How to help your tomato plants pollinate

Each flower contains both the male and female parts. Inside of the same blossom, the male part drops pollen onto the female part. Pollination happens mostly by the wind, a breeze moving the flower/blossom. Then bingo! That blossom is pollinated and a baby tomato is on the way! Without bees and without butterflies.

What is a fast and easy way you can help pollinate tomatoes? I use an electric toothbrush to help pollinate. Buy a children’s battery operated toothbrush for about $10, or share the one you use with your tomatoes…either way works…..hahaha.

Simply touch and vibrate the top of the blossoms and you will see the pollen fall, like a little puff of dust and that blossom is now pollinated and will go on the bear tomatoes. If no dust falls, come back tomorrow, maybe tomorrow is the day that particular blossom is ready for pollination.

Takes just seconds to help pollinate and I would guess it adds 15%-25% more tomatoes! And if you do nothing because you have a life beyond pollinating tomatoes or neighbors see you out in the yard buzzing around with your little toothbrush thinking you may have gone off the “Deep End.” Hahaha. So, if you do nothing, and with the wind and breeze helping, you will still get plenty of tomatoes.

electric toothbrush pollinating a tomato blossom

Every day, new blossoms come on the plant and every day, blossoms close up. Pollinated blossoms go on to bear fruit. Those that close up not pollinated … fall off.

Once the tomato plant makes pollen for an individual blossom and is ready to pollinate that blossom. You have about 48 hours to pollinate that individual blossom—shaking, vibrating that blossom to help the pollen fall from the male part onto the female part. If that does not happen in about 48 hours, the un- pollinated blossom dies and falls off.

Tomatoes, generally will not produce pollen when night time temperatures are too cold. For tomato plants to produce pollen, generally speaking, night time temperatures need to be about 55 degrees or warmer. When night time temperatures are too cold, plants still grow and blossoms still come on and then blossoms drop off because there is no pollen.

Mother Nature / the tomato plant knows not to produce pollen when the weather is still too cold. If day time temperatures get too hot, the tomato plant also stops producing pollen.

When day time temperatures go above about 85 degrees or so … same thing, blossoms come on but drop off because they contain no pollen … because Mother Nature / the tomato plant says it’s too hot to bear tomatoes. The tomato plant says I just better focus on using all of my energy to stay alive. Once the temperature comes back down, the tomato plant will once again produce pollen.

Look for and plant “heat tolerant” tomato plants during hot weather months. These are bred to produce tomatoes in 90 degree weather. My favorite “heat tolerant” is “Phoenix.” My website has a section on “Heat Tolerent” tomatoes. You will see some pictures.

Once the highs and lows temperatures are OK, the tomato plant will produce pollen. To pollinate, the plant/the blossoms needs vibration from wind, bees’ wings, and maybe you gently shaking the vine to dislodge and release the pollen. It’s the vibration that makes the pollen drop in a little cloud of dust.

You are welcome to share this information with others—family, friends and clubs, etc.

Sharing tips helps us be better growers.

Dave Freed / 🍅 the Tomato Guy