07 April 2014

Pollination by Hand

We live in a pretty urban neighborhood at the moment, and while it has its benefits, thus far we haven't seen very many bees in our yard.  One here, one there, but not ever the little clouds I'm used to seeing once the tomatoes and tomatillos and squashes start blooming.  

Of course, we have more decorative flowers beginning to grow and bud as well, which we hope will attract more pollinators, but since we can't guarantee what kinds of sprays and chemicals other people might use around us, we are being careful to hand pollinate our fruits and vegetables.

Hand pollination doesn't actually take much time, and it's a great way to increase your harvest where there may not be many natural pollinators flying around.

Hand Pollination for Squashes, Melons, and Cucumbers

The female squash bud in the photo above just might yield us a nice lemon squash someday.  As with all melons and cucumbers, the squash's male flower pollen will need to come in contact with the female flower for that to happen.  Many gardeners (including us) simply pick off the male flowers and rub them face down over the female flowers (both flowers need to be open to do this, unlike the one in the photo above).

And a video for an example:

Hand Pollination for Peppers

I've found that peppers are the easiest plants to hand pollinate.  Each plant generally has more than one flower at a time, so having one of each variety is all you typically need, but it is nice to have more than one flowering plant to be sure there are enough blooms to pollinate each other.

Simply rub a finger inside a blossom, and then without losing the pollen from your finger, rub the inside of all the other open blossoms of the same variety, ending with the first blossom so that it will also get pollen from other flowers.  We've had goo results with our Cayenne peppers using this method--the other peppers are just beginning to bloom, and we're using the same method with them (can't wait to start seeing those peppers form!)

Hand Pollination for Tomatoes

Before YouTube earlier this spring, I had no idea how to pollinate tomatoes by hand.  However, I was motivated to learn, since we kept seeing tomato flowers bloom, die, and fall off, without tomatoes forming.  Since watching the video (below) and implementing what we learned from it, we have had to stop counting the number of tomatoes forming on our six plants because there are just so many.  It's really a great problem to have!

The video suggests using an electric toothbrush for vibrating the flowers; however, since we didn't have one of those, we use a small electric shaver/trimmer, which has worked quite well.


  1. WOW, this is absolutely fascinating! I think I'd never heard of hand polination before. Although I'd heard about robotic bees & the like. ;-)

    I loved your previous post. what lovely photos!

  2. Hand pollination would take forever if we had a bigger garden, but where we are, it's working really well! Certainly cheaper than robotic bees! I do miss the bees around the garden, though. There's something strange about them not being there, and I think it's better for everything if the bees get the pollen to make honey.

  3. The first time I saw hand pollination of tomato plants was in a greenhouse in Montana. The lady just walked around and shook her tomato plants every day or two. She said it didn't take long and gave her good results. I had no idea something like that was necessary before.

    1. What a good idea to just shake the whole plant! I imagine it was especially useful in the greenhouse during those short Montana summers.


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