How to Clone Tomato Plants
Say you have a favorite tomato plant and just before it is supposed to produce fruit - so you can save seeds - a big windstorm tears the tomato plant to pieces the night before. You may never get any new seeds. What can you do? You can take the few sticks left and Clone it! That is, start genetically identical plants from the broken branches of the plant. Here is how:
Cut tomato stalks into 3 inch pieces
The next morning after a bad storm, I went out to find the one heirloom tomato that I specially wanted to save seeds from had been wind whipped to shreads and broke off at the ground. There were a few stems still scattered around in the mud puddles. I ran back into the house and grabbed a scissors and a plastic bag half full of cool water. I rushed outside with the bag and scissors. I grabbed the nearest stalk and and clipped it into sticks approximately 3 inch long.
Remove most of the leaves and trim at an angle
I then removed most of the leaves - (where there was leaves). I then picked the fatter end and trimmed it at about a 45 degree angle and tossed it into the water filled plastic bag which would keep it fresh until I was finished salvaging the scraps of the broken tomato plant. Hopefully, these little sticks would become "chips" of the old block if this experiment worked out. This wasn't going to exactly be as easy as rooting a Mint plant!
Keep the trimmed stems in the refrigerator
As soon as I was finished and had approximately 20 little stalks in the bag, I rushed them into the house and into the refrigerator crisper - still in the water bag - until I could prepare their new home for the next few weeks.
Prepare the Soil Mix
We like to get Ice Cream in the plastic gallon tubs - the tubs come in very handy and they have a handy plastic lid and carry handle. We use them for a thousand things. I mixed up a soil mixture of 1 part Perlite and 1 part Spagnum Peat Moss. Both come to us fairly sterile in the bag. I mixed it throughly. Wet it down giving it the drip test. That is, wet enough to throughly dampen the mix, but not so wet as to drip when a fistfull is squeezed. I then filled the Ice Cream Bucket with this mix until the bucket had about 3 inches of mix in the bottom.
Drill holes in the Ice Cream Bucket Lid
I then took a 1/4 inch drill bit and put several holes in the lid. This was to allow fresh air to flow over the top of the stalks helping to avoid dampening off (a fungus) from destroying the stems before they can root.
Insert the Stems into the Soil Mix
Push the fat end of the stem gently down in the soil. Try to leave a little soil below the stem at the bottom. About 1/2 inch is plenty. Space the stems out from each other about 1 " apart if you can. They are easier to check and handle later on.
Mist the Stalks before putting on the Lid
Using a cheap water bottle mister available at any Dollar Store, mist the stems a little with a find mist. You should do this once a day. Never allow the stems to dry out during the time they are in the "Cloning Chamber". Keep the room at an even 70 plus degrees which will encourage rooting of the Stems.
Place the Lid on and set aside for a few daysEvery day, remove the lid and mist the stems lightly. You should not need to water the soil the stems set in. They should only be in the Chamber for a few days.
After 3 or 4 days check for New Roots
In about 3 days, gently pull up a few stems. Most likely you will see some with a few new white roots forming at the bottom. Put them back into the soil.
Give your New Clones Light to Encourage Leafing Out
After most of the stems have sprouted; move the Ice Cream bucket into a little light. Every day move it into more and more light. A softly lit south window would be nice. Or maybe a desk lamp with a regular light bulb is handy. I use a 100 watt Florescent light bulb. These bulbs can be put as close as 2 inches and will not burn the new plants. Remember, keep water and dampness away from the bulb of any kind. Don't sprits the plants with the light hanging over. Set the lamp temporarily away to the side before getting near damp pots or using the water mister. Dry your hands before picking up the lamp. Be Safe!
When you see New Leaves
You should soon see new leaves appearing. As soon as the new leaves start forming, put your new clones into individual pots. At this point, you will want to treat your New Clones just as you would any other baby plant.
Copyright Robert Mader 2010
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