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Good Graft


The hot new thing in vegetable gardening is grafted plants. Burpee and Ball and other plant breeders have developed grafted tomatoes and eggplants in recent years, and I saw them growing in the trial beds at The Gardens at Ball in West Chicago last summer. The idea is that the vigorous rootstock will make the fruiting part of the plant grow faster and produce more fruit. The idea has been common practice with roses for decades.

The breeders started by focusing on heirloom plants such as the ‘Brandywine’ tomato because heirlooms sometimes aren’t as productive as we would like them to be. Heirlooms often don’t have the disease resistance of some modern hybrids, but most fans would say they make up for that with superior taste, plus the fact that you can save their seed if you like and have the fun of being part of a practice that goes back centuries.

Photos courtesy of Burpee Home Gardens

Burpee “gifted” me with three of their tomato plants this year, and someone else sent me a grafted eggplant to try. I am eagerly eyeing their progress and hoping for great things. Unfortunately, the weather hasn’t been cooperating, so they have mainly been standing around like grumpy commuters at a bus stop waiting in the cold rain for a long overdue bus. Hopefully the weather will stabilize soon and we’ll get the warm sunny days these plants need to grow. In the meantime, my roses are looking terrific.

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questions

The foliage on our cucumber plants is starting to wither and turn yellow. They get plenty of water and I feed them regularly. What could be wrong?

I have two 20-year-old pine trees whose needles are turning brown on the west side of the plants. On the east side I have a compost pile.

I live in the St. Charles region and my soil is mostly clay. What is causing the browning? Should I get rid of the compost? How do I correct the damage?

What are some trends in gardening you see becoming more prevalent in the next few years?

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