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Apr 10

4 Things to Know About Self-Pollination

Pea Flower

Pea Flower

You don’t need to know how plants are pollinated to grow food, but having some information will help your grow better.

The most confusion we see about pollination centers around the terms self-pollination and self-pollinated.
Here’s the deal:

1. The term does not refer to a gardener moving pollen from a male flower to a female flower themselves. This is hand pollination.

2. The term is often, somewhat incorrectly, used to describe a plant whose flower has both the male and female parts on it. Technically, this is a self-fertile flower and may or may not be self-pollinating. A good example of this is pepper plants. Their flowers have both male and female flower parts on each flower. Even if the pollen got on the female part itself, the resulting fruit would likely be malformed. It is much better if the wind moves the pollen, aka wind pollination, or if the vibrations of a bee’s wings does the job. The pollen can also be moved using a tuning fork or electric toothbrush near the flower to simulate a bee’s wings, or by gently brushing the tops of the plants as you walk by.

3. Only a few plants actually self-pollinate. The most common are peas, many types of beans, and other legumes like peanuts. Peas and beans self-pollinate as the flowers open. Soybeans self-pollinate when the flower closes. Peanuts are also fertilized within the flower, then they drop to the ground for the nut to grow below soil level.

4. Pretty much all other flowering veggies need either the wind, as we mentioned, or human and/or insect help. Keep in mind also that it takes a lot of pollen to produce a healthy fruit. Usually when we are asked about a malformed fruit, or a fruit developing then suddenly shriveling up and falling off, it is due to under-pollination.

So now you know that the only veggie plants that are reliable at producing fruit with every flower are probably in the family of legumes. Garden on!

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