Tuesday, April 17, 2012

How to hand-pollinate tomato plants + garden update

Hi everyone!  No real substantial updates on my container garden since I last posted about it (here and here), but things are certainly growing!  My Better Bush tomatoes are growing larger, and some other smaller tomatoes have started growing on the plant, too.

My Husky Cherry Red tomatoes (bottom left picture) have started producing some little tomatoes, as well.  And as you can see, the both of the plants themselves are getting bigger.  My cherry tomatoes were out of control big last year, so I'm just waiting for the explosion to happen.

The red bell peppers (left) are looking less sad and droopy, and have grown quite a bit.  Still no flowers on it, though.  The Meyer lemon tree (right) is still looking more like a twig than a tree.  However, it doesn't appear to be dying or anything... so I take that as a good sign!  

Alright, now onto a short tutorial on how to hand-pollinate your tomato plants: I wanted to share this with you all, since I spent about a month last summer wondering why my tomato plant was covered in flowers, but wouldn't produce fruit before doing some Googling and finding the answer.  If you're like me, and are growing in an urban area, it is likely that you won't have many insects capable of pollinating your plants in the environment.  This can be a problem if you'd like your tomato plants to start bearing fruit.  

Luckily, the solution is very simple and takes next to no effort on your part.  You will need one tool: a cheap, electric toothbrush.
I'd recommend buying a new toothbrush solely for this purpose.  Take a look at all of the pollen covering this one, and you'll see what I mean.

All you have to do is wait for your plants to start producing flowers.  Place the bristles of the toothbrush on the stems of the flowers (not on the flowers themselves), and turn it on.  This will cause the flowers to vibrate and release pollen, similar to how a bumblebee would help to  fertilize the flowers by causing them to vibrate.  You only need to vibrate the flowers for a few seconds.

And that's it!  Just take your electric toothbrush with you and hand-pollinate the flowers whenever you visit your garden.  I've read some accounts that recommend hand-pollinating in the morning, which I tend to do.  Although I'm not sure it makes that much of a difference, since sometimes I tend to forget to do it, and end up hand-pollinating at some other time of day.  

After you've begun hand-pollinating your plants, keep an eye out for tiny little green tomatoes that will start to grow from inside the flower!  I've read that a similar process can be employed when growing bell peppers.  Since my plant doesn't have flowers yet, I'll have to wait to try it out.  I'll keep you posted, though!

Happy gardening!


  1. Great job on the garden - I love the your tip on hand pollenating, clever!

  2. hi, how long does it take for the flower to become fruit? i have lots of cherry tomato flowers but no fruit setting. all flowers open and then turn brown but stay on the plant. They dont fall off tho, they're just brown flowers for weeks now. i think ill try this method but i want to know what time frame should i be looking at as far as expecting to see baby tomatoes :)

    1. Hi there! I usually find that fruit begins to set within a week of pollinating the flowers.

      I've actually been having the same problem with one of my tomato plants this summer. I'm not entirely sure why this happens, but it might be related to the weather. What part of the country are you living in, and what have the conditions been like?

      Whenever things go according to plan, what should happen is that the flowers shrivel and actually fall off, and a tiny little tomato is there.

      Anyway, sorry I can't be more helpful. Best of luck!


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