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Stages of hand-pollination of flowers

Tomato flower (Solanum lycopersicum)
Photo: ali graney
tomato flower (Solanum lycopersicum)

In order to maintain the genetics of your heritage vegetables, here's how to hand-pollinate flowers. These steps are essential to get seeds that will retain the parents' characteristics.

This should be done as early as possible in the season so that the fruit reaches maturity.

Steps to follow for hand-pollination

  1. To ensure pollination of selected plants, start by covering the flowers to keep pollinating insects away from them and “control” pollination. As soon as the flowers form, but before they open, wrap them in a paper bag or a piece of cheesecloth, landscaping fabric or fairly loosely woven gauze.
  2. Fasten the wrap around the peduncle or seal it with adhesive tape or a clip of some kind. Choose male and female flowers from different plants. Of course, these flowers must come from plants of the same heritage cultivar to get seeds with identical characteristics. Otherwise, you will get hybrids.
  3. After 12 to 16 hours, or once the flowers have attained sexual maturity, you can pollinate them by hand. Do this in a sunny day, early in the morning, just after the dew has formed. , on a sunny day. It is best to remove the petals from a male flower to expose the stamens. Then, cut the male flower.
  4. Hold the female flower open and gently rub its pistil against the stamens of the male flower. Then blow on the pistil to make sure the pollen is stuck to it.
  5. Wrap the pollinated flower back up until it fades and the fruit begins to form. You can identify the fruit with a coloured ribbon. It is recommended to use two or three male flowers for each female flower and to pollinate several flowers in case one or more does not produce any fruit.

Based on an article by Nathalie Leuenberger in Quatre-Temps, vol. 23, no.4

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