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My tremendously supportive husband & I have 3 wonderful children, 1 dog, 12 laying hens, 2 dairy goats, 3 bee hives, and a 2000 sq foot vegetable garden on a small 1/4 acre lot in the city. In the center of it all is our small 1,000 sq foot house purchased in 2008 as a foreclosure that we fully renovated to host our growing family, home school adventures, and small home business (CozyLeaf.com). We have a desire to learn a path to self sufficiency finding ways to be good stewards of the resources God has given us. We want to learn to live with less as we laydown roots to our little homestead.

Monday, April 9, 2012

Grafting tomatoes and peppers onto Maxifort Rootstock

Grafting plants for your garden!! I love to learn new things and this is something that has thrilled me since I first heard about it last year. I have to admit I was a little nervous though. For some reason it seemed like a ridiculous amount of work for a few plants...but im beginning to be more and more excited! It really has not been that much work at all! We always start our garden from seed inside...so that wasn't a new step. Then this grafting process only took about an hour (which was with the help of all my kids, me taking pictures, and a few drop in guests that ended up attending the "party"). The research, on the other hand, has definitely taken a lot of time...but I LOVE research!! I also chose not to do my entire garden as grafted plants. I am doing 1 plant of each variety as a grafted plant and then the others are regular...this way I can see how vigorous and disease resistant the grafted tomatoes are (or aren't) in direct comparison to their ungrafted counterpart... don't worry, I will definitely be posting pictures throughout the season of their progress and my research!

Watch this video and he will show you 2 different methods of grafting...I went with Top Grafting. 

Supplies Needed:
  • Rootstock plant - (the base and roots you want to keep. I used Maxifort Rootstock)
  • Scion plant - (the top and fruit you want to keep. I used various heriloom plants)
  • Grafting Clip (I used 2.00mm silicone grafting clips)
  • Razor Blade
  • Pots for post grafting planting
Grafting Clips:
Razor Blade: Make sure your razor blade is clean and sharp!

Cut off the first leaves from both plants. 
Find a rootstock and scion plant that have very close to the same size stem.
Oh my Oh my...I seriously hesitated several times and was VERY nervous before I took my first cut! It was quite amusing! But I was so nervous!! I kept thinking how odd it was that I grew all these little plants from seeds and now I was about to hack off the top of them all and stick 2 different plants together and hope they survive! 
Well deep breath folks cause we haven't come this far for nothin!
Cut off the top of each at a 60 degree angle. Slip the clip over the rootstock and then slide in the scion to match up. 

Slide them together gently to touching...dont cram them together forcefully

Gently repot your plant into the soil pot.
Once you have all your plants successfully grafted you will put them into a "healing chamber" for several days to give them an opportunity to fuse the graft. You don't have to buy fancy equipment to make a healing chamber, you just need humidity, darkness, and warmth. 
Water and Mist all your plants well: 

I put my plants into a plastic storage container with a cup of hot water: 

Then I misted the top of another storage container and set it on top to form a humid environment: 
I put a towel over my container to keep it dark.
Day 1-4 do nothing...just let them set in their warm, dark, humid place. Then the 4th evening just remove the top cover to let them slowly awake from the healing chamber. Keep them in a low to light area that night and next day. Then just begin hardening them off by introducing a bit more light each day till they are good with full sunlight!

This same process can also be done with eggplant, peppers, or whatever plant you desire to have a strong root system!!

Tip: Since all of my rootstocks and scion plants were not perfectly the same stem size, I chose to pull them out and match them up prior to cutting to make sure I had the best matches...and rearrange if necessary. Be VERY careful not to confuse the rootstock from the scion...that would be bad! I laid out all my scions first under their name on my tags...then matching up the best Maxifort was easy. 


  1. two points here:

    1) better to grow all grafted and one non-grafted and not the other way round.

    2) perfect matches on a graft is not important... these fast growing organisms recover quite well.

    1. Thank you for your advice! if you have grafting experience I would love to hear more advice because I had a horrible time with grafting this year! only 1 of my plants survived, I don't know what I did wrong. it actually looks the worst in the garden as well I have 36 ungrafted tomatoe plants that looks fabulous but the 1 that I grafted looks terrible. I refuse to be defeated ;) I will try again¡

  2. I'm wondering how your grafts did turn out? (I found this post with Google -- maybe you have another post that doesn't show up? The only other one I find is about your goats getting ready to kid -- and that we know all about!) I'm also wondering if you were able to graft peppers with the tomato root stock? We're really excited about trying this. We're a small Orthodox Christian women's monastery, with 220 acres of woodlot, wetlands, sheep and goat pasture, chickens, ducks, dogs, cats and guests who stay in our small guest house so we aren't overwhelmed and they can share in our life... You can see us at www.holymyrrhbearers.com. Thanks for any more information you can share! -- and Merry Fifth Day of Christmas! Mother Raphaela

