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Many gardeners prefer the flavors of open-pollinated or heirloom varieties. However, often these cultivars lack the disease-resistance common in modern hybrid varieties developed with traditional breeding methods. Fungal diseases, bacterial diseases, and nematodes can make growing heirloom varieties challenging. But what if you could have the disease resistance of hybrid varieties with the flavor profiles of heirlooms? Enter grafted heirloom tomatoes!
Among the more pernicious soil-borne diseases of tomatoes is southern bacterial wilt of tomatoes. Not uncommon in our soils, there is no treatment except by planting resistant cultivated varieties (cultivars).
The varieties selected are grafted onto ‘Shin Cheong Gang’ rootstock, which is resistant to bacterial wilt, Fusarium wilt, Fusarium crown rot, Fusarium root rot, Rhizoctonia, tomato mosaic virus, and nematodes.
Scion Cultivars Available (all indeterminate):
About Your Tomatoes
Black Cherry –The only truly black cherry tomato. Vigorous plants yield huge clusters of one-inch round deep mahogany-brown fruits. They are delicious with sweet, rich, complex full tomato flavor. This five-foot plant produces consistently throughout the summer. Cherry tomatoes are easier to grow than larger cultivars.
Cherokee Chocolate – North Carolina Tomatoman, Craig LeHoullier, stabilized this rogue heirloom of the Cherokee Purple in 1995. These fruits are 3-4 inches, 10-14 ounce, mahogany-colored beefsteak type tomatoes. They have a rich, complex tomato flavor with the perfect balance of sweetness and tartness.
Chocolate Stripe – Juicy and well balanced, these maroon colored tomatoes feature attractive green stripes.
German Johnson – A more vigorous, higher-yielding Brandywine type, recommended for higher productivity, earlier, more uniform, and slightly smaller than Brandywine. Fruits have lots of deep, acidic tomato flavor and a rich, creamy texture. This is the regular-leafed strain, With pinkish-red skin and nearly seedless meaty, mild flesh, the large, lobed fruits weigh ¾ to 1 lb.
San Marzano – A high-quality strain of this classic heirloom tomato, it is considered one of the best paste tomatoes of all time, with an old-world look and taste. Whole 4–6 oz. tomatoes peel easily and cook down quickly. The strain originates from Parma, Italy, and has a very traditional San Marzano shape and appearance and vibrant red color.
The heirloom scions are grafted onto ‘Shin Cheong Gang’ rootstock, which is resistant to bacterial wilt, Fusarium wilt, Fusarium crown rot, Fusarium root rot, Rhizoctonia, tomato mosaic virus, and nematodes.
Caring for Your Tomatoes
Plant the transplants so that the graft union is well above the soil line. While some gardeners traditionally plant tomatoes deep to induce additional adventitious root formation, this practice is not recommended with grafted transplants because the susceptible scion tissue may be exposed to soilborne pathogens. Remove any suckers that form below the graft union, as these are derived from rootstock and may produce tomatoes that are less desirable than those from the heirloom scion. Plant tomatoes outside 2 weeks after the last frost, and when night temperatures are above 50 F.
More Resouces on Growing Tomatoes
Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden NC State Extension
Tomato Clemson HGIC
Growing Tomatoes in the Home Garden Ohio State University Extension (Includes helpful information on pruning and staking).
Tomato Diseases and Disorders Clemson HGIC
Pests of Tomato NC State Extension
Tomato Insect Pests Clemson HGIC
The Extension Gardener Handbook is your source for practical, research-based information on gardening, lawn care, and landscaping in North Carolina.
The NC State Extension Community Gardening Handbook is a great source of knowledge and advice for all gardeners.