May 27, 2012

Pollinating Open Pollinated Heirloom Tomato Plants

The main stem of this Brandywine tomato plant terminated in this weird flower stalk.
The tomatoes burgeon in silence.
Tomato fruit are rarely ever alone.
Cosmonaut Volkov, even the stem of the fruit have been chewed on by the birds.
A spindly Cosmonaut Volkov tomato plants is still able to produce substantial offspring.
Finally, tiny little tomatoes are forming on the tomato plants. Yay.

The Brandywine has put out a huge truss of blossoms, but the first to produce flowers and tomatoes were the Cosmonaut Volkovs. I've been shaking the branches of every plant that has open flowers every few days, to help with pollination.

Open pollinated and heirloom tomato plant seem to vary in the formation of their flowers which can affect their ability to self pollinate. The stigma can grow outside the petals of the flower, out of reach of the pollen on the stamen thus necessitating a pollinator or some kind of vibration that causes the pollen to fall from the anther to reach the stigma. So if you notice blossoms dropping and low fruit formation take the time to gently shake or tap the branches of your tomato plants. Usually the wind helps with pollination but sometimes wind can be hard to come by.

The year that had the highest tomato yield was also the year the garden had the oddest little insect pollinator that seemed to only visit tomato blossoms. Bees in this area have little interest in pollinating tomatoes or cucumbers, they're easily seduced by the deep permeating sweetness of the clover blossoms or the large showy squash and okra flowers.

Hmmm. Since there's a fence around the garden and bird netting over the garden, we won't be able to use our usual tomato support structure which happens to be our own weird interpretation of the Florida weave. It looks like we might have ground tomatoes this year. Although, letting tomato plants sprawl on the ground tends to lower yields.

On an interesting note, my husband chased away a couple of birds from under the netting, vile plant eating devils, it looks like the little ones are able to hop through the fencing at the end where the bird netting doesn't touch the ground. At least it keeps the larger ones out. The little ones seem to only go for small newly sprouted plants and newly planted seeds. The damage is a lot less, a couple of plants here and there versus the total annihilation of dozens of tomato plants.

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