Knowledge from Olle Garden Bed:You should manually pollinate these 4 types of vegetables and fruits
While nature has its own way of helping your garden flowers turn into fruits or vegetables, don't forget about hand pollination! The following content also has some reference value for raised garden beds.
Beautiful blooms in your garden often transform into fruits or vegetables after pollination. Sometimes, flowers wither and fall off without setting fruit. One of the reasons for reduced yield could be the lack of pollinators in your garden.
Pollinators like wind, bees, birds, and butterflies transfer pollen from the male parts of plants to the female parts. In the absence of these pollinators, you may have to do the job yourself. So, it's important to know which fruits and vegetables you should hand pollinate for optimal results.
- Solanaceous Fruits (Tomatoes, Peppers, Eggplants)
These fruits are pollinated by wind, bees, birds, and butterflies. In the absence of these pollinators, you may have to hand pollinate. Here's how:
Gently tap the stem of the flower with your finger or a pencil to release pollen. Alternatively, you can use an electric toothbrush to mimic the vibrations of bees. Touch the brush to the back of each flower for a few seconds to release pollen.
If you're growing different varieties and don't want cross-pollination, avoid shaking the flowers. Instead, move a small paintbrush or cotton swab inside the flower. Use any of these methods once a day for two to three days.
For tomato plants, the optimal temperature for successful pollination is sunny days with low humidity, so the pollen doesn't stick and falls off the anthers when vibrated. Pollination is best when daytime temperatures are between 70-80°F and nighttime temperatures are between 60-70°F. Temperatures below 50°F or above 90°F can inhibit pollination.
For peppers, the best temperature for pollination is when nighttime temperatures are between 54-61°F. The flowers are sensitive to temperatures above 84°F and below 41°F.
Eggplants prefer daytime temperatures around 78°F and nighttime temperatures around 68°F. Temperatures above 95°F and below 62°F can hinder pollination.
- Cucurbits (Cucumbers, Pumpkins, Melons)
Cucurbits belong to the gourd family and include cucumbers, pumpkins, and melons. They have separate male and female flowers on the same plant. The male flowers bloom about a week before the female flowers to attract pollinating insects.
However, cool and cloudy weather can delay or prevent pollination as bees don't fly in such conditions. Pesticides and diseases can also reduce the number of bees, requiring manual pollination. Hand pollination can also result in earlier and larger harvests.
Method: To hand pollinate cucurbits, identify the male and female flowers. The female flowers have a tiny fruit (ovary) at the base. Pinch off a male flower from the stem and remove all the petals to expose the stamen. Gently handle the male flower to avoid premature pollen release. Rub the stamen onto the stigma of the female flower to transfer pollen.
Alternatively, you can use a small, soft-bristled, clean brush to collect pollen from the stamen and brush it onto the stigma. Usually, there is an equal number of male and female flowers, but you can use a single male flower for multiple female flowers.
Female flowers are open for only one day. The best time for pollination is from morning until evening when the female flowers are most receptive. Start pollinating as soon as the flowers open, so you can pollinate as many flowers as possible before they close again.
Corn relies on wind for pollination; therefore, pollinators don't play a significant role. Each corn plant has separate male and female flowers. The male flowers, called tassels, are located at the top of the plant to catch the wind and distribute pollen. The anthers containing pollen are part of the tassels.
The female flowers eventually develop into corn ears and are located lower on the plant. They have prominent silk, tiny hairs that capture pollen. Each silk develops into a kernel on the ear, so every silk must be pollinated for a fully filled corn cob.
This makes the stakes high and manual pollination more suitable for home gardeners planting a small number of corn plants.
Method: Plant corn in blocks instead of rows to increase the chances of silk capturing pollen. When the anthers are bright and creamy yellow, they are ready to shed pollen. Gently shake the stalks to release pollen from the tassels. Do this every few days to ensure all the silks are pollinated.
You can also carefully cut tassels from one plant and dust the silk of all corn plants with the pollen. Repeat this process with a different tassel every few days.
Ideal Time: The best time for hand pollinating corn is around midday when the temperature is cool, similar to solanaceous fruits. Each strawberry flower has both male (anthers) and female (pistil) parts, making it self-fertile. The berries can be pollinated when the plants are shaken by wind, rain, or insects. While strawberry plants rarely require hand pollination, there are situations where it becomes necessary. Dew evaporates, and pollen is not wet or sticky. Cool temperatures are also available around noon when the pollen is at its peak. Pollen loses viability when the temperature exceeds 90°F. The next ideal time for pollination is in the evening, once the weather has cooled.
Like solanaceous plants, each strawberry flower has both male (anthers) and female (pistil) parts, making them self-fertile. The berries can be pollinated when the plants are shaken by wind, rain, or insects. While strawberry plants rarely require hand pollination, there are situations where it becomes necessary.
For example, you may live in an urban environment where pollinators are not abundant, or you're growing strawberries in a greenhouse. In such cases, it's best to start hand pollinating the flowers yourself.
Method: The anthers clasp the pollen, forming a ring around the pistil in the center of the flower. To encourage pollination, gently brush the outer edge of the flower with your finger.
A more effective method is to use a small, soft-bristled brush or a Q-tip instead of your finger. Start from the outside of the flower and brush the selected implement onto the stigma in the center. Repeat this process every two to three days as the flowers open.
Start Pollinating Now!
Hand pollination ensures better crop yield when pollinators are absent or when you're gardening in narrow spaces. Choose the optimal time and method that offers the best results based on the different plants.