What can I do to encourage my tomato plant to start fruiting?

Are you harvesting enough of tomatoes this season? If not, take consolation in the knowledge that you are not alone. A lack of fruit set – when flowers fail to produce fruits before they wither and drop – is one of the most common complaints among tomato growers. It’s frustrating and it’s not fair, particularly given all the attention you’ve no doubt lavished on your plants to get them this far.

Whether you’re yet to pick a solitary tomato, or your plants have abruptly stopped producing, the reasons behind the lack of fruit are often predictable and easy enough to fix. But don’t give up – keep reading to discover whether your plants may be convinced to behave.

Tomato flowers with tomato fruit setting


1. Insufficient Pollination

The first thing to examine is how easily pollinating insects can get to your crops. Tomato flowers are self-fertile, which means they can pollinate themselves. Nevertheless, the presence of bees and/or wind dramatically improves pollination by nudging the flowers just enough to help dislodge the pollen from the stamens.

Bumblebees are very adept at this. As they contract their flight muscles (a process called ‘buzz pollination’) these low vibrations literally shake the pollen free, allowing it to drop down onto the stigma – the female part of the flower that catches the pollen.

If you’re growing tomatoes in a greenhouse or polythene tunnel it may be worth considering whether pollinating insects have ready access to the plants. Open doors and vents to assist produce a healthy through-flow of air, keeping plants cooler and minimizing disease risk.

You can artificially pollinate tomatoes by lightly shaking the plants yourself to mimic the bee’s buzz. Twang string-lines or canes that support vining tomatoes, or gently lift and drop container tomatoes (from a very short distance!).

Tomato flowers

2. High Heat Levels

High temperatures may occasionally disrupt pollination in hotter areas. Hot spells, when daytime temperatures remain above 30ºC (86ºF) and, crucially, nighttime temperatures fail to dip below 24ºC (75ºF), have the undesirable effect of turning pollen sterile. Tomatoes, it turns out, prefer it hot – but not too hot!

During a heat wave, the only thing you can do is wait. In the meantime keep plants well watered and healthy, so that when temperatures finally subside they’ll be in an excellent position to ramp up production once more.

Remember that various tomato types thrive in different climates. If you’re in a hot part of the world, grow a heat-tolerant variety that is recommended for your region.

A further difficulty is the absence of humidity. Very high humidity can clog the pollen, so it’s unable to drop, while in very dry climates flowers may become so parched that pollen fails to stick and simply rolls straight off. Regular watering may assist to elevate the humidity surrounding the plants just enough to improve circumstances in this case.

Tomato fruits set and ripening

3. Not Enough Fertilizer (or the Wrong Type)

The last consideration is soil fertility. Are your tomato plants receiving enough nutrients to produce large, flavorful fruits? Even if you have rich soil, from the moment the first flowers appear you should be feeding your tomatoes with an organic fertilizer that’s high in potassium, or potash. Potassium promotes flower initiation and, as a result, fruit yield.

Keep tomatoes fed with an off-the-shelf tomato fertilizer or make your own high-potash liquid fertilizer for free. Every garden should contain a clump of comfrey for making homemade fertilizer.

Once you’ve done all you can to improve conditions, you’ll just have to be patient and wait for Mother Nature to do the rest. Don’t give up hope because things will get better. When that happens, the tomatoes will come thick and fast, leaving you wondering what to do with them all!

Related Questions

  • What triggers tomato fruiting?

    A fully grown tomato plant requires six to eight hours of daily sunlight to produce flowers and then fruits. Without enough sunshine, the tomato plant will grow lanky and spindly, with few or no fruits. The plant needs energy to make tomatoes, which it obtains from sunshine.

  • How can I encourage my tomatoes to produce?

    In this post, we will discuss several basic methods for increasing tomato production so that you have enough to share.

    1. Prepare the Soil for Tomatoes. …
    2. Add Eggshells When Planting. …
    3. Plant Seedlings Deep. …
    4. Tomato Plants Need Room to Grow. …
    5. Don’t Neglect Your Watering Duties. …
    6. Add Mulch Around Your Tomatoes.
  • Why aren’t my tomatoes producing fruit?

    High Temperatures and Humidity
    When day temperatures rise above 95 degrees and night temperatures are upwards of 72 degrees, our larger fruited tomatoes will not set. This is the most prevalent cause for tomato production to cease. High humidity levels might also make pollen too sticky to be carried about by the wind.

  • Why are my tomato plants taking so long to produce fruit?

    Low fruit set in tomatoes
    There are many causes for poor fruit set. Some of the common problems are too much nitrogen, varietal differences, overcrowding of plants, extreme temperatures, moisture stress, and insufficient sunlight.

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