Debbie Roland, Master Gardener
If you have a favorite tomato plant this summer, you can try growing a new one for your fall garden just like it from a cutting. In these times we live in learning to grow from cuttings can be a valuable skill and the tomato is an easy way to learn.
A cutting kept in a warm window will be ready to set out in just 10 to 14 days whereas a plant started from seed can take 6 to 8 weeks. Cells in the stems of tomato plants can root quickly when kept moist and can also be rooted directly into the soil.
Begin with clean paper or Styrofoam cups or 4” pots. Use a pencil to poke a drain hole in the bottom of the cup. Fill the container about ¾ of the way with dampened potting soil.
Examine your favorite tomato plant and find 6” long tips of stems that are disease free and look healthy. Cut off a piece at least 6” long. Using sharp scissors snip off any leaves or blooms, leaving only the two or three leaves at the very tip of the stem. Trim the bottom so that it will be about an inch from the bottom of the cup. Use a pencil to poke a hole in your potting soil stopping 1” from the bottom of the cup.
Push the cutting into the hole and gently press the soil against the stem. Set in a warm place for seven days. Be sure to keep the soil moist. I have had success setting the planted tomato into a large ziplock bag and putting the whole thing in a kitchen window. I leave two inches of the zipper open so that some air can reach the plant. It serves as a mini-greenhouse and seems to speed up the process.
During the second week expose your new plant to more light.
Transplant to a pot or your garden when new leaves begin to grow or you can see roots in the drain hole of the cup.
If you have questions, please call the AgriLife office in Odessa at 498-4071 or in Midland at 686-4700 for more gardening information. Additional information is available at https://aggie-horticulture.tamu.edu and westtexasgardening.org.