A quick note about pollination. There (hopefully) won’t be any bees or insects to pollinate your vegetables so you’re going to have to do this yourself. This is true for both greenhouse and indoor gardening. A lot of your plants won’t need this step, but some will, so it’s good to know what to do. Don’t worry, it’s not too complicated.

Tomatoes are self-pollinating – they have both male and female parts – so they will take care of this on their own as gravity pulls the pollen from the male part to the female. That’s called natural or open pollination. Just having an oscillating fan in the room should be enough to help this along quite a bit. But if you find that a lot of your flowers are dropping and not making fruits, you can always take matters into your own hands. The goal is simply to get the pollen to spray around and fertilize the flowers.

The first way we tried was definitely the most fun. We took a cheap kid’s electric toothbrush and buzzed all the flowers. That causes the flowers to shake and vibrate and release their pollen.

But the easiest and most effective way is just to shake the plants a few times a week. I just take whatever stakes or trellis the plant is on and give it a little shake. This tactic is usually enough for most plants that require fertilization including tomatoes, eggplants, peppers, cucumbers, zucchini.

The latter two, however, do sometimes require even a bit more work if their yield is still low.  They can be slightly more challenging, requiring you to pull off a puff of pollen with a q-tip or small artist’s brush, then gently pollinating the female flowers by hand. You can also pull a male flower off and insert it into the female flower. (I am not ever doing this.) This is called mechanical pollination.  The male cucumber and zucchini flowers are easy to spot since they have bright yellow pollen easily transferred to a q-tip. The female flowers aren’t always open. Once I tried to open one of the little ladies and get the pollen in there and I immediately felt weird about it and told my husband.  It didn’t seem right. So since then, I simply shake the flowers. I don’t get as high a yield as I could I’m sure, but I sleep more soundly at night. 

Some vegetables that may need a little help with pollination.

  • Tomatoes
  • Eggplants
  • Peppers
  • Zuchini
  • Cucumbers
  • Gourds
  • Strawberries

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