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every year I have hundreds of blossoms on my tomato plants that never set fruit. what is the cause and can I do anything about it short of cussing the bees for not helping enuf?
I think I heard somewhere that someone took a blossom from the vine and rubbed it on the other blossoms to speed/accomplish pollination. has anyone heard of this and/or does it work.
confused in ID.
 
Some causes of poor fruit set are extreme temperatures, dry soil, too much shade and excessive nitrogen. I'm looking for some more info which escapes me at the moment but will persevere!

Dirt
 
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I posted cross-pollination techniques on the Seed Swap Forum here.
 
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I pollinated my zucchinis like that, but zukes have male and female flowers, and bees were drowning in the blossoms, the weather was so wet! :O For tomatoes, an old toothbrush or Q-tip twiddled in each flower you want to pollinate will suffice.

It could be also that you lack pollinators, such as bees. Try planting hyssop, or letting some Queen-Anne's-lace go to bloom (but not if you're saving seeds for carrots), to attract more pollinators.

Poor pollination is also the cause of lumpy, misshapen fruits on tomatoes.
 
[hr]I have three seasons: GROW, *SEW*, and SEED CATALOG!
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You could also buy a tube of Mason Bees. They aren't stingy and are great pollinators that will establish a long-lasting colony if the right conditions are met.
 
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Even simply tapping each flower truss/branch lightly with your fingers each time you walk by should do the trick (assuming it's not other environmental conditions that are preventing fruit set). It's what my folks used to do in the greenhouse years ago with good success. Now the commercial guys bring in bumble bee hives.
 
"... one is nearer God's heart in a garden than any place else on earth."
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Actually, the main pollinator for Tomato flowers is the bumble bee. Go figure. But mason bees will do the trick.
 
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I'm pretty lucky. My acre lawn has a low-growing strain of purple clover growing in spots. My lawn mower JUST clears it so its left untouched and I have alot of bumble bees every year.


Message was edited by: Locke
 
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I've had the same problem with an heirloom tomato called Pineapple, which got raves, it was healthy way into October, covered with blossoms, and never set a single tomato. The Ace tomato right next to it was fine. I have a feeling it has to do with temperature, because we all know the other factors that go into growing vegetables, but that sneaky temperature can spike or drop just enough to disrupt things and not be compatible with the plant we've chosen. Unless we want to have absolutely controlled greenhouses, I guess we just need to find the tomatoes that cooperate with our yards Smiler
 
---------------------- Life goes on within you and without you - George Harrison
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If temperatures drop too low for a tomato, the blossoms will fall off prior to pollination. One weather condition that will affect pollination is humidity. If the pollen is too damp to float over to the stigmas, there will be no fruit made.
Some heirlooms are pretty picky about who they'll 'get into bed with' - or, who's pollen is the right sort for it's stigmas. I am unable to tell if 'Ace' is a hybrid, and if you just had one heirloom plant in your garden.
Tomatoes often need to be planted in pairs - sharing pollen between them. Heirlooms often refuse to accept pollen from hybrid varieties.
Try it again this year, but plant two of each heirloom variety, and ensure the pollen gets to it's intended target - use a feather or cotton swab to transfer the dust from flower to flower.
 
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Good thought about an heirloom needing other open pollinating or heirloom pollen, but then I wouldn't have the tomato I set out to grow. Which would be fine, but I do like some reliability from year to year about what I'm going to get because I do save seeds. It does have something to with moisture or temp when there's just no tomatoes at all.

So you must have a really short growing season, do you just leap into it for all it's worth for a few months, or do you have a greenhouse or cold frames? I am always so impressed with the tidiness of Canadian farms. In California we are spoiled with the weather and farmers here leave things out all over the place. And I do have a weakness for those Tim Bits!! ]Smiler

Do you prefer indeterminate tomatoes or not? Any favorites?
 
---------------------- Life goes on within you and without you - George Harrison
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Um, what are Mason bees?
 
