For the past several years I've taken cuttings of my tomato plants before the first fall frost
and kept them alive on my kitchen windowsill so that I could plant strong, healthy plants
in the spring. Although last year my cuttings died, my other attempts have been
successful, and it's wonderful to have plants ready to go in the garden as soon as
the weather is warm enough. My local big box stores charge a premium price for
plants this size, plus mine are heirlooms. (The ones I've grown in the past haven't always
been heirloom varieties, but that's all I grow now.)
This is a repost from an ongoing series with an original publish date of 10/10/12. I wanted to be sure you see it early enough that you can take cuttings of your plants before the first frost hits your area. Be sure to tell us if you do this, and about your results by posting in the comments below.
Remember my intention to keep my tomato plants alive all winter?
I took cuttings from my adult plants last fall, before the first frost. I did the Bradley variety first, since they were the easiest plants to get to, and a frost was looming. However, it didn't materialize, and I was able to also get cuttings from the Early Girl plants before loosing all the plants to winter. If you stick tomato cuttings into a glass of water and wait, you will get roots.
I changed the water weekly, but I think the cuttings would benefit greatly from some compost tea during the winter months. I lost the Bradley cuttings in January. Since I'd cut them several weeks earlier than the others, I think they just ran out of energy and sustenance, and they gave up. However, the Early Girl plants did well all winter, until the end of February when their dark green leaves began to lighten.
One had grown so tall and had even bloomed once. I pinched the flower off, not wanting the plant to put energy into producing fruit. I cut the plant in half and stuck the top half into a glass of water so that it too can root.
This week I potted them up.
I poked holes in the bottom of plastic cups.
I put some potting soil in the bottom of the cup, but not too much, since the "stems" on my plants were really long. I placed the roots and stem carefully into the potting soil, and added more soil with a spoon.
Once the cup was full, I compacted the potting soil with my fingers, and added more to bring it back up to the brim.
I watered them well, and let them set in the sink for awhile to drain. Remember, they've been living in pure water all winter long, so I'm sure they need lots of moisture for awhile until they adapt to their new environment.
Now, I have five potted tomato plants, already the size that nurseries will charge a premium price for this spring. They have very healthy root systems. Once the newest cutting develops roots I'll pot it up too, giving me half a dozen plants. I've bypassed the stage of fragile little seedlings that are so easy to lose to fungus, hard to harden off, and so attractive to cutworms.
Only six plants? Well, I lost some, remember. This was enough to test my theory that it would be possible to "clone" your own tomato plants. Next fall I can raise more, using cuttings from these plants, which are clones of last year's plants. To me, that's pretty exciting!
Some varieties might work better than others. The Bradley cuttings never developed the good root system that the Early Girls did; the Bradleys had a few long, long roots, where the Early Girls had so many more roots.
We're limited only by the number of sunny windowsills we have! (Unfortunately, I have only one east-facing window, no south windows, and only one west-facing window that the housecats can't access.)
Let me know if you do this next winter, what varieties you used, and if it's successful!
Part 1 - 10/10/12
Part 2 - 2/27/13 (That's this post!)
Part 3 - 10/7/13
Part 4 - How to Take Tomato Cuttings
My hope is to inspire you, and to encourage your homesteading plans and your dreams of a