How to pollinate tomatoes

Pollinate tomatoes: how they can help with fertilization

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Pollination of tomatoes is essential for a high-yield harvest, because only pollinated flowers bear fruit. Find out here how you can support pollination and which method is best for you!

A high-yield harvest is only guaranteed if numerous flowers have been pollinated successfully. In the wild, the wind as well as bees and bumblebees ensure pollination, so that human intervention is usually not necessary. However, if you want to be on the safe side, you can help pollination with a few simple steps.

Pollination of tomatoes

Much of the tomato varieties are self-fertile, which means that they can self-fertilize. Because the tomato blossoms are hermaphroditic, as they are equipped with both a scar and pollen sacs. The pollen is located in the pollen sacs and is released as soon as the scars are capable of fertilization. This enables the tomatoes to fertilize themselves. However, the pollen sit relatively firmly in the pollen sacs, which is why fertilization is helped by nature:

Tip: Tomatoes that are not self-fertilizing are easy to spot because their stigma protrudes from the leaves. These tomato varieties require a second tomato plant for pollination.

Optimal conditions

Not only do the natural helpers play an essential role in pollination, but also the environmental conditions. Because for the pollen to be released and germinable at all, certain conditions must exist. If the humidity is too high, for example, the pollen will clump or not be released at all. If, on the other hand, it is too dry, the germination capacity of the pollen is greatly reduced. However, there are also optimal conditions for pollination:

  • relative humidity: 50-80%
  • too humid: 80-85%
  • too dry: 50-80%
  • Temperatures not over 30 degrees

Attract natural helpers

In the garden and on the balcony, pollination is usually done by natural helpers such as bees and bumblebees. But the home garden does not always offer the ideal incentive to attract the valuable insects. It is therefore advisable to cultivate bumblebee and bee-friendly plants in the garden so that the insects are attracted. The selection of possible plants is enormous, so that there is certainly one or the other suitable plant for every hobby gardener.

Bumblebees

  • Buddleia
  • Beard flower
  • Dead nettle
  • Poppy
  • clover
  • Clematis
  • Mallow

Bees

  • basil
  • Bellflower
  • Clematis
  • lavender
  • Wildflowers
  • Bee herb

Bumblebee boxes

The natural helpers can also be settled in the garden using a bumblebee box. This method is particularly environmentally friendly, because a large part of the bumblebee species is unfortunately now endangered. Setting up a bumblebee box has several advantages: On the one hand, the tomatoes are provided with helpers for pollination and, on the other hand, the protected insects have a nesting aid at their disposal. The bumblebee box is best set up as follows:

  • about 4-7 days before flowering
  • in a shady location
  • under no circumstances direct sun!
  • set up near the floor

Tip: Bumblebees save the exact GPS coordinates of their home, which is why the box should not be moved after colonization. Because even moving a few centimeters confuses the insects so much that they can no longer find their way home.

Hand pollination

The greenhouse offers the tomatoes a protected environment, but it also has a disadvantage. Because neither the wind nor the natural helpers have direct access to the tomato plants. It is therefore advisable to give a little help to pollination in the greenhouse. Even simple steps such as setting up a fan or gently shaking the plant can be promising here. It is even better, however, to selectively pollinate the tomatoes as soon as the flowers have opened:

Dusting with an electric toothbrush

  • is also called “trilling”
  • Bumblebees are simulated
  • Place the toothbrush just above the flower
  • Vibration releases pollen
  • fall on the scars

Pollination with a brush

  • is especially suitable for a few tomato plants
  • Brush over scars and pollen sacs with a soft brush
  • Pollen collects in the hair
  • therefore always use the same brush
  • Do not let the brush get wet!
  • Otherwise pollen will stick or be washed off

Tip: The optimal time for pollination is early morning, preferably between 9 and 10 a.m. Because the pollen is usually still sticky too early in the morning and at a later time of the day the scar becomes too dry so that the pollen can no longer adhere.

Varietal propagation

If you want to propagate through tomato seeds, you will most likely want to breed a certain variety. However, if several tomato varieties are cultivated next to each other, cross-pollination and thus crossings can certainly occur during pollination. However, the purity of the variety can be ensured with a few simple steps before the flowers bloom:

  • Cover the plant or individual panicles
  • with a close-meshed insect net
  • for example made of tulle or gauze
  • However, petals should have enough space
  • must be able to develop
  • if necessary, break off excess leaves

Tip: Individual flowers can be ideally protected from cross-pollination with a tea filter.