    1. Hi mother raphaela, thank you for contacting us...I look forward to checking out your website!
      I haven't made any updates about grafting because I still can't decide how I feel about them! First off, I've only done this one time so I'm defintely not an expert. I set the grafts and put them in the "healing chamber" for a few days and they looked absolutely fabulous that entire time. As I started the hardening off process, I started to loose a few. I am sure I just did something wrong but I'm not sure what it was. I ended up with only 1 plant that was grafted :( I was a little sad, but was excited to see how it did. We had some fencing issues this year and the goats kept getting into our garden (over and over again) especially the little baby goats who thought the little green tomatoes were treats for them. In the heat of the summer, I was watering the garden like crazy and started to get frustrated with the amount of money spent on water so my goats could have an expensive treat. Everything but the tomatoes had died off from the heat, so I stopped watering and just let the baby goats have at it. I stopped paying attention to the tomatoes and about a month later I noticed a massive out of control green bush covered in little yellow flowers. Yes, it was the one grafted tomato plant! Everything else in the garden was dead...after not being watered for an entire month. But this plant was thriving!
      I was immediately sold on the idea of grafting and was convinced I would graft all my future tomatoe plants...but then I remembered how hard it was to get one to survive. If you grow all your own plants from seed and then graft all your tomatoe plants and then only a few make it, that would be quite sad. We only did a few dozen so it wasn't a huge loss. I recommend trying it out. If you can have a high success rate you will be thrilled with your crop I'm sure!
      I hope that helps! I've wanted to update, but couldn't decide with I would recommend it or not...this is why ;)

    2. I do still plan to try them again this year!

  3. I'm very curious as to how the pepper did grafted onto the Maxifort. Did it take? I'm experimenting with grafting tomatoes and melons this year for my garden. I found this blog while looking for information on grafting peppers onto tomato rootstock.

  4. Ah, I just read the comments above. Even if the pepper eventually died, did it seem to have grafted together? And good luck this year!

    1. The peppers did take the graft! I just did something wrong after the healing chamber process since that is when everything started dying. I need to research more about the healing chamber and hardening off process.
      I definitely recommend trying it!! I will be experimenting more as well :) best of luck, keep me updated on your progress!

    2. According to my readings, the grafts should have been returned to the healing chamber when they showed signs of limpness after being brought out of it. They were not as ready as they looked.

  5. Thanks for your reply. I think grafting might help bell peppers do better in the summer heat down here in the deep south.

    I've actually grafted a few tomatoes already, just for experimentation. They're not completely hardened off (the weather still too cold), but can stand direct sunlight for a long time. Key, I think, is constantly watch for any signs of wilting during the hardening off process. If a plant wilts even a little bit, bring it back into less light and more humidity. Mist the leaves a little with water, even.

    Most important, probably, is to time the first most vulnerable period of hardening off with a time that you'll be around the house to keep a watchful eye on them for any signs of wilting.

    I've currently got a few melon plants "approach grafted" together, to see what they'll do. I'll let you know how it goes. And I look forward to reading about your own experiments this season. Good Luck!

  6. Awesome info and great advice!!!! I think you are right about really being careful during the hardening off process. They are much more delicate than other plants at this stage. I'm eager to hear about the melons!
    I definitely think grafting is a great thing during this nation wide drought we are going through. This summer is not supposed to be much better than last summer :( I was completely shocked that I went over a month without watering my tomatoes during the hottest point of the summer and the one tomatoe plant that I had grafted was still going strong!!
    Thank you so much for keeping me updated! I'm eager to hear how your adventures in grafting!!

  7. Dear Homestead Roots!

    I just ran across your blog looking for pepper rootstock. I work on a farm in southeastern Pennsylvania where we started grafting tomatoes in 2009. As I saw interest begin to grow, I started a business for grafting last year. I would love to talk to you on the phone and maybe be able to help you out a little bit on you having success. If you would like, you can check out my facebook page: Re-DiVined. I have pictures uploaded from this season of grafting and I am excited about how well things are going so far. God bless you!
    Kaitlin Dye

    1. Oh my goodness, I do not know how I missed this comment before. Thank you so much!!! I would love to get advice :)

  8. Update.
    I haven't forgot about my promise to update.

    Tomatoes. My main purpose in grafting tomatoes is defeating the Southern Root Knot Nematode, a microscopic roundworm in the soil that causes root galling, and the eventual wilting death of the plant. Most heirlooms are susceptible to nematodes while many hybrids and rootstocks have been bred to be resistant. I had heard about trying the Celebrity hybrid as a rootstock, but no one seems to have actually done it.
    So I took 3 heirlooms I'm familiar with (Black Krim, Pink Brandywine, Stupice), and grafted one each onto Celebrity and one each on to Maxifort. I also grafted a Celebrity onto a Maxifort. As a control, there will be a plant each of Celebrity and the three heirlooms ungrafted.
    So, I'll be able to compare the results of the plants with their own roots, the plants with Maxifort rootstock, and the plants with Celebrity rootstock.

