   May 12, 2013 at 1:12PM
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You do need to be careful about reading too much into these claims. Grafted plants definitely do need more pruning but for different reasons- the suckers of the root stock will grow vigorously from below the graft and need to be constantly removed all season long. And in order to do that suckering effectively you should at least remove suckers from a few feet above the graft just to be sure. Pier review articles might suggest a 5% increase in yield instead of 10X (1000%). To most of us who have tried grafting in the north where few soil borne diseases are an issue the hassles arent worth the benefits of grafting. Since I sucker plants extensively in my greenhouses I do however differ with Dave totally about the benefits of suckering. I can't think of a better way of increasing marketable yield per square foot of soil area than to plant more densely and sucker to one or 2 stems.

Depending on where you are located, Jenny, you may benefit more from Grafting, Dr. Randy Gardner had stated that in North Carolina where soil diseases are prevalent one just cannot get heirloom tomatoes to a harvestable crop without grafting. You'll just need to weigh the options.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2013 at 8:15AM
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drew51 SE MI Z5b/6a

I tried a grafted plant this year and I'm very impressed. I can't comment on productivity, although it is outgrowing all other plants at a fast rate. But what I find valuable is the fact the plant can tolerate bad conditions a lot better. We had too much rain and all my tomatoes lost lower leaves to yellowing from the excess water, except the grafted plant which seems to thrive under any conditions.
So in places where it rains a lot or have shortened seasons, it is a definite plus. Not surprising as grafting has worked so well for fruit trees. A great idea!

    Bookmark   July 9, 2013 at 10:48AM
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seysonn(8a WA/HZ 1)

I also have couple of grafted cherries, but so far nothing evident since most fruits are smaller than half size.

I have also trimmed them. Now each has a total of 4 branches at 6' height..
Anyway, about grafting, I believe it when I see it.

    Bookmark   July 10, 2013 at 2:55AM
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