A few weeks ago I read an article that explained that it was possible to grow tomatoes from cuttings rather than just from seed. I had never even thought about doing this and was a little intrigued so I decided to give it a try and it really works!
I’ll explain exactly what I did so that you can easily try this yourself and have an endless supply of tomato plants to last the entire growing season.
How Do You Take The Cuttings?
Firstly you need to take your cuttings from the parent plant, which is more commonly referred to as rootstock when it is used for cutting material.
Most people know that its necessary to pinch out the lateral shoots when growing tomatoes so that you have one main stem from which the fruit will grow. This encourages the plant to put more energy into fruit production rather than green growth and also produces a nice straight plant which makes it easy to attach to a stake or any other support you may be using. To explain further, a lateral is the new growth that appears between existing leaves and the main stem.
Wait until this lateral growth is about 10cm long and a little firm (not too soft), then snip off with a pair of secateurs or pruning shears. I use recyclable clear plastic containers that I’ve kept from buying packaged produce in the supermarket, as mini greenhouses for striking my cuttings, (see photo) but you could easily use recycled takeaway coffee cups, seedling trays or small pots. Fill your cutting container with a good quality seed raising mix, compost or potting mix. If you’re using coffee cups or small pots you can create your own mini ‘greenhouse’ by using a plastic soft drink bottle. Cut off the bottom and place over your cutting. This helps to keep the cutting moist and creates a lovely warm environment for optimum root production.
Once you have taken your cuttings it may be necessary to trim some of the green growth to decrease transpiration. I normally just cut any large leaves in half. Then its just a case of pushing your cutting stems into the growing medium. You might like to make a small hole with a pencil or dibbler first to avoid damaging the stem.
Caring For The Cuttings
One thing that I did learn while doing this experiment is that tomato cuttings are just as thirsty as growing tomato plants so its necessary to always keep the soil moist. At first I was only misting the cuttings but as they were continuously looking a little limp, I ended up putting a plastic tray under my mini ‘greenhouse’ and just watered the soil every day. Once I did this I soon discovered that the little cuttings started producing roots after only a few days.
Potting Up Your New Tomato Plants
Once your little cuttings have started growing roots you can pot them up into some good potting mix or compost to allow them to grow to a decent size before planting them into your vegetable garden, a raised garden bed or a larger pot if you intend to grow them to maturity on a balcony or patio.
Remember to keep them well watered (daily or even twice a day if the weather is hot) and feed them at least once a week as they are very heavy feeders. I would use a fertilizer high in Nitrogen to begin with to encourage lots of green growth and once they start setting fruit change to one high in potassium to encourage more fruiting.
What Are The Benefits Of Growing Tomatoes From Cuttings?
Apart from being able to quickly and easily produce more tomato plants in this way another benefit of producing tomato plants from cuttings is that they will start fruiting much sooner than seed grown plants. I’ve even had one of the little plants start fruiting while still in the cutting tray.
What’s The Next Challenge?
At the moment I have 4 different varieties of heirloom tomatoes growing in the garden so I plan to propagate at least 2 to 3 cuttings of each variety and then I’ll try growing half the plants in a small greenhouse in a sunny spot outside and the other half inside near a warm windowsill.