Tomatoes ( Solanum lycopersicum ) can be grown indoors all year long with just a sunny window or some adequate lighting. Whereas pollination of some plants requires the presence of insects, indoor tomatoes can be pollinated by gently shaking the stems and blooms or by using a fan to create a wind. When you’ve grown accustomed to the taste of homegrown tomatoes, buying store-bought food can seem like a letdown. Even if you don’t live in the United States, growing your own tomatoes gives you access to delicious produce all year long. U.S. Department of Agriculture plant hardiness zones 10 through 12.
Planting Your Tomatoes
1. Provide a Bright Location
Choose a spot to put your tomato seeds. Tomatoes need a lot of light in order to flower and set fruit, so the brightest section of your home is ideal. A big window that faces south is perfect. To cultivate tomatoes when no suitable window is available, grow lights can be used instead.
2. Choose a Cultivar
Find the ideal tomato variety for growing inside. Think about the plant’s eventual size and the number of fruits it will bear. Tomatoes that are small enough to grow on a patio can be grown indoors, and even in a hanging basket. The Missouri Botanical Garden reports that determinate tomato varieties like ‘Ace’ (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Ace’) and ‘Roma’ (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Roma’) do not mature to the same size as indeterminate tomato varieties like ‘Sungold’ (Solanum lycopersicum ‘Sungold’).
3. Plant the Tomato
Seed the tomato plant. Most tomato plants just need a container that’s at least 12 inches deep. If the container is deep enough, use high-quality potting mix and bury the stem up to the first set of leaves. The stem of the tomato plant will become a node for new roots, making the plant more robust. Set up a stake or tomato cage if you’re planting a cultivar that needs it. Carefully set the plant in the light location you’ve chosen, and give it plenty of water.
Indoor Tomato Care
1. Water the Plant
Repeatedly irrigating is recommended. It’s important to keep an eye on the soil around your tomato plant to see if it needs watering. Put your finger into the soil in the pot. If your knuckles are showing, it is time to water.
2. Feed the Tomato Plant
Fertilize plants every few weeks. Steve Albert, a master gardener, suggests feeding your tomato plant a water-soluble 5-10-5 fertilizer when it’s in bloom and fruiting mode to ensure its continued growth. Fertilizing indoor tomatoes with a weekly cup of vermicompost tea, marine kelp, or fish emulsion is another option. Invariably water the fertilizer after it has been applied.
3. Help With Pollinating Indoor Tomatoes
To aid with pollination, please. Tomatoes have “perfect blooms,” which means that each flower contains both the male and female reproductive organs. Tomatoes are capable of pollinating themselves, so there’s no need to bring in bees or butterflies, but you may speed things along by gently shaking the stems every day or setting up a tiny oscillating fan nearby to simulate wind. The blossoms can also be pollinated with a little paintbrush; simply swirl the brush over the petal to collect pollen, then apply it to the pistil.
Things You Will Need
- Planter or other large pot
- Planting medium
- Plant of the tomato species
- a stake or cage used for supporting tomatoes
- Seed starting lights (optional)
- Organic tomato fertilizer
- Rotating blower
- Brush, miniature (optional)
Tomatoes are able to pollinate themselves because they produce highly effective pollen in their blossoms. Therefore, both male and female reproductive structures exist within a single flower (i.e. the stamen and stigma).
This facilitates pollination since the stigma of each flower receives pollen directly from the stamen. After an egg has been fertilized, a fruit will form.
Fertilization of tomatoes typically takes place via buzz or wind pollination. However, many investigations have concluded that buzz pollination is the most efficient in terms of overall fruit size, productivity, and enhanced seed count.
Buzz pollination takes place when insects with the correct vibrations, such as bumblebees (Bombus spp.) and carpenter bees (Xylocopa spp. ), shake pollen off the anthers, or sections of the stamens that hold the pollen, by vibrating their bodies.
However, honeybees are incapable of this behavior.
The pollen is dispersed by the wind and carried to other flowers as the wind disturbs the blossoms. Solanum pollen, on the other hand, is relatively large and sticky, therefore a strong breeze is required to blow the grains away from the anthers.
Pollen is often released and transferred between morning and late afternoon, with midday being the most favorable time.
Perfect conditions for pollination include bright, warm weather with low humidity, but if you do it by hand, you won’t have to worry about that. Even in bad weather, some pollen can be transferred.
How to Pollinate Tomatoes By Hand
Any of the following can be used to increase fruit set by simulating the effects of wind or buzzing insects.
1. Shake Them Up
If you want to encourage pollen release, all you have to do is give the plant a light shake or tap to simulate a breeze.
A light but rapid tap on the top of each blossom will do the trick. Staccato flicks of the floral stalks are also possible.
2. Art Brush
Pollen can be collected and dispersed using a tiny paintbrush, much like how insects collect and disperse nectar.
The brush doesn’t have to be expensive, but it should have natural bristles because artificial bristles don’t attract pollen nearly as well.
Carefully pick up the blossom and use the brush to gently stroke back and forth along the pistil and stigma. Pollen grains will be gathered and transported.
If you want to keep your tomato seeds pure, you should either use a new brush for each variety or clean the one you’re using with isopropyl alcohol in between planting sessions.
3. Cotton Swabs
The highly spun cotton surface of a cotton swab is another useful tool for gathering and dispersing pollen.
Treat a cotton swab like a paintbrush and use it to apply paint or other medium.
