Do you own a beautiful garden full of vegetables? Then tomato plants must undoubtedly be adorning your garden. But if you have not had a piece of very great luck collecting a bunch of tomatoes from your garden for very long, fret not, as it is just another natural phenomenon.
Gardeners notice tomato vines packed with flowers that hardly produce tomatoes. It can be due to minimal bee activity, unfavorable weather, etc.
A majority of the gardeners depend on pollination done by bees. However, it needs to be done by ourselves only to get the best harvests. So, stop believing that tomatoes are self-fertilizing and self-pollinating plants.
Self-Pollination in Tomatoes
The term self-pollination signifies that plants produce without interruption. It is only possible when the reproductive parts of both genders are in the same flower, like tomatoes. Therefore, the farm requires only a single plant to be put for the set.
Usually, wind and bees help in the movement of the pollens. But at times, there arises an issue with the coordination from nature. It may be higher temperatures or humidity in the air around us when natural pollination is not easy.
Gardeners spend hours planting and looking after the lush green plants, and when they turn out to be damaged, it is a moment of sigh.
Thus, let’s get ahead about the details of tomato flowers and understand them.
To get a gist of the pollination process, let’s check out the tomato male and female flower’s internal structure.
The tomato flowers have both stamen and stigma. Hence, they can easily self-pollinate or cross-pollinate.
The male part, i.e., the stamen, comprises an anther and the filament. The pistil surrounds the pollen inside the anther. While the stigma, style, ovary, and ovules come under the flower’s female parts. The pistil is usually in the center and comprises style and stigma. A style is generally long, coming from the ovary to the stigma.
The flowers bloom and hang downwards. Thus, when the pollen falls from the stamen, it lands on the stigma, making pollination possible. As a next step, the pollen grows and causes fertilization, leading to the formation of a seed.
If pollination doesn’t occur, fruit formation doesn’t happen as the pollen is not moving from the anther to the stigma.
The tomato flowers don’t produce any nectar, so there are rare chances of bees reaching out to them. But, there may be chances of slight pollination through bees who know how to reach the tomato flower. The fluttering and vibration of their wings lead to the release of a handful of pollen on the stigma.
However, bees do not find the tomato flowers very attractive. Hence, you may have to help the tomato flowers a little with the pollination process.
So, let us understand how you can help the pollination process in tomatoes in such cases.
Hand Pollination in Tomatoes
Hand pollination is easier for self-fertile plants as it only requires an electric toothbrush, and you’re all set.
It is pretty similar to what the wind or a bee does. The vibrations of the toothbrush loosen the pollen grains, enabling the occurrence of pollination.
The toothbrush is gently placed at the back of a flower for this process. The pollens distribute over the stigma, and pollination occurs within 2-3 days.
You can repeat the process to seek better results.
Also Read: 15 Easiest Vegetables to Grow for Beginners
The Pollination Techniques
If you want to improve the pollination of your tomatoes, use any of the methods mentioned below.
#1. Shake Them
Shaking or slightly hitting the plant will provide some breeze to the plant. This will shed the pollen grains from the flower. You must carry this step gently but briskly, tapping at the top.
You can give the flower’s stem a slight jerk to ease the process.
Now, a small art brush is taken for use. Like bees, it effectively collects and distributes pollen. Though the brush may seem inexpensive, you need to make sure it has naturally soft bristles. The grains clasp the natural bristles very well than the plastic ones.
Now, just carefully lift the flower or turn it upwards. Move your brush gently back and forth on the nearby parts of the petals and the female reproductive organs. This method helps in the collection and transfer of grains.
Another type of brush is used to prevent cross-pollination as the variety of tomatoes differs. Otherwise, the best way is to clean the brush with isopropyl alcohol and then use it on a different variety of tomatoes.
#3. Cotton Buds
A cotton bud is a very effective instrument as it has a fine smooth surface that is ideal for collecting and distributing pollen.
A cotton bud is in use similarly, just like the brush. The pollens together can be put in a small dish. Later, use a brush or a cotton bud to carefully apply them over the tip of the stigma.
#4. Battery Operated Toothbrush
A faster, easier, and most convenient way for pollination is now possible with a battery-operated toothbrush.
This electric vibrator is available across various platforms for different commercial purposes. Also, a replacement tool for this electric brush is a tiny toothbrush. It does the task of a gardener at a minimal cost.
As said earlier, the vibrations are like the buzzing of the bee’s wings for pollination to occur. It causes anthers to release their pollen to the stigma. Just keep the brush over the base of the flower and buzz it for a couple of seconds until you move to the next bloomed flower.
#5. Electric Pollinators
If you have tried almost every other method and are still stuck with no pollination for your tomato plants, it is time to try something unique. Though manual methods like pollination by hand, toothbrush, or cotton works in many cases, yours might not fall under that category.
However, there is no lack of innovative technologies in the market. Electric pollinators are brilliant innovations that work the best for pollinating tomatoes. These are electrically powered pollinators with advanced materials that stick to pollen, thus spreading the pollen quickly.
Electric pollination is a lot more convenient than hand pollination, and there are high chances you might win the game and get your tomatoes pollinated. So why not give it a try?
#6. Pollination Sprays
Tomato pollination spray is another blessing of technology that overpowers manual pollination methods. Tomato sprays are also marketed as blossom sprays, and you can find them readily in many areas. Using a pollination spray is more like tricking your tomato plants toward being pollinated.
The mechanism lies in that tomato flowers produce a hormone auxin when pollinated and start bearing fruits. However, without pollination, the tomato flowers might not produce it, and hence no fruit appearance is visible.
Pollination sprays contain artificial auxin. When sprayed over tomato plants, it provides them with a fake auxin and makes them believe they are pollinated. Hence, the plants start bearing fruits, and you get your lovely, red tomatoes in no time.
So pollination sprays can do the job if nothing works out. However, it might prove costly for a few gardeners with a low budget.
- Hand pollination is a quick, effective, and easy way. During a humid climate, avoid hand pollination.
- Days with less humidity are suitable for pollination.
- Non-violent vibration in tomato vine for releasing pollen gives better results.
- Pollination with a q-tip brush is inefficient as it is not on a surface.
- Electric pollinators also work as an effective pollination method for tomatoes by lessening the manual work.
- Pollination sprays are easily seen in the shops. They pollinate flowers when tomatoes are grown in a greenhouse. The spray is a synthetic hormone for flowers just beginning to bloom.
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We conclude that we can use various hand pollination techniques to pollinate tomatoes through the above discussion. We can decide on the method that suits our needs. The vibration generally helps to blow or shake the pollen.
In contrast, some may prefer to use cotton buds. On the contrary, some prefer to collect them in a container for rubbing the pollen.
You must practice hand pollination frequently too. On successful pollination, the flowers will bear fruit. If the manual methods fail to work, advanced and technical ways are always available to take your tomato garden on a successful pollination journey.
So now that you know the trick, it is time to get going and try every possible way out there to get your tomatoes pollinated.