Tomatoes are one of the most popular vegetables to grow in the garden. A great way to extend your tomato harvest is to propagate your existing plants from cuttings. Here’s a method of propagation that works for just about any herbaceous vegetable or plant.
First, let’s talk about where to take your cuttings. For a tomato plant, you can use the “suckers.” The suckers are side shoots that appear in the crotch between the stem and the main branch of a tomato plant. Ideally, you want to remove these before they get too big; they will become another main stem with branches. Don’t toss them. Hang onto those babies; you can grow them into new plants.
- A sharp knife
- Empty plastic pots or peat pots
- Potting soil or seed-starting mix
- A pencil
- Plastic baggies
- Rooting hormone (optional)
1. Take cuttings (suckers) from your plants. Do this in the morning before it gets too warm in order to help minimize plant wilting. Bring a cup of water with you to put your cuttings in so they will not wilt too quickly. Make a nice clean cut at the base of the sucker.
2. Remove the lower leaves off your cuttings and place them in your cup of water.
3. Fill your pots with potting soil or seed-starting mix. Water the soil mix to help it settle in the pot. Using your pencil, make a hole in the middle of the pot.
4. Dip the stems in rooting hormone. This step is optional. Rooting hormone will help speed up the rooting process, but is not necessary.
5. Place the cuttings in the hole you made with the pencil. Tap down the soil around the cutting. Repeat for all the cuttings.
6. Water the cuttings thoroughly.
7. Place a plastic baggie over the entire pot with the cutting. You can place the pot inside the baggie if space permits. If your pot will not fit, place the baggie over the pot and secure it with a rubber band on the bottom. The plastic baggie will act as a greenhouse for your cuttings and keep them from wilting.
8. Place the covered cuttings in a place that gets indirect sunlight. If you put the cuttings in direct sunlight, the plants will cook under the plastic.
Harden off your cuttings
A root system will develop in about two weeks. Periodically check the cuttings to make sure they haven’t dried out. Remove the plastic baggies after a couple of weeks and slowly expose (over a few days) the plants to sunlight. Let the newly rooted tomato plants sit out in the morning for a couple of hours. Then move them back to indirect sunlight for the hottest part of the day. After another couple of weeks, they should develop a strong root system and be able to tolerate direct sunlight. At this point, go ahead and plant them into the ground or into a bigger container.
These cuttings will bear fruit later in the season. It’s faster than starting from seed and way cheaper than getting more plants at your local garden center. Try it. It’s super easy to extend your harvest with cuttings.