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How to pollinate the indoor vegetable garden

Updated on August 14, 2009

butternut squash

Butternut Squash, Bob Ewing photo
Butternut Squash, Bob Ewing photo


To garden organically means to develop a network of beings that work together to create the conditions which enable plants to grow and produce flowers and fruit.

When the plants are part of this living network, there is no need to apply a variety of posions to kill pests and control disease. The organic gardener facilitates the process by selecting plants that are appropriate for the site; by making sure there is sufficent light, water and that the soil is vital and can nourish the plants.

Outdoors, the gardener has help from the wind, rain, sun and the pollinators who are essential if the plant is to bear fruit.

Plants grown indoors have the same needs as plants grown outdoors,however, there is a major difference. Indoors, the gardener supplies the sun, perhaps in a brightly lit window, perhaps with artificial light, or maybe a combination of both.

The soil used indoors differs from what we plant our vegetables in outdoors and the plant roots rely on the gardener for water and food.

Perhaps the greatest difference between growing vegetables indoors as compared to doing so in your back or front yard is that indoors there are very few helpers. There are no earthworms in the soil, for example. Most significantly, there are no pollinators, no bees, butterflies, wasps and so on, or at least very, very few and most of us are happy that is so.

So what does the gardener, who wants to grow vegetables indoors do. Well, some plants, such as sweet peppers and eggplants, can be manually pollinated. A brush, a small art paint brush can work or even your fingertips. This is time consuming but it will get the job done.

Other plants, such as tomatoes and beans, can't be readily pollinated by hand and some recommend that the plants be gently shaken each day in order to release the pollen.

I have used a small fan for this purpose and been pleased by the results; also, an open window near the plants, lets the breeze in, should it be blowing. Obviously, this is not a good method in cold weather but has worked for me in the warmer months. I like the idea of working with the wind but a fall back method will be needed when the wind is not blowing.

I have heard that some gardeners use an electric toothbrush to create a similar vibration to a bee's wing, but have no direct experience with this technique. Experiment and keep a record of what works and what does not.


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  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 6 years ago from New Brunswick

    It should work, let us know what happens. Thanks.

  • Greenblood profile image

    Greenblood 6 years ago from Toronto, Canada

    I am a fellow hubber and landed here through google search. I need to know about bean and tomato pollination. I have a yellow bean plant on soil and a tomato plant on my hydroponics DWC. I noticed flowers today in my bean plant and needed to know whether I have to do anything. So i understand that shaking of the plant is the method for bean and tomato and I am going to try with my vibrating tooth brush as I noticed in one you tube video where he used it to pollinate indoor peppers.

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    good tip Paul, you are welcome pinkd, thank you for dropping by.

  • profile image

    Paul Hughes 8 years ago

    hair dryer on high, no heat...

  • pinkdaisy profile image

    pinkdaisy 8 years ago from Canada

    Thanks Bob :) I've learned something new!

  • Bob Ewing profile image

    Bob Ewing 8 years ago from New Brunswick

    You are welcome and thanks for dropping by.

  • jill of alltrades profile image

    jill of alltrades 8 years ago from Philippines

    This is something new, using a fan to help pollinate some hard to pollinate plants. Why didn't I think of that? Oh, I just realized now, I never tried indoor vegetable gardening before because we've always had sunshine throughout the year.

    Anyway, I'll still keep this tip in mind and maybe share it with some friends who are living elsewhere.

    Thank you for sharing.