The pollen can alternatively be collected in a tiny dish and then applied to the stigma of each flower with a swab (or a brush).
4. Battery Operated Toothbrush
A simple battery-operated toothbrush is the most convenient, efficient, and cost-effective tool for this job.
Commercial operations can make use of electric vibrators, but a child’s toothbrush (which costs only a few dollars) will do the trick for the avid home gardener.
Buzz pollination is imitated by shaking the head, which prompts the anthers to discharge their pollen onto the stigma.
To use, rest the toothbrush’s vibrating head on the flower’s stem or base for a couple seconds before moving on to the next bloom.
How Often Should I Hand Pollinate?
Hand pollination in the midday sun should be done every three to four days if at all possible.
To ensure that every flower on the cluster is fertilized, you should fertilize it as soon as it opens and then repeat the process every couple of days until the plants cease blossoming.
After the petals fade, keep an eye out for the beginning of fruit development.
Ripe, Red Goodness
Having each flower be hand pollinated increases the likelihood that it will produce a fruit, which will result in a bountiful harvest of ripe, crimson deliciousness.
Every gardener wants a higher harvest, and now you can get it in a matter of minutes with little more than a little bit of shaking or buzzing.
How do you prefer to manually pollinate? Leave a comment and let us know.
The Basics of Indoor Tomato Care
You’ll need to familiarize yourself with the fundamentals of indoor tomato cultivation for the pollination to succeed. The following are some important considerations:
Water your plants regularly
Frequently evaluating the soil around your tomato plant will tell you if it needs watering. If the soil is dry when you stick a finger in it, water it.
Fertilize the soil each week
Applying a well-balanced fertilizer can help your tomatoes thrive and produce more fruit. Sea kelp, fish emulsion, and animal dung are all excellent fertilizer choices for indoor tomato plants.
Help pollinate your plants
Tomatoes may successfully pollinate themselves without the assistance of humans or insects. You may either manually pollinate them or use a small fan to mimic the breeze and hasten the process.
4 Ways to Pollinate Your Indoor Tomato Plants
Tomatoes can pollinate and produce their own fruit without the help of any other plants. That is to say, you don’t need to plant any additional tomato plants if you care for your current one properly. Of course, we’ve previously proven that you can speed up the pollination process by hand-pollinating them. Some options are as follows.
Vibrate your tomato plants using a battery-operated toothbrush
Using a toothbrush, you can self-pollinate by placing the bristles at the rear of the open blooms and gently shaking the vines. Pollination rates will increase as the vibrations dislodge the pollen and spread it.
Put the bristles where the stems of the flowers are, not on the blooms themselves. Just for a second or two, turn on the electric toothbrush.
Use an art brush
Similarly to how insects collect and transfer pollen to flowers, you may use a small art brush to achieve the same thing. It’s not necessary to spend a lot of money on the brush, but it should have natural bristles. Pollen is more likely to remain adhered in this manner than on a plastic brush.
Gently swirl the brush inside the petals, the pistil, and on the stigma to collect and distribute pollen. However, make sure to always use a different brush if you have several types of tomatoes to prevent cross-pollination. If that isn’t possible, dip and dry your brush in isopropyl alcohol before hand-pollinating other varieties.
Use cotton swabs
If you want to capture and disperse pollen, gently swirl the brush inside the petals, around the pistil, and on the stigma. However, if you are growing more than one kind of tomato, you should avoid cross-pollination by continually using a new brush. If that isn’t an option, you can hand-pollinate other species by dipping your brush in isopropyl alcohol and letting it dry.
Shake your plants
When you can’t get your hands on an electric toothbrush, a brush, or a cotton swab, just give the plants a light shake to simulate the effect of dropped pollen. To promote pollination, touch each blossom quickly yet softly.
When Should you Hand Pollinate?
Pollination by hand is a continuous process, not a one-and-done. When the weather permits, it’s ideal to pollinate every few days by hand.
Aim for each blooming tomato plant until the plant stops producing flowers. Each cluster can be checked off as fertilized in this fashion. After the petals die off, you should look for the fruits to develop.
Why Are Greenhouses a Great Investment for Planting?
Tomatoes and other plants thrive in little greenhouses. The following are a few arguments in favor of purchasing a greenhouse kit if you are still on the fence:
Protection from unwanted animals and insect
The tasty tomato fruit would be a welcome treat for aphids, rats, beetles, and other insects and large animals. The plants in your garden are also vulnerable to infectious diseases spread by nearby plants. You can put them in little greenhouses to protect them from pests and disease.
Great for gardeners who need additional space
A small greenhouse is a great investment if you are short on space yet want to expand your crop production. You can set them up on any flat surface, including tables, decks, and patios. In addition, they are inexpensive compared to standard-sized greenhouses and can accommodate a wide variety of plant species.
Keep your plants safe from frost
The frost kills tomatoes because they are warm-season plants. Tomatoes grown in a greenhouse are more likely to survive the year’s ups and downs in temperature and precipitation. After the soil has warmed up, you can put them back in your garden.
Final Thoughts on How to Pollinate Indoor Tomatoes
Now that you know how to pollinate tomatoes indoors, you can choose from a variety of hand-pollination methods. Tomato plants can be gently shaken or brushed with an art brush, but do whatever works best for you in your yard. In order to get the best results, you should pollinate your plants by hand every two to three days. If the pollination is successful, you will see the blooms droop and produce fruit.