Spring has sprung: Try some All-America selections and grafted tomatoes

pots & plants.inddThe weather is finally cooperating enough that gardeners can look at All-America flower selections as well as begin to think about vegetables.

A tropical red canna named “South Pacific Scarlet” leads the list that has a 4-inch flower, will bloom all summer and grows 4- to 5-feet tall. This canna is started from seed and would have to be purchased as a plant from a greenhouse. It will form a rhizome that can be taken up in the fall.

Echinacea or cone flower “Cheyenne Spirit” is a variety of assorted vibrant colors. These are resistant to drought which is a desirable asset for sandy soil gardeners. It is compact and very sturdy.

The third flower is a bedding plant geranium named “Pinto Premium White to Rose” with long-lasting 5-inch blooms. It is a white bi-color that changes from white to rose as it matures. To keep any geranium blooming, pinch the faded bloom to the base regularly.

A cherry tomato called “Jasper” F1 is a winner with high yields, excellent taste and a long production time. This little tomato keeps very well on the vine or when stored. The F1 indicates fusarium resistance.

The other two are melons and are both classified as F1. “Harvest Moon” is a pink-fleshed water melon that produces medium-sized fruits, very sweet with a short vine. As with most melons, it has a long maturity date of 80 to 100 days. The other melon called “Melemone,” has a honeydew colored flesh with a sweet-tart taste. It is very early, 70 – 80 days. The fruit is oblate in shape with a size of about 6 inches.

A new arrival for this year’s gardeners is the grafted tomato. Grafting has been around for centuries in Europe and Asia, even vegetables. We are most familiar with grafted fruit trees and grapes.

Grafting is fusing tissues of one plant to another. The purpose of grafting is to obtain the best qualities of two plants and fuse them together.

Tomato grafting has been around for a while in our country, especially those grown in water.

This is the first year I have seen these plants for sale and they are in several seed catalogs and on the Internet. Grafted tomatoes are more adept at taking up water and nutrients making them better adapted to disease, pests and temperature changes.

The fruits become larger and bear over a longer period of time. For me, the greatest advantage is disease resistance. Late blight is said to be almost eliminated.

Grafting is also done on peppers and egg plants. I understand melons and cucumbers will follow. There is definitely one drawback and that is cost.

I have found the least expensive to be about $8 a plant and of course I could not resist buying some. The plants will arrive sometime in May.

It is quite a process to graft vegetables. The roots are grafted onto very expensive rootstock. In one seed catalog, the grafting seeds were about $30 for 30 seeds.

Grafted tomatoes must be planted differently than regular tomatoes and must be handled very carefully, planting the graft above the soil. The graft line must be above the soil to prevent roots from growing on the original tomato stem. All of our present tomato plants will root along the any part of the stem that comes in contact with soil.

If any suckers grow below or above the graft, remove them. The root system is much, much larger than a regular tomato and plants will be much taller and stronger.

These plants should be fertilized, staked and watered as for other tomatoes.

 

Betty Winscher is a Master Gardener and can be reached at (320) 584-8055 or via e-mail at bjwinscher@yahoo.com.

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