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I had read about this a few times, always just a vague reference, never real instructions. But I was intrigued. This is not even a marginal tomato growing region here. The only place I can grow tomatoes to ripeness is in our window. Fortunately for the tomato crop, we have a large front window which faces the street, and since I don’t like to be in a fishbowl, I fill that window with tomato plants all summer to form a living curtain.
Works great from June till October. But this last year I found an even earlier curtain, with tomato drones!
Last fall when I took my first tomato cuttings my plants were really almost dead. I didn’t take much care with them either. They looked almost dead themselves for most of the winter. I watered them irregularly. In March, 2 out of the 6 started to green up and grow. Once they took off, there wasn’t nothin’ gonna hold ‘em back! They were a house a-fire. They had quite a jump on my from-seed plants. They not only grew bigger sooner, they also fruited almost a month earlier and twice as heavy. So, this year, I’m taking it a little more seriously.
This is my general attitude with gardening experiments– if a plant can take the abuse of my laziness and still shine, then I’ll give them the care they deserve. Kinda backwards, I know. But anyway, this year I took my cuttings a little earlier, gave them more care, and so far they look really good.
Here’s how you do it, or at least, how I did it:
First get your pots ready. I started in cheap plastic 6-packs. I just used regular old potting soil. I’ve read that you’re supposed to put cuttings into sand, with special “rooting compound,” until they take root, then move them to soil. Enter my sink or swim attitude. So fill your pots with damp potting soil, lightly tamped down. With a pencil, poke a hole in each, about 3 inches deep.
Then to the plants. You need to find terminal shoots, meaning the growing end of the plant. If you grow determinate plants you should theoretically have only one, on the very top. Indeterminate varieties, unless you are viciously vigilant with your pruning, will have shoots coming out all over the place. A terminal shoot will have a central stem, with leaves around, the stem narrowing and then ending at a cluster of tiny leaves. That’s what you want. Cut about 4-5 inches back from that end. Handle the cutting very gently. Trim off all flower buds (you don’t want them to flower for another several months) and any leaves within 2 inches of the cut, then poke into the hole in one of your pots, about 2 inches deep. Holding the stem upright, carefully pour water into the pot to completely moisten the soil, and also to work it in around the stem. If necessary, gently tamp with one finger until the stem is firmly in place.
In about a month or so, you’ll need to transplant them to 4 inch pots, and tie them to a stake of some kind, I used kabob skewers. Other than that you just have to keep them near a window, and watered like any other houseplant. If they grow more flower buds, keep pinching them off until- this part I don’t know- at least March? April? Probably depends on where you live…