Tomato pollination

So, the last time I posted about the tomato plant, my friend asked me, ‘Where are all the tomatoes?’ An excellent question, and one which we wondered about ourselves.

We had watched our tomato plant grow to the ceiling without any sign of tomatoes, even though there were lots of flowers. I watched the flowers with great anticipation, expecting them to turn into tomatoes, but no such luck. When they dropped, the ends of the stems remained barren. But I thought it was just a matter of waiting.

Tomato - blossom drop

But one day, we were looking at the top of the tomato plant (hands on our hips, wondering what we were going to do about this monster), and we saw a tomato. I was pleased and flabbergasted all at once. Our first tomato! But why was it all the way at the top? Those flowers didn’t blossom until weeks and weeks after the first flowers!

Tomato - first tomato

At once, I set about tracking down the truth about tomato pollination. I thought that tomatoes were self-pollinating (otherwise, why would anyone sell you a single plant without warning you?), and one of my friends had actually checked up on it for me, because he didn’t think they were.

It turns out that tomatoes need some help with pollination. Wind (or bees beating their little wings nearby) is necessary to help the male parts get onto the female parts. Absent that (say, because your plant is indoors), you need to provide that help yourself.

So we’ve started tapping our tomato flowers every day. The pollen is at the back of the flower, and the female part is at the front. Tap on the back of the flower, and you encourage the pollen to drop onto the female part. There’s a good diagram in this blog post that taught me all about tomato pollination.

Of course, we’re too lazy to tap each flower individually, so we just tap the stem at the base of a cluster, or whatever we can reach. The best time to tap is between 10 am and 4 pm, and optimally around noon (or, probably, at the hottest and sunniest time of the day). So now it’s Hide’s job to tap the tomato plant when he comes home for lunch.

This method is working really well. We now have lots of tomatoes per cluster, and even our very first cluster has a tomato on the end.

Tomato - tomatoful cluster

Lots of tomatoes per cluster

Tomato - tomato on first cluster

Tomato on first cluster

I’m now glad that our tomato plant is of an indeterminate variety, which keeps growing throughout the season. If it had been a determinate, we might’ve been too late to get any tomatoes this year. That would’ve been tragic.

Tomato - first rip tomato

Our first tomato, almost ready to eat!

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