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Tomato Cross-Pollination

Melissa Dunlap is a writer, editor and blogger specializing in lifestyle communications. Fueled by curiosity, and a tad too much coffee, Melissa enjoys dissecting current trends for the modern woman. When she's not having dance parties w...

Tomatoes usually won't cross-pollinate, but you can decrease that probability even more by taking a few simple precautions.

One of the greatest benefits of having a backyard garden is the ability to grow any plants you want. However, without some precautions, a small tomato garden can turn into a genetics experiment, with cross-pollination resulting in new second generation tomato hybrids that you may not intend to create.


One of the greatest benefits of having a backyard garden is the ability to grow any plants you want. However, without some precautions, a small tomato garden can turn into a genetics experiment, with cross-pollination resulting in new second generation tomato hybrids that you may not intend to create.

All tomato varieties are compatible with each other for pollination purposes, and when tomatoes cross pollinate, you won't know that it happened until you save the seeds and your next year's plants are different than the parents. In general, tomatoes are self-pollinating, so the odds of cross-pollination are slim. If you are growing heirloom tomatoes for seed saving, you might want to follow these steps to keep the lines pure.

  • In a small garden, plant different heirloom tomato varieties away from each other. This means abandoning the standard "one row of tomatoes" philosophy. Spread them out and the chances of cross pollination by wind or insects reduces dramatically.

  • Stagger planting different varieties so they bloom at different times. Plant early varieties first, and plant late-season tomatoes after the earlies have already flowered and started to fruit.

  • If space is an issue and you can't spread out your tomato plants, bag the flowers. Tomato flowers do not need outside forces to pollinate---everything happens inside the flower. If you are concerned by bee activity near your tomato flowers, use a loose-fitting plastic bag to cover flowers until they self-fertilize and begin to show fruit.


Unless you plan to save seeds, cross-pollination isn't a major worry. If you're only growing for fun or plan to experiment with different heirloom tomato plants every season, skip the precautions and just let nature do it's thing. The chances of tomatoes cross-pollinating naturally is less than 10 percent.

 

More tomato growing tips>>>

 
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