I have been asked the question how to pollinate vegetables quite a lot lately so here’s a post to try to explain the ways I’ve had success with pollination and to show the best techniques as I see them.
The Best Way To Pollinate Vegetables
The best way to pollinate vegetables is of course, the natural way. What is the natural way? Well by allowing Bees and Butterflies to gain access to your vegetables and letting them do what they do. Which is to gather nectar and in the process as they fly from flower to flower they spread pollen between the plants and hey presto you have fruit or vegetables forming.
I find that by growing colourful flowers alongside the vegetable or fruit plants you attract the insects to your plot and pollination should occur. If however, the weather is wet on the day that your prize courgette has opened both male and female flowers at the same time then you might be advised to give nature a helping hand.
How To Pollinate Without Bees
So your prize squash has opened male and female flowers and you want to be sure of pollination. The most successful method I have found is by hand. All you need to do is take a fine, childrens paint brush and gently brush the inside of the male flower and then gently brush the inside of the female flower. It’s easy to tell the difference with the flowers, the male flower is just a flower and the female flower has a small fruit behind it. Be sure to brush gently, too hard and you will knock the flower off and then you will have to wait for more simultaneous male and female flowering.
Basically that’s it, however, if you want to keep the variety pure for seed saving and regrowing next year then at this stage gently close the female flower with one hand and affix an elastic band to the tip to keep the flower closed thus not allowing any cross pollination.
How To Pollinate Vegetables In The Greenhouse
To pollinate vegetables in the greenhouse I use the paint brush technique. This year I have had great success with cucumbers using the paint brush technique. It is also a good idea to include a few flowers in your greenhouse to attract pollinators, just be mindful that when you close the greenhouse door at night not to trap bees inside as they need to return to thier hives/nests.
Other Pollination Tips
Tomatoes– Pretty much self pollinating but they can be helped by spraying with water.
Beans– The best way to ensure good pollination is to plant flowers near by to attract pollinators. I find sweet peas and sunflowers particularly successful with beans.
Apples & Pears– These don’t need much help with pollinating except you need to ensure that they blossom at the same time so pollination can occur, so at least two early/mid/late flowering varieties. If you only plant one tree you are relying on neighbouring trees to blossom with yours. Also it is advisable to have a variety of flowers growing near by to attract pollinators.
Sweet corn – Sweet corn needs to be planted in blocks ie 3×3 this is because they distribute pollen from the top of the plant and by planting in a block other plants can then catch pollen as it falls. To assist with pollination gently shake the corn stalk and you will see the pollen falling and spreading to the other plants.