Ready to “get the buzz on” for my tomatoes

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I’ve never grown tomatoes in a greenhouse/indoors before, so I didn’t really think about how I’d pollinate them once they started flowering. When grown outdoors, bees and wind help shake loose and move the pollen from the male flower to the female flower so pollination can occur. I’ve always had tons of bumble bees in my vegetable garden and raspberry patch, so my outdoor tomatoes haven’t had a problem with pollination. But, while I love bumble bees, having them hang out in my basement so they can pollinate my greenhouse tomatoes doesn’t really seem like a good option. Fortunately, an Internet search quickly revealed other ways I can “get the buzz on” for my tomatoes and help ensure the plants’ flowers turn into fruit.

Suggestions included using something like a feather, a toothpick, a fan or even just your hand to gently shake the plant and allow the pollen to fall from the male flower to the female flower. The option that appealed most to me was using a cheap electric toothbrush to gently vibrate the flower and shake the pollen. (Two good websites: and If it works the way it says it does, it should be really easy to do.

The tomatoes have been transplanted into the five-gallon pails for a little more than a week now and seem to be doing great. I can tell they’re growing – even if just a little bit, you can tell by the photos that there are new green stems sticking up here and there. And leaves are bigger. The soil I used to pot them in has a mix of nitrogen, phosphate and potash in it, and the bag itself said it was good for growing tomatoes, so I don’t think I’m going to give them any more fertilizer for the time being. Just water when they’re dry and plenty of light.

If you’re really into watching my tomatoes grow, I’ve been posting photos nightly of them on my Twitter account (@JulieRiebe). I thought it would be cool to document their growth with a daily photo. Maybe it’ll get boring quickly; I guess time will tell. But if you want to see them nightly, check it out at

7 responses to this post.

  1. I’m amazed, I must say. Rarely do I come across a blog that’s both educative and engaging, and
    without a doubt, you’ve hit the nail on the head. The problem is something which not enough people are speaking intelligently about. I am very happy I stumbled across this during my search for something concerning this.

  2. I have never thought about this at all, and am now puzzled how the bell peppers that were left on my windowsill by accident all through the winter, have managed to generate little fruit this spring! Perhaps peppers though, can sometimes fruit without pollination? I shall have to dissect one of the tiny fruits to see if there are seeds.

  3. […] Ready to “get the buzz on” for my tomatoes ( […]

  4. Over here (UK) and especially in the North, growing tomatoes anywhere BUT in the greenhouse is a challenge. I do have plants both outside and inside (mainly due to the fact that I can’t bring myself to dispose of perfectly healthy plants and so plant them all up in whatever space I have available) but, in terms of flowering through to harvesting, the greenhouse ones are always ahead of the outside ones by 3-4weeks, despite all having been sown at the same time.

    Pollination has never been a problem with the greenhouse tomatoes as pollinators always find their way in, mainly because on hot summer days, the window and/or door are always open. Even on cooler, damper days, I tend to have the window open to allow for ventilation which, depending on the level of wind/breeze can also gently stir the plants which are on the opposite side of the greenhouse to the window. Oh and working in the greenhouse, with plant laden staging opposite the tomato plants, invariably results in my accidentally brushing against the tomato branches as I busy about.

    Depending on how you support your plants as they reach full height, you could just gently tap/shake the tops of the bamboo/cane supports each morning to be certain that the pollen has been released.

    So don’t worry too much about that side of things 😉

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