Pollination is perhaps the most crucial step in raising indoor tomatoes, because if you don’t do it right you will simply never get fruit.  I remember being quite intimidated by it when I started growing.  When should I pollinate?  How do you do it?  Why must one do it?  That last one is important as understanding the reason makes the process very simple.

Some people say tomato plants are self-fertilizing.  While I can see why, this is also misleading.  Reality is that tomato flowers are usually hermaphrodites.  That is, they have both male and female parts.  Problem is they don’t touch each other and therefore do not usually produce fruit without help.  Normally this is taken care of by bees and other insects.  The vibration is enough for the pollen to reach the ovules, plus the insects carry pollen from flower to flower, mixing up the gene pool.

So far the best substitute I have found for a bumble-bee is an electric toothbrush.  This one cost me about seven dollars.

The trick to pollination is that you have to wait until the flower is ready.  Luckily this is easy to tell by looking once you’ve actually done this a couple times.  It’s usually in the middle of the day and you have to wait until the sepals are fully pulled back and the flower is open.

All you have to do to pollinate the plant is gently touch the stem of a flower with the toothbrush (ON).  If you’re doing it right you’ll see a little *poof* cloud of yellow dust come out of the tip of the flower.

Also the humidity can’t be over about 60 RH or the pollen will just clump and nothing will happen.  It’s pretty dry in our house (aprox 25-30 RH) and so far they’re still pollinating successfully but I can’t say for sure how dry they can go.  If your flowers are falling off before opening, try adding more Cal-Max.

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