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A kind of small stingless (I think) bee that lives in small groups and will pollinate in weather that honeybees don't fly in.

I remember that I read how you can make a very simple and inexpensive house for them out of a short piece of PVC pipe hung up horizontally, shaped like this:
_________
\_______/

The 'eaves' keep rain out of the interior. Shove soda straws in it for the mason bees to nest in; I think your supposed to remove them each fall as yearly clean up.
 
__________________________ {=^;^=} Living the good life amid the wildlife.
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Tomatoes are essentially self fruitful, they do not rely on insects for pollination rather each blossom has both the stigma and anthers and will pollinate itself if all the other conditions are right. Pollination occurs in a fairly narrow temperature range, too cold and it won't happen or too hot and it won't happen. Moisture levels could also affect pollination, but lack of wind would not be a factor even though sometime giving the plant a bit of a shake does seem to help.
 
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captain Dirt, can you tell us what kind of tomato variety had the pollination problem?
 
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I can only give answers from my own experience, and from what I've been told by who I consider reliable, more experienced gardeners, which in the tomato arena is my Aunt Ada. (Ada will never be on a computer... Hell, she still was using an outhouse in 1995!) Always consider, too, that what works well for one in a certain part of the woods may not be a success for someone in a different area. Gardening means learning, gaining experience, dealing with hurdles.
When I wrote of the non-fruiting Pineapple, I said plant at least two, and cross-pollinate by hand to ensure fertilization and continuity of the heirloom. Mixing them with Ace (and there is a hybrid and a heirloom by the same name), will definately not give you true seed from either o/p. Humidity [u]is[/u] the primary reason why pollen doesn't get to it's intended target in the bowl-shaped valley I garden in. And I admit that there are probably more experienced gardener's out here that have a different set of variables.

I grow in Central Ontario, zone 5, Canada. Planting out is generally the middle of May, will always a strong chance of frost right up to April 1st - the last two years, anyway. Usually I have until early September before a killing frost shows up. Last year, however, with the cold and wet summer we had, I got the first frost August 28th! 15-17 weeks of growing, 105-119 days. I usually steer clear of any variety that takes over 90 days for maturity, but I get tempted to push the envelope every year, still (Nebraska Wedding is my chosen gamble for 2005). I start most tomatoes, and other plants, indoors, 8-10 weeks before the last expected frost, and am prepared to employ every season extending trick I know of! This will be the third summer in this house; the first year I shattered my heel in early April, and didn't get a walking cast until mid-August (thanks, diabetes!). Last year, in addition to unseasonable weather, Peterborough was flooded - fish were found swimming on main street, and most of my plants were washed out. But, both disasters gave me lots of time to find the microclimates and identify the plants I bought with the house.
Favourites? I can't begin to list them. Perhaps type is a better answer. I enjoy the unusual, bizarre and varieties that make others ask, "What the hell is that?!" Purple Calabash is planted by the front door for this purpose. I tend to go for dark, or 'black' tomatoes, but will always plant Beaute Blanche du Canada, simply because this was the one that started my heirloom journey off. I prefer indeterminates, and count on Stupice and/or Harbinger to get a tomato on the dinner plate by the end of June. Little DS is addicted to cherry types, this year I'm going to expend his preconceived idea that they should be red - I'm going with 'Ghost' - a white variety, this year. In the paste/canning department, I'm going with Roman Candle, a unusual, yellow plum shape. I can't wait to serve up spaghetti and meatballs in a yellow sauce!
 
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Thanks! *taking notes, taking notes*. You have had some real "adventures" lately! The reason I ask is that I am trying to grow tomatoes in a difficult summer environment, foggy nights, so I need the tough and quick guys, and I was thinking if your favorites can work in your short growing period, then they might have potential here. Yellow sphagetti sauce!! Sounds wonderful.
 
---------------------- Life goes on within you and without you - George Harrison
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