Tomato Pollination Troubles

Since it’s raining, how unusual, I didn’t get down to the plot. I was going to go and had just opened the front door to leave when the Heavens opened. Wonderful British summer, we’re having. Anyway, I got a really interesting email from a chap in Texas and I think it might be of interest to everyone, including my answer, so here it is.

Subject: Pollinating Tomato Plants

I have had great success growing tomatoes because I have a large garden. I plant a lot of plants. If a third produce, I will have about 5 or 6 times more than I need. I get questions all the time like ” What are you doing to produce so many ?” I work in Houston and live out in the country on 5 acres. <Lucky chap, actually gets to see the sun!>

Most of our office employees live in the city. The number one, most common problem seems to be large plants with lots of leaves and very small, if any, fruit.

I talked to all of them about all the common things you would ask. It seems like most have plant on the patio in a pot.

I asked them what variety they were growing and they usually don’t know. How much sunlight? Usually about 4 hrs of sun either evening or morning.

I wanted to ask one question. It seems like most people have problems with the blooms being fertilized. No bees etc. One man had a screen over his plants to keep the birds away.Another had his inside a screened in patio.

Lets say all these plants got enough sunlight but no bees. I have told them they needed to either shake the plant or use a cue-tip. Is that correct?

I added more to that suggestion. I told them that my old great-grand-dad used to spank his plants with his walking cane to make them behave better. They usually did!

My reply regarding tomato pollination and fruiting problems

Tomatoes should be a doddle in Texas – after all you actually get sunshine!

If they’re getting small fruit then the problem is most probably lack of feed – best for tomatoes is a feed high in potash . 10:10:20 is pretty good although any feed designed for flowers will suffice if enough is given. Ideally a formulated food containing magnesium is best or comfrey tea which will contain micro-nutrients naturally and is more like 14:6:34

If you’re interested in comfrey tea take a look at my article on comfrey and the downloadable pdf linked to from it.

Dry Set Problem with Tomatoes

‘Dry set’ where tiny fruit don’t develop is usually due to a very hot and dry atmosphere. Best preventative for that is to spray or mist the plants with water 2 or 3 times a day or just in the morning at least. Same cause and treatment if the flowers drop off the plant but no fruit is formed.

Tomatoes are self fertile so you don’t need different varieties. Bees are best for pollination but even just gentle shaking will cause the pollen to move and fertilise.

I’ve not heard of spanking the plants before – if it works for you, go for it!


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