Did you know that giving your tomato flowers a good tickle can lead to higher yields? Here’s how.
Increase Fruit Production
Hand-pollinating tomato flowers can significantly increase fruit production. Tomato plants rely on wind or insects, like bees, for natural pollination.
However, certain factors, such as a lack of air movement or few pollinators (in a greenhouse, for example), can inhibit pollination.
By hand-pollinating tomato plants, you give all of your tomato flowers a chance to turn to fruit.
Methods of Hand Pollination
Using Q-Tips or Brushes
Hand-pollinating tomato flowers can be done using Q-tips or small paintbrushes.
This method involves gently transferring pollen from the male part (anther) to the female part (stigma) of the same flower.
Pick a small, clean paintbrush or a Q-tip and gently touch the anthers of the tomato flower, collecting the pollen. Next, apply the pollen to the stigma of the same flower.
Repeat this process for each flower that requires pollination. This method can increase fruit set rates from 20%-30% to more than 90%.
Another effective method for hand-pollinating tomato flowers is vibration.
Tomato flowers release pollen when they are vibrated, making this a simple yet effective technique.
One way to achieve this is by using a battery-operated toothbrush. Place the toothbrush device behind the flower cluster, taking care not to damage the petals or stems.
Gently activate the vibration, releasing the pollen from the anthers and falling onto the stigma. Repeat this process for each flower cluster that requires pollination.
Just going around and giving all of your tomato flowers a gentle tap with your finger can also help to increase pollination rates.
Frequently Asked Questions
How to determine if a tomato flower has been pollinated?
There is no way to know whether the plant has been successfully pollinated until it falls off.
If it falls off and leaves behind a little fruit, then you know pollination has been successful.
What are the best techniques for hand pollination?
The best techniques for hand pollination include tapping the flower gently, using a fan for air movement, or employing a small brush such as a paintbrush or toothbrush to transfer pollen from one flower to another.
The key is to mimic pollinators’ natural movements and actions, such as wind and bees, to facilitate the pollination process.
When is the ideal time for hand pollination?
The ideal time for hand pollination is during the morning when the flowers have just opened.
This is when the pollen is more accessible, making it easier for the pollen to transfer and adhere to the stigma, the female part of the flower.
Are there any self-pollinating tomato varieties?
Most tomato varieties are self-pollinating, which means they have both male and female reproductive organs within the same flower.
Pollination often occurs without you needing to do anything.
However, some external factors like lack of air movement or low insect numbers can hinder the pollination process, making hand pollination necessary.
What methods can be used for greenhouse pollination?
For greenhouse pollination, methods such as gentle tapping, using a fan, or employing a small brush can be adopted.
In greenhouses, lack of wind or insects can lead to reduced pollination, so using these techniques to mimic natural processes can ensure a higher fruit yield.
Other Ways To Increase Tomato Yield
Use The Right Fertiliser
When tomatoes start to form flowers, you want to change what you are feeding them.
Often you will begin by feeding tomatoes a high-nitrogen feed when they are young. This is a good idea as it helps the plants pack on green growth.
Once the first flowers appear, you want to swap from a high nitrogen feed to a high potash feed.
This is because it is potassium (potash), not nitrogen, that helps tomatoes create more flowers and support more fruit.
Specialist tomato feeds are made for this purpose, so get one ordered!
Remove The Lower Foliage
Asa your plants grow skywards, you should regularly remove the lower leaves.
This may feel a little drastic initially, but it benefits the plant.
The lower leaves aren’t doing much as the plant grows ever taller. Almost all photosynthesis happens in the young leaves at the top of the plant.
By removing these older leaves, we reduce the plant’s water needs, making it tougher and more resilient.
You also remove any issues arising from old, sickly leaves at the bottom of the plant.
Tomatoes that are under any stress may drop their flowers before tomatoes get the chance to develop. In the UK, this stress will often be a lack of water due to growing tomatoes indoors.
(it could also be heat stress during really hot summers. If you think heat may be an issue, try using shade cloth during the hottest parts of the day.)
That is why keeping your plants well-watered all summer long is essential.
This is often problem with tomatoes grown in grow bags as they can dry out very quickly and require daily watering.
If you can’t make it to the allotment every day, then growbag collars are a good way to ensure your tomatoes get all the water they need.
The collars sit on top of the soil and have a water reservoir. This means you need to fill the reservoir, and the collar will drip irrigate this into the growbag over time, meaning you have to water less often.
- 3.1 Litre 'moat' with 6 watering spikes that delivers the water directly to the plants' roots
- Water reservoir takes 3 to 6 hours before draining
- Made from recycled, UV stabilised plastic and is guaranteed to last for 5 years
Grow Under Cover
Regulating your tomato’s growing conditions by growing them under cover in a greenhouse or polytunnel is one way to ensure bumper harvests.
Tomatoes don’t like it too hot, and they don’t like it cold either.
They thrive in the goldilocks zone, and growing them under cover helps us have more control over these otherwise external factors.
Tomatoes will grow outdoors in the UK, but the harvest is always reduced, and late-season blight can also be a frequent issue.