How to Hand Pollinate Garden Plants

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Plants in a greenhouse lack the attention of bees, nature's pollenators.
Plants in a greenhouse lack the attention of bees, nature's pollenators. (Image: Jupiterimages/Photos.com/Getty Images)

Certain plants with male and female flowers, such as squash and cucumbers, may need a helping hand for good pollination when grown indoors or in a greenhouse. Wind and insects are not always present as in nature to achieve pollination. You can be a busy bee yourself and play the role of pollinator.

Things You'll Need

  • Cotton swabs
  • Small paintbrushes

Locate the male and female flowers. Male flowers bear stamens and female ones bear pistils. The female flower has a rudimentary fruit on the end.

Transfer the pollen from the male flower to the female with a small paintbrush or cotton swab. Clean the brush or use a new swab when pollinating more than one type of plant.

Shake gently the cage of pepper and tomato plants every couple of days to advance pollination; no other action is necessary. Self-pollinators such as peas, beans and lettuce do not need any help to pollinate indoors.

Tips & Warnings

  • Too much fertilizer high in nitrogen rather than a lack of pollination can cause poor production from indoor and outdoor vegetables. Fertilizers high in nitrogen are desirable during the growth cycle, but once the plants are ready to flower, switch to a fertilizer higher in phosphorus and potassium. These fertilizers generally have the word "bloom" in their name and should have a ratio that favors the last two numbers over the first, a fertilizer with a 1-2-2 ratio, for example.

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