I can’t believe that I haven’t told you all about this one before! After all, I’ve been teaching anyone who would listen for the past few years. Did you know that you can get mature tomato plants mid-season simply by taking cuttings from established plants? Absolutely! It’s very easy and I will show you right now.
I have explained what laterals are in previous tomato posts but I will go over it again for you so that we’re all clear: Laterals are the shoots you get between the stem and the branch (see below). You know those “side shoots” that get long and dangly and make your plants a big leaning mess? Well, if they are large enough we can use them to grow new tomato plants.
This is the ideal time to take cuttings from laterals because by now your plants should be fairly well established and will no doubt be producing laterals thick and fast. Usually I would suggest that you pinch off the laterals when they are young and tender in order to keep your plants tidy and that’s not just me being fussy! By removing the laterals before they get too big you are helping your tomatoes to save the energy they would otherwise be wasting on lateral branches. This will encourage better fruit production. Having said all of that, if you allow a couple of laterals to grow you can use them for cuttings.
I have used laterals that are 15cm long or greater. This is the point at which these cuttings will be able to thrive on their own. I cut them off as close as possible to the stem. Now if you have laterals that you have removed during pruning which are very large, that’s quite alright. They can virtually be whole plants. However, there are two important things to consider:
1. As with all cuttings you need to remove 1/3 – 1/2 of the foliage. This is to prevent moisture loss. Don’t be afraid to cut! They will grow very quickly and before you know it you’ll have forgotten how much you had to remove. If you leave them as they are they will certainly wilt and you’ll be lucky if they survive! FYI – I remove the lower branches that would either go below the soil or sit too close to the surface. This is generally about 1/3 – 1/2 way up the stem.
I cut the rest of the larger branches in half and any remaining leaves that are on the large side (basically, anything you think might wilt) I cut in half too! It’s fine to do that.
2. You need to make sure that your cutting is relevant to the size of the pot or hole that it will go into. If it’s too long cut the stem to shorten it so that it is happy holding itself up.
There are three ways you can use these cuttings:
- Plant them directly into a prepared area of soil
- Plant them directly into a pot
- Place the cuttings into a jar or a bucket with water and leave them there for 10-14 days. By that time they should have grown plenty of roots.
The latter is my preferred method. I have found that with the first two I have had about 50% success. It is inevitable that you will lose some this way. However, with the cuttings in the jar method, I have had about 95% success.
So, if you want to try a bunch of different types of tomatoes ask around and if your family or friends have different varieties see if you can take some cuttings from their plants. That way by the time your original plants start to get to the end of their time your new ones will be bearing fruit.