    I did have some troubles. My first batch of Celebrity and Maxifort grafts were with stunted and malnourished plants. Many of them didn't make it. I repotted the left-over seedlings that I didn't graft into bigger pots and better potting soil, and grafted a second batch later. I also restarted seeds for a third grafting if I needed it. Which I did. The last few grafted plants I need are sitting in the healing chamber right now.
    The plants from the previous graftings are now in the garden and seem to be doing fine.
    I think, with the lessons I've learned, I'll probably have a pretty good success rate in the future.

    Melons. The depredations of the nematodes are even worse on my melons, So I'm trying some rootstock that's supposed to be resistant to nematodes.One is the kiwano (also called jelly melon, or African horned cucumber).It's a close relative of the muskmelon. For watermelon rootstock, I'm trying the Red Seeded Citron (close relative of the watermelon). I'm also trying vice versa, putting watermelons on the kiwano, and muskmelons on the Red Seeded Citron, just to see what happens.

    Peppers: I was inspired by this very blog post to try Maxifort for pepper rootstock. I actually have very few problems growing hot peppers down here in the deep south, but bell peppers sometimes don't do so well in the raging heat and humidity of July and August. So I grafted some bell peppers and also some jalapenos onto Maxifort, just to see what they would do. The bell peppers made the graft perfectly and are now sitting on the windowsill waiting for further hardening off. The jalapenos are drooping and had to be put back in the healing chamber. I'm not sure if they'll make or not.

    I hope my update is of interest, and I'll post how the plants are growing later in the season. Good Luck with your own gardening efforts this year!

    1. Wow!!! Awesome update! Most people don't really follow up and let me know how things went for them, but this Is awesome and VERY exciting!
      I would love to hear how these plants do coming out of the healing chamber and throughout the year!!

    2. Thanks! I have a couple tips for home garden grafters who might come across this blog. I found these out over the past few months doing a few experimental grafts at a time. With the small number of grafts that home grafters need to make, they can do things a little differently than the commercial operations, who need to graft hundreds or thousands at a time.

      1. Plant the root stock in one unattached container, one plant per container. When it comes time to top graft, just cut off the top and graft the scion on, without disturbing the roots. No need to have the plant experience transplant shock as well as the shock of grafting.

      2. With each grafted plant in individual containers, you can re-acclimate and harden them off individually, greatly reducing their mortality rate. When first venting the healing chamber, I'll have a few that droop. I put those in a separate chamber (just an old styrofoam cooler) and mist them well. They can continue healing while the rest are getting re-acclimated to low humidity.
      Then, when introducing them to light, a few will start wilting. I pull those back in the shade, and leave the strong ones in the light.
      And the same thing when setting them out in the full sunlight to harden off. A few will wilt immediately, and I'll bring those back inside for a day or two before hardening off.
      The ones that are behind in the healing, re-acclimating, and hardening-off stages will eventually catch up if you baby them along.

      Of course, a commercial grower can't do this, with hundreds or thousands of plants, but I think this is the best way to go about it for a home gardener with just a few dozen plants or less.

  9. Grafting update.
    Everything's in the ground now, but it's a bit early to tell any results. The plants grafted onto Maxifort seem to be getting stockier and thicker stemmed with good vegetation.

    Some combinations that don't seem to work:
    Black Krim scion on Celebrity rootstock. I eventually got one to graft, and it's in the garden, but I can't recommend it. They just don't want to seem to graft together.

    Cantaloupe scion on Red Seeded Citron(wild watermelon) rootstock. They will graft, but the rootstock will not grow. It will provide water and nutrients to the scion, and the scion will grow, but the rootstock doesn't seem to be able to get anything from the scion. The cantaloupe plant eventually grows too big to be supported by the nongrowing rootstock and wilts away. Kind of strange.

    Jalapeno (Traveler's Strain variety) scion on Maxifort rootstock. They would graft together,but would not grow. And no matter how much I babied it, it would always wilt when I tried to harden it off. But a bell pepper variety, which is the same species as the Jalapeno (Capsicum annuum) grafted well and is now in the garden growing. So, that one's kind of strange, too.

  10. I'm not sure I understand, you grafted pepper plants onto tomato rootstock? All I can find is that Maxifort is a tomato.

  11. Why are you writing a how-to on grafting if your success rate is terrible? So others can waste time and money, too?

  12. Well, because it is fun! Because it is learning something other than how to file your finger nails which your already know how to do so... Because there is an enormous amount of joy and satisfaction if it does work. People waste money daily on getting pedicures and manicures and hundreds of other unnecessary time and money expenses. So, waste of time and money? Not! I appreciate the time this blogger has put into these instructions very much. It is wonderful knowledge to put into my Brain and use. Awesome! Thank you with all my heart!