Yong Huang, Epcot's manager of agricultural science at the Land, found out about tomato trees while visiting Beijing, China. He brought seeds back to Florida and grew a plant in a special greenhouse. Soon it was producing golf ball sized tomatoes, which are used to supply various Disney restaurants. Guinness World Records has recognized the plant as a world record holder; its harvest has yielded more than 32,000 tomatoes and a total weight of 1,151.84 pounds.
I don't have a greenhouse (and it wouldn't stay warm enough in the deep of winter to keep a tomato plant alive probably anyway). I've tried starting my own tomato seeds indoors with reasonable success, but we are lacking space in our tiny little house, and without grow lights the seedlings are leggy and not as robust as those from a nursery. Usually they don't survive outdoors long enough to set fruit, so I've stuck to buying tomato plants, which are usually hybrids.
BUT! I know from experience that it's possible to take cuttings of tomato plants and root them in water. In fact, it's hard to fail at this. Just take a cutting from a healthy plant, stick it in a glass of water and wait. That's how easy it is.
So... if I take cuttings of my plants before the first frost, and root them in water, and when they get too big for the glass, I take cuttings of those and root them in water... could I have healthy plants to plant in the spring? Could I do this year after year, without having to resort to seeds? If it works, this would be a great way to propogate heirloom plants, wouldn't it? They wouldn't technically be "perennials" since it isn't the same plant coming back or continuing from year to year, but would in a way be "clones" of the same plant.
At first the roots are small (above)... but after a few weeks they go kind of crazy (below)...
I've already started cuttings from my Bradley tomato plants, the cuttings in these photos. It was a good thing that I did, because those three plants are now, for some unknown reason, dead. The other two varieties have bounced back very well from the hot summer and an attack by tomato horn worms. Sunday night we had a light frost, and I did take cuttings from one variety, but couldn't reach the other plants in the back. At least I now have clones of two of the three kinds, and I might have time to get some from the third kind as well.
The cuttings grow best in a sunny windowsill. Change the water often, and the addition of liquid fertilizer (or compost tea?) probably wouldn't hurt either.
Part 1 - 10/10/12 (That's this post!)
Part 2 - Update #1, Spring
Part 3 - Update #2, Year Two
Part 4 - How to Take Tomato Cuttings
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