Tuesday, November 20, 2007

How to Pollinate a Tomato

The miniature tomato plants are growing some tiny tomatoes. Success! Well, I hope that the plants continue to make more little tomatoes, as I have not made any efforts to pollinate the flowers, as I have for the peppers. It is clear that I need to pollinate the peppers with my little paintbrush, or the stems die and fall off.

Micro Tom Tomato (left), Red Robin tomato (right):

However, I did some reading about pollinating tomatoes, because I noticed that the structure of the flower does not lend itself to any paintbrush-related activities. Was I ever suprised to hear that vibration is needed to pollinate tomatoes!

Apparently, the price and effort involved in applying vibrators to the flowers and/or plants is a major element in increasing the price of greenhouse tomatoes (greenhouses that don't have bumblebees, anyways). Well honey, where's the vibrator? We need to do some pollination. Yeah, and resident lawnmower man thought that my paintbrush activities were lewd! So RLM, how much do you appreciate fresh vegetables in the middle of winter?

A Micro Tom tomato:

In the meantime, the basement bar fridge has become home to several perennial seeds (and some sparkling peach juice) enjoying a season of continuous 4 degree Celsius weather. I can't recall what's in there, but those seeds all require cold stratification to germinate. Yes, perennials are generally more work than annuals, but they are worth the effort (or so we tell ourselves if we are "perennial snobs").

10 comments:

Mrs. Miles said...

ummmm - this is what must happen when you live in the coooold frozen northern exposures? Luckily for us, we live within a 1 km radius of some amazing greenhouses which supply most of BC with cucumbers and tomatoes during winter... so we don't have to subject ourselves to any of that 'funny stuff' in order get fresh produce.

pretty nifty setup you have there - and very interesting info!

thanks for sharing
B and M

kate said...

That is cool ... you'd laugh if you saw my refrigerator. The bottom shelf is filled with my pond plants in green garbage bags and one of the veggie crispers has bulbs in it that I'm forcing. What we won't do for our gardens, huh?

Vibrators - oh my. I didn't realise tomatoes led quite so risqué a life!

Kadakas said...

I have been visiting your blog already for some time - I like it :) especially because I live almost in the same climate (Estonia). The tomato pollinating is routine activity in every spring - if there are few plants, I usually vibrate each plant stalk with finger for few seconds every morning, but in greenhouse people usually put horizonthal wire lines under roof and hang the plants up on this wire with twine. This way it's easy to knock the wire with stick every morning and you get all the plants in the row pollinated at the same time.

Gardenista said...

If I only I could live in the warm southern Okanagan! It's no challenge to grow all sorts of stuff out there.

Kadakas - that is interesting about the wire used to pollinate tomatoes in greenhouses. I'll have to go down and shake my tomato plants up!

Huz said...

I am new to tomato growing and the plant is only few inches long. I wanted to know if U can exactly tell me how to pollinate the tomato plant? and where to put the pollen after I get it from the flower?

Gardenista said...

Huz - If you look at the tomato flowers once they have formed, you will see that there is no pollen exposed, as it is contained within a petal pocket. I understand that you need to vibrate or shake up the flowers by wiggling them somehow, to simulate a bumblebee's movement on the flower. Touching the flowers with an electric toothbrush apparently works. You should try to do this around noon, once the flowers are yellow and well-grown.

Vancouver Isle Doug said...

Hmm, I just found your blog because I am trying to find out if I have to pollinate the 30 tomato plants in my greenhouse in Sooke, BC. YOu just answered the question to a vibratin' I'll go! I am also bookmarking your blog so I can check back later for additional reading, when I have some free time. Thanks for the tip!!

Daren said...

I just pollinated my tomatoes today using a Gillette Fusion disposible razor with the razor portion removed. It runs on a single AAA battery and has a tremendous rpm rate. The yellow pollen went spewing out of the flower with each touch. I was very happy with myself since I don't use this razor anymore. Now it's serving a purpose.

Gardenista said...

Darren,
That is awesome. Little did anyone know an electric shaver could help you grow tomatoes!

Daniel said...

You can also use an electric toothbrush. I got mine on amazon.com and it's been working great. $5.