30 June 2014

June 2014

Buzz pollinating my tomatoes.
 
Tomatoes are self pollinating, however the pollen grains are securely held on the plants anthers.  Moderate vibration is required to release this pollen but a strong breeze will often be enough.  

Bumble bees buzz pollinate tomatoes by grabbing the tomato flower and vibrating their flight muscles vigorously to dislodge the pollen.  Honey bees don't use this technique and consequently they are not very efficient tomato pollinators.

In mainland Australia where there are no bumble bees, we must rely on native bees (like the blue banded bee) or the wind.  Both are unreliable in suburban gardens, so to ensure a good fruit set we need to buzz pollinate by hand.

I do this using a clean electric toothbrush.  I hold the toothbrush so that the back of the head is in contact with the stem just above the tomato flower.  I turn the toothbrush on and hold it in place for 2 or 3 seconds:  Too easy.