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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

We have a skylight in the bathroom over our Jacuzzi tub with an area around the tub that is quite large. What plants can we grow there, and what care do they need? Can we grow orchids?

I want to raise the level of my lawn as much as 2 feet in places. I now have a large quantity of somewhat composted wood chips and I am wondering if I can use them as fill to raise the ground level and provide a good soil in which to sow a lawn.

Would it help to apply a starter fertilizer on a poor green lawn in December? Will it give it a head start for spring? It hasn’t been reseeded.

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