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When my pepper plants are standing outside, there are lots of pollinators around to make sure I get enough peppers from my plants.
The wind also helps the plant to self-pollinate.
Now the temperature is dropping, I’m putting my plants inside the house in a greenhouse. There are no pollinators in this room except maybe… myself.
So, every 2 to 3 days, I take my pepper plants and I use hand-pollination to make sure I can get the tasty and delicious fruits growing just like I get them in the summer.
The flowers of pepper plants contain both the male and the female parts in each flower they grow. So, there’s no need to search for male flowers and female flowers. This makes the job a bit easier.
In self-pollinating flowers, the anthers and the stigma are in the same flower. The pollen only has to move inside the flower from the anthers to the stigma to pollinate the flower properly.
Sadly enough self-pollination doesn’t mean that the plant doesn’t need help from the outside world. As already mentioned, the wind and the pollinators make sure the pollen gets to the stigma.
So whether the plants are self-pollinating or they have different male and female flowers, there’s always a job to be done by something outside of the flower. And that’s where I come in with my hand-pollination.
I have used 3 different methods to hand-pollinate my pepper plants in the past year but I must say, I was only 100% sure with 1 of the three methods. Also, one of the methods isn’t really manual work. I will nevertheless explain the three methods because the best system is really tedious. If you have a lot of pepper plants, I don’t think you’ll have the time to do the one with the best results.
use a fan
When growing in a grow room, a fan can have some benefits. One of the benefits of a fan is preventing fungus from popping up due to the wind blowing in between the plants. Another bonus is the sturdiness of the plants. When the plants wiggle around due to the wind, the plants will start to harden their stem so they can withstand the wind. This will result in a bigger, sturdier stem.
A fan does the same job as the wind. I already mentioned that the wind can help pollinate the plants by blowing around the flowers and shaking the pollen onto the stigma. This system can work if you have a lot of plants but you will have to check that you have enough fans to make sure all the plants are moving in the wind it makes.
wiggle the plants
Shaking the plant by hand is a second method to pollinate the flowers. This method is often used in tomato growing systems. The tomato plant is really easy to self-pollinate with a couple of taps on the vine.
Just as with tomatoes, it’s possible to shake the plants with your hands. Just put your hand gently on the plant and spread your fingers over a couple of branches and wiggle the plant around. Don’t do this too harsh or you will break the branches. I used this method for the longest time but I found that not all the flowers got pollinated and I had fewer peppers than I wanted.
paint the flowers
I call this one “paint the flowers” but it isn’t really painting the flowers. It’s just because I use a painters brush. I brush inside each flower I see to make sure the pollen gets to the right place. To be honest, I have the time to do this and I don’t have that many pepper plants. This is a really tedious job and I can imagine that this method is not possible if you have over 20 plants. But it is the best way to pollinate the flowers. With this system, I get a 100% pollination.
When using the “paint the flowers” method” there are some things I have to take care off.
First of all, I have to make sure the brush I use is soft enough not to harm the flower instead of pollinating it.
Second of all, I use a different brush for every different species of pepper plant I have. To avoid cross-pollination I have to make sure I don’t use the pollen of one species flower on the stigma of another species’ flower. I have bell peppers and I have hot peppers. I don’t want my seeds of my hot peppers to turn into a cross of bell pepper and hot pepper the next year.
Of course, cross-pollination is good in some cases and with the brush-method, it’s easy to check which flowers you pollinate with which pollen, so this could make it easier to follow up in the future.
I think I talked about everything I know about hand-pollination and I hope you get some use out of it. All I can say is, practice, practice, practice and you’ll be a pro at hand-pollination in no time.
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