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Pollinate tomatoes: how to increase yields with a brush, toothbrush and other tools

It is hard to imagine the summer salad without the tomatoes. But if suddenly ripen less fruit, then you should help. We explain when you should pollinate the tomatoes and what tools come into question.

Do tomatoes need to be pollinated?

How to pollinate tomatoes with cotton swab

Like many other crops, tomatoes need to be pollinated in order to bear abundant fruit. Bumblebees, bees and other insects gather nectar and pollen, transferring some of the pollen from one plant to another or between the flowers of one specimen.

Are tomato plants self-pollinators?

Most tomato varieties don’t have to rely solely on pollinators, though – each flower has a pistil and pollen sacs. The pollen sacs are opened after the end of the ripening period, and the wind carries them in all directions. Some of it gets into other tomato flowers and fertilizes them.

However, there are varieties that cannot pollinate themselves. They absolutely need the help of pollinating insects or humans to do the job.

In what cases do tomatoes need pollination?

These variants for pollination are mostly possible when the plants are growing in the garden. However, the small vegetable garden on the balcony attracts much less pollinating insects – firstly, because there are much fewer pollinators in big cities due to noise, air pollution and lack of food. On the other hand, because the balcony provides wind protection and thus prevents the spread of pollen.

How to pollinate tomatoes yourself in a tub

The situation is similar in the greenhouse, where the plants cannot be pollinated. Those who do not help themselves must expect lower yields and significantly fewer ripe tomatoes. This is because only pollinated flowers bear fruit.

When do you need to pollinate the tomatoes?

The optimal time depends on several factors. In the first place, this is the humidity. If it is above 60%, then the pollen stick to the bags and can not be released even when shaking the flower. So it is best to choose a week when it does not rain.

Heat and long dry periods can also have a negative effect on the germination of pollen.

The best time to pollinate tomatoes is in the morning.

Pollinate tomatoes: how to attract bees and bumblebees to the balcony.

Pollinate tomatoes with attract bees on balcony

In the garden, pollinating insects are attracted by the diversity of species. But on the balcony, where space is limited anyway, the main thing is creativity. Go for plants that provide food for bumblebees and bees and that insects love to fly over. Such are, for example:

  • Lilac
  • Clematis.
  • Lavender
  • Bee weed
  • Vanilla flower
  • Daisies

Tomatoes pollinate attract bees on balcony


If you have a large roof terrace, you can also install a bumblebee box. This will give the insects room to nest. It is best to assemble the box before the flowering season begins. Bumblebees nest in the shade and fill the insect hotel with dried moss and cover with hay. Use only natural materials that have not been treated with chemicals. Once installed, the insect hotel should remain in place throughout the garden season.

Alternatively, you can pollinate the tomatoes yourself. There are several methods, which we list below.

Pollinate the tomatoes: in the greenhouse pollination without bees is possible

Plant and pollinate tomatoes in greenhouse

So for now: it is best, of course, if the tomatoes are pollinated by bees and bumblebees. However, this is not always possible. Nevertheless, it is worthwhile to ventilate the greenhouse as often as possible. If this does not help, then pollination by hand comes into question. In this regard, there are three variants:

Tool: electric toothbrush.

Pollinate tomatoes with electric toothbrush instructions


The so-called trilling of tomatoes imitates natural pollination, which is carried out by bumblebees. The wings of the insects cause vibrations that release the pollen. This method is particularly effective with self-pollinating tomato varieties. Thus, the pollen can quickly enter the pistil of the same flower and it is fertilized. However, you will need tools. The most suitable is an electric toothbrush. Proceed as follows:

  1. First, turn the toothbrush on low.
  2. Then place the toothbrush directly above the first opened flower.
  3. Repeat the process on all other blossoms, preferably trilling the tomatoes every morning.

Pollinate tomatoes with a brush: method that is great for the vegetable garden on the balcony.

How to pollinate tomatoes with a brush

Another tool that is super for pollinating crops on the balcony or in a small greenhouse is the brush. This variant comes into question when you have only a few tomato plants.  Otherwise, it is too time-consuming. Proceed as follows:

  1. First, brush with a soft brush (clean and dry) over the pollen sacs and then over the pistil of a flower.
  2. Repeat the process with the other flowers as well. You can also pollinate different flowers alternately.
  3. Do not clean or wet the brush in between. Only at the end clean the brush and let it dry.
  4. Repeat the process every morning.

Why should you shake tomato plants?

Shaking the tomato plant releases pollen and imitates wind movement. This allows the pollen to travel from one plant to the next and pollinate them. If you have a tomato variety that cannot pollinate itself, then you can use the third method – namely “shaking tomato plants”. To do this, proceed as follows:

Shake and cross tomatoes instructions

  1. Shake the potted plant in the morning.
  2. At the same time, with gentle movements, very carefully hold the individual stems with your fingers and shake them back and forth.
  3. Repeat the process every morning.

How to cross tomato plants?

Shaking is a good variation also if you have different tomato varieties and want to cross them. The final goal should be a new variety that combines in itself certain characteristics. For this purpose, you need a foil tunnel for tomatoes. Then the plants are divided into two: The first will play the role of the mother plant, and the second will release pollen. An important condition for success is that the flowers of the two plants have not yet opened.

Dust tomatoes with a soft brush

First, the anthers of the mother plant are cut off, then the emasculated flowers are marked. Then the pollen is collected from the father plant. It is best to wait until the pollen sacs mature and open, then shake the pollen onto a dark plastic bag. The flowers of the mother plant are then rubbed onto the bag to fertilize them. If they bear fruit after about seven to ten days , then the crossing was successful.

If you want to pollinate your tomatoes, you have several options to choose from: attract pollinating insects, pollinate the plants yourself with a brush or toothbrush, or shake the vegetables.