how to hand pollenate tomatoes

jjpdownhill(z5 OH)March 26, 2004

i am useing a small paint brush and brushing the entire center portion of the flower and i am alternating between plants

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Tomatoes are self-fertile but bumblebees usually assist in pollination by vibrating the flowers. Greenhouse growers sometimes use an electric toothbrush or similar device to vibrate the flowers. You can also shake the flowers gently to mimic a bumblebee.

    Bookmark   March 26, 2004 at 10:52PM
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mkirkwag(Puget Sound)

I rub the flowers together

    Bookmark   April 1, 2004 at 7:36PM
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jjpdownhill(z5 OH)

thanks for the advice DHershey i used a electric shaver on them and so far i have had 100% polinations thanks again

    Bookmark   April 2, 2004 at 12:13AM
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mkirkwag(Puget Sound)

OK, I don't get that. You... what? Hold one flower over another and vibrate it? Otherwise, wouldn't the pollen just fall to the ground?

    Bookmark   July 24, 2004 at 7:08PM
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claude_shireman(5b ill)

i use a small pointed brush to pollenate my pepper plants and it does a good gob

    Bookmark   July 27, 2004 at 12:09AM
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amar(z5 IA)

I just quickly go over all the flowers and blow briskly directly into the flower. It doesn't take much time and I have had great success. If you have very thick bushy plants this becomes more difficult. Hope this info helps.

    Bookmark   July 28, 2004 at 4:32AM
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jkirk3279(Z5 SW MI)

I just read on GW that a tuning fork set for Middle C will mimic a bumblebee's wings and trick the flowers into opening all the way !

I use an ostrich feather, or blow on the flowers. But I want to find a tuning fork now !

    Bookmark   July 29, 2004 at 10:05PM
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It's not as simple as one thinks. Most (perhaps over 90%) of tomatoes "self pollinates" successfully. The stigma is enclosed within an anther cone. The stigma normally do not push through until the pollen has been shed, thus ensuring that pollen will land on the stigma below. However, some varieties have stigmas that do stick out of the anther cone - these likely require assissted pollination. Varieties of these include the potato leaved and the currant tomatoes. This self-pollinating mechanism may not be fail proof, especially if the tomatoes grow in overcrowded greenhouses with still air. This is because any vibratory movements involving the clusters of flowers do enhance pollination. Hence, if you grow tomatoes in the open air, subject to wind, and buzzing insects, it is not necessary to hand pollinate. However, indoors, you might improve pollination if you do. Various methods of manual "pollination" have been described. These include giving the tomato plant a good shake, shaking the clusters of flowers, to using any thing that vibrates. I suppose a "sonic" toothbrush (Sonicaire) would mimic a buzzing bee the best.

I am no expert on this subject, but a number of folks on the Tomatoes Forum are. You should repost this question there. However, be aware that this question has been posted there many times, and answered with expertise (and I presume, great patience) by some extremely expert and knowledgeable tomato growers who frequent that forum. Here is one such thread. As you can see, you will get more detailed information from that forum than any books or web page you might care to read.

    Bookmark   July 30, 2004 at 2:01AM
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adrianag(AL z7)

Just flick the plants occasionally...

    Bookmark   July 30, 2004 at 3:52PM
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AnyMouse(sacramento, ca)

I am growing 9 tomato plants outside my apartment. My first crop was sparse. No bees around here I guess. I tried using a cuetip but that didn't work to well either. Then I just now tried my sonicare toothbrush and came back with a very yellow brush head so I assume that worked really good. All I did was turn the brush on and touch the back of the brush (not the bristles part) to the back of the cluster of flowers or a nearby branch. It was easy, I did all plants (40-50 flower clusters) in less than 10 min. So thanks for that suggestion

    Bookmark   August 8, 2005 at 12:05AM
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I was doing the the q tip method until I read this forum. I just went to pollinate using my bf's old gilette fushion vibrating razor (I removed the blade part of course). It vibrated the flowers so well! This is my first shot so hopefully it will work great!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 3:28PM
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freemangreens(Zone 10 CA)

I grow indeterminate tomatoes and "supercrop" them to stunt their height. This creates a "wall" of blooms at each truss.

I simply use a battery-operated electric toothbrush and vibrate the entire flower truss, just behind several blooms and I have tomatoes coming out my ears!

    Bookmark   April 29, 2009 at 11:53PM
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Wow, this was an OLD thread. Freemangreens has it though - electric toothbrushes do the best job of pollination of anything out there except bumblebees.

I've used the vibrating shaver too, but the toothbrush is king. I doubt anyone could really design anything better. The brushes turn green (use an old head you don't brush with anymore) but they're perfect.

    Bookmark   April 30, 2009 at 9:26PM
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I do not quite understand how you use the toothbrush to propogate the tomamtoes. Would you please explain just how to use it.


    Bookmark   February 5, 2011 at 10:26PM
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you use an electric toothbrush to "rattle" the flower so it gets pollinated. tomatoes are self pollinating. simply turn on an electric toothbrush and vibrate the flowers for a second or two by touching the brush to the back of the flower.

    Bookmark   February 7, 2011 at 12:02PM
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I have a small vibrator I used to use to massage my wife's back and legs until I got a larger, heated one. It is a bit larger than a toothbrush or razor but works a treat. Though I will admit, I don't 100 percent pollination as one poster claims. Even the bees I buzzed with said some blossoms drop.


    Bookmark   February 10, 2011 at 8:04PM
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I tried the toothbrush method and was shocked at how well it works. I made a little video of it and you can see the pollen pour off of the flowers. I'll be using it outdoors as well.

Here is a link that might be useful: Buzz Pollination Video Link

    Bookmark   February 17, 2011 at 6:40AM
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We have a Peacock feather I have been touching to my strawberry blooms. Is this how to pollinate them?
"Doing 10 with no Chance of Parole"

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   February 27, 2011 at 8:25AM
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archoo16(5b, MO)

I have an old brush head from my sonicare tooth brush. Turn it on and touch the outer side of the tomato bloom where the petals and sepals join. In good lighting , you can actually see the pollen pouring off the flower. It cant be too humid,the pollen are stuck in clumps or too dry ( the pollen wont stick where they are supposed to). electric toothbrush works beautifully!!

    Bookmark   June 4, 2012 at 1:11PM
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