Tuesday, March 28, 2017

Three weeks into the grafting experiment .... and voila!!

Our original graftees have grown into handsome, ready to plant, survivors of our grafting experiment.
These guys were grafted a couple of weeks later. Looking' good!

Lots of mostly tomato plants just emerging from seed stage
You can hardly see it, but that's our first graft of a true heirloom.
Grafting tomatoes is no snap. But with a little perseverance and attention to detail, we are conquering the process. We've had our failures, sure, but successes outnumber them. Currently we are getting better than a 75% survival rate on grafted tomatoes as our skill level improves and we figure out what's important in the process.  At left are a later batch of graftees. Coming along nicely. We have all kinds of great plants in the works, from herbs to veggies, to flowers. Many of them will end up growing on our farm and getting to you at farmers markets and maybe in a restaurant you stop at to eat.
We hope to make our first appearance at a farmers market by the beginning of May and we will be looking forward to seeing you there. We'll probably kick off the year with rhubarb, spring onions, spring garlic and some young plants to try in your own garden. And some surprises. Enjoy the great weather and abundance of water! See you at market!!

Exotic tomatoes started from Wild Boar Farms' seeds.

Saturday, March 11, 2017


This is the tray with the best grafts, still showing lots of green.
We did our grafting on Monday, March 6. I’m encouraged there are still so many surviving plants. Today I checked to see if there was any particular type of “scion” that wasn’t taking. Of the 36 plants we grafted, nine of the scions are either dead or really struggling. Literature on the grafting process notes that some combinations are incompatible. In this case, however, incompatibility does not seem to be a factor. The failing grafts were of a clear cross-section of the scion material. Obviously, this grafting procedure is major surgery for the plants and they are extremely stressed right now. This morning I gave them a very mild feeding of a balanced fertilizer, 1 cup to 5 gallon ratio. I also regrouped the plants so I have one tray with all exemplary plants and another with half failing and half surviving plants. Side note: I am beginning to see the attraction of majoring in the sciences as this scientific pursuit is very satisfying. I do have to admit that it will be waaaay more satisfying if I get a bumper crop of tomatoes out of it!! 

Here we have possibly the most healthy looking graft. Seeing some new growth will tell me it's on its way.

This is more typical, still showing green but obviously a little bent out of shape about something!

Now this fella is interesting. If you examine the top of the clip it looks like the green part is a side shoot and the main part of the scion is trimmed off. It's interesting because we get to wait and see if it starts a new life out of the side shoot. 

Friday, March 10, 2017


This is the best-looking tray, the only struggler is on the lower left, but even so, it does have a bit of life in it.
On Day 5 of Singing Frog Farm's grafting 101 experiment, it appears we may have a 75% success rate. Of the 36 grafted plants, 28 seem to be lively enough to continue, especially if it only gets better from here. Eight look like they'll not make it out of their "hospital." Like for some reason the vascular systems just did not hook up and all that misting and spraying was not enough to keep the "scion" alive. A couple of observations: I did notice that the scions looked better yesterday afternoon, after a good soaking of the rootstock and the addition of plastic shelters over the trays, which would increase humidity. These plants are in trays that drain, so they don't stand in water for prolonged periods. FARM NOTES: We planted almost 300 cabbages yesterday ... and covered them in agribon so the jackrabbits won't be able to eat them. Today we're putting in lettuce, zucchini, and maybe some chard.
This tray's plants are faring a bit worse, with seven that look like they will not come back. We'll know in the next 2 days.

Wednesday, March 8, 2017


 Well, it's been approximately 48 hours since the grafting experiment started. I'm keeping the plants in as clean and low-stress an environment as I can. These pics represent the range of results of the trials. I've been told that the scions (top part) will practically die before taking hold. I'm also coming to see that the whole process is far more reliant on scientific precision than most of the farming activities I engage in. Makes me very thankful for the help I got in initiating this experiment. The photos were taken this morning, between 8 and 9 a.m.

Tuesday, March 7, 2017

Experiment in tomato grafting

The search for great tomatoes goes on and takes unexpected turns! This season, we turned onto a road that could take us to new abilities to deliver great tasting tomatoes to more people. The experiment started about a month ago when we planted seeds of rootstock tomatoes, the key ingredient in the experiment, along with some of my favorite heirlooms from tomato guru Brad Gates of Wild Boar Farms in Napa/Solano/Sonoma/Yolo. He's famous for the earth-shattering Berkeley Tie Dye tomato of a few years back. 

BTW, the tomatoes in the trays you are looking at were grafted yesterday and sadly, none of the tops are from Brad's varieties. We had to go with some standard hybrid varieties for the first batch because of the science of grafting: Rule number one is that the bottom and the top of the plants to be grafted must be similar in size. When my heirlooms got behind the rootstock in size, Eisley's Nursery in Auburn was most gracious in supplying me with appropriately sized plants from their greenhouses. It's a great nursery if you've never been there. But they had no heirlooms, either, so these are kind of practice grafts using hybrid plants like Early Girl, Better Boy, Beefsteak, Champion, Jubilee.

All these pictures were taken this morning. As with any patient after surgery, these plants are now in my "hospital" recovering from the extreme process they underwent yesterday. Yesterday afternoon they looked really bad but I gave them lots of water in the pots and a gentle misting a few times in the afternoon, as well as cutting off some foliage, and most are still surviving today. The first 3-5 days are the most critical, because the vascular system of the rootstock cannot deliver nutrients and water to what is called the "scion" -- that is, the top that you put on the plant. 

Pretty much any of these plants that are still alive in two weeks will be viable for putting into the field. The advantage for undergoing the process is disease resistance and root system aggressiveness. I was given 9 grafted plants from a UC Davis trial last year and found them to be great producers that had no disease and lasted well into November. The latter, I think, was because their root systems could support the tops better deeper into the cold months.

I'm thinking these plants not only could be good for me, but also for many home gardeners with limited space who would love to grow tasty heirlooms but also want a bigger harvest. So if this topic interests you, keep an eye here as I will be posting photos daily. Maybe not with nearly as much commentary ... more like a visual journal of the grafting process.

Saturday, January 7, 2017

 My little orange marvel

What to do when an atmospheric river is heading toward your cabbage patch: Grab a trenching shovel and start digging!

That's exactly what I did this morning. Dig trenches to carry water away from the onions, garlic, cabbage and Brussel sprouts. While this storm really doesn't seem all that threatening, the wind is picking up and I don't want to get caught reacting too late to a major downpour. I think we're ready enough. So ...
Now Susie and I are going to see "La La Land".