In nature, plants and insects have evolved to work together. When it comes to plants that make fruit- like tomatoes, apples, peppers, strawberries, beans, and many more- they need an insect to pollinate them so that they can produce fruit (food). Those insects are called pollinators. There are hundreds of types of pollinators that range in size and shape! The most well known is the bee.
Bees fly around from flower to flower to eat nectar. Nectar is a sweet substance that the flower produces that entices the bee to land on the plant. Once the bee lands, it walks around the flower and accidentally collects pollen on the hairs of its body. Pollen contains the genetic material another flower will use to reproduce. Once the bee deposits pollen from one flower to another, that flower transforms into a fruit which we can eat!
In indoor hydroponic garden systems, there aren’t any pollinating bugs. So, we must behave like a pollinator!
Which plants need pollination?
Rise Gardens has several plant varieties that should be pollinated:
How to Pollinate:
Wait until you have several flowers on one plant (remember: you cannot pollinate an eggplant with a pea plant). The flowers should also be open, and the petals should look like they are peeled back. This is when the pollen will be the most fresh.
Grab a pollinating tool, like a soft paintbrush or a Q-tip. Move your tool from flower to flower, gently rubbing in the center of each flower. You should be able to see the yellow pollen come off.
You’re done! Continue this process once a week to help your plant produce more flowers. Then, once those flowers are fertilized, they’ll turn into fruit!
Special Case: Pollinating Cucumber plants
Cucumbers are a special case, because they have two types of flowers: male, and female. The female flower has a “baby cucumber” on its stem right before its flower, and the male does not.
In order to successfully pollinate a cucumber plant, you must go back and forth between male and female flowers. If you only pollinate flowers of one kind, the plant will not produce cucumbers!
Pro Pollinating Tip
If your flowers do not develop into fruit:
- Make sure you are waiting until your flowers fully open to pollinate
- Switch to using Blossom nutrient instead of Sprout
- Be gentle while pollinating
- Balance your nutrients and pH so that your flowers are as healthy as possible