From their sweet, juicy flavor to their bright, vibrant colors, nothing evokes the feeling of summertime quite like a ripe, plump tomato. However, it can be very frustrating when your tomato flowers fail to produce fruit, especially when your plant only produces a few flowers to start with.
But are there ways to get more tomato flowers to produce fruit?
Fear not, tomato growers – I’ve got some great tricks and tips to help increase the number of flowers on your tomato plants that produce fruit. Whether you’re a seasoned tomato pro or just starting out, these techniques are sure to make your tomato plants thrive and guarantee a bountiful crop of juicy, flavorsome tomatoes.
Why Don’t All Tomato Flowers Produce Fruit?
It is a fact of life that while tomato plants will produce plenty of flowers, not all of them will turn into fruits. Most plants, tomatoes included, will massively overproduce the number of flowers needed, as many will fall off the plant without setting fruit.
This is one of the many methods that plants use to maximize the chance of producing viable seed – the end goal of the fruit production process!
As gardeners, we want to see these flowers set fruit – this means that rather than dropping off the plant, they form a tiny fruit that eventually develops into a juicy, delicious tomato. But if all you see is flowers dropping to the ground without any fruit set, what has gone wrong?
For successful fruit set to occur, plants need to be healthy and in the optimum growing conditions. Several factors can affect fruit set, including temperature, humidity, and even the time of day. For example, high humidity, cold weather, or extreme heat can all cause flowers to drop without setting fruit.
Another common issue that leads to reduced fruit setting is inadequate pollination.
Tomato flowers are self-pollinating, as each flower contains both male and female parts. This means that insects are not normally needed to transfer pollen from the male to the female parts of the flower.
However, factors like high humidity, low light, or even physical barriers like heavy foliage or trellis netting can interfere with pollination and reduce fruit set.
In some cases, a lack of nutrients can also impact fruit production. Tomatoes are heavy feeders and require a steady supply of nutrients throughout the growing season. Without insufficient levels of nutrients like nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium, plants may produce fewer flowers or fail to set fruit.
But before you start to panic about the poor fruit set in your tomatoes, it is important to remember that not all flowers will produce fruit, and that’s okay. In fact, some gardeners intentionally remove flowers at certain stages of the growing period to encourage larger fruit or to extend the harvest season.
However, if you notice a significant reduction in fruit set, it may be worth examining environmental factors or adjusting your gardening practices to improve conditions for your tomato plants.
Methods To Get More Tomato Flowers To Produce Fruit
Tomatoes are a popular garden crop for their flavor, versatility, and ease of growing.
However, seeing an abundance of yellow flowers that fail to set fruit can be hugely disappointing. There are several reasons why this might happen, but the overall result is a disappointingly small crop of tomatoes.
To increase tomato fruit yields, you should be aiming to maximize the number of flowers that produce fruit. Let’s take a look at the best ways to get more tomato flowers to produce fruit.
1. Pruning And Training Tomatoes To Produce More Fruit
Pruning and training your tomato plants can be time-consuming during the summer months, but it is well worth the effort. This is particularly the case if you are growing tall indeterminate tomato plants, as if left unchecked they will produce a disappointingly low yield of tomatoes.
Bushy determinate tomatoes do not need pruning, so skip this step if you’re growing some of these types of tomato plants.
The aim here is to encourage your tomato plant to put more energy into producing fruits rather than leafy growth. If left unchecked, indeterminate tomato plants produce many side shoots, which takes a lot of energy away from the plant.
To prevent this happening, remove any suckers from the plant – these are shoots that grow between the main stem and branches. When small, they can be pinched out with your fingertips, but as they grow larger you may need scissors to snip them out.
It is also a good idea to remove any leaves below the first truss of fruit, to improve air circulation.
If your tomato plants are not adequately supported, they will become stressed and more likely to drop flowers without setting fruit. Staking or caging your tomato plants will help support the weight of the plant, which can increase fruit production.
2. Improving Tomato Flower Pollination To Produce More Fruit
Pollination is the process by which a flower becomes fertilized, making it able to produce fruit. If this does not occur, the plant will not set fruit, and the flower will drop off the branch onto the ground.
Tomato plants are self-pollinating, meaning they have both female and male parts in each flower. For the flower to set fruit, pollen must be dislodged within the flower so that it falls onto the tip of the center of the flower – the stigma.
A gentle breeze may be enough for pollination to occur, although the buzzing of insects as they search for pollen and nectar is thought to be more effective.
To help get more tomato flowers to produce fruit, you have two options.
The first is to attempt to replicate the work of pollinating insects, by pollinating the fruit by hand. To do this, you can gently shake the plant, flick the flowering trusses with a stick, or use a soft paintbrush to transfer the pollen within each individual flower.
While hand pollination can be very effective, it is a lot of work, especially if – like me – you tend to grow far too many tomato plants! An easier option is to let nature lend a hand and get insects to do the work for you.
High numbers of pollinators, such as bees, butterflies, and hoverflies, can significantly increase tomato yields. Encourage bees and other pollinators to visit your garden by planting flowers that attract them.
If you are growing tomatoes in a glasshouse, leave the doors open on warmer days to allow beneficial insects access to your tomato plants.
3. Regulating Temperature To Get More Tomato Flowers To Produce Fruit
Temperature plays an important role in tomato flower production and fruit set. Tomatoes are like Goldilocks in this regard – if it is too hot or cold, they just won’t set fruit!
Tomatoes are sun-loving plants, so most gardeners tend to plant them in full sun. This is a guaranteed way to get that sun-kissed homegrown tomato flavor we all love, but in the peak of summer, the heat can become too intense.
In fact, I have known tomatoes to ‘cook’ on the plant during intense summer heat waves! If you live in a zone where temperatures regularly reach 90°F or above, it is a good idea to protect your tomato plants from intense heat by using shade cloth.
Whilst tomato plants love a bit of sunshine, they also need a drop in temperature at night for optimum flower production. So, don’t rush to close up your glasshouse at night, as the plants will benefit from getting a little bit chilly overnight!
However, if temperatures lower than 60°F are forecast, your tomato plants may appreciate a little bit of overnight protection in the form of fleece.
4. Effective Watering To Get More Tomato Flowers To Produce Fruit
To maximize the chances of successful fruit production, a tomato plant will only set fruit when in the optimum living conditions. And, as we all know, water is life, and without it, your tomato plants will not thrive!
To keep your plants healthy and hydrated, water your tomato plants deeply and regularly, especially during dry spells or hot weather.
Water the base of the plant rather than the leaves, and avoid over-watering, which can lead to reduced fruit production. Watering in the morning will help to keep your plants hydrated through the hottest part of the day.
If you are not sure whether you’re hitting the right notes when it comes to watering your tomato plants, have a gentle dig around the base of the plant around 12 hours after you’ve watered it.
If the soil is still damp, great! But if it is bone dry, you need to increase the amount and frequency of your watering.
5. Using Fertilizers To Get Tomato Flowers To Set Fruit
Fertilizing your tomato plants can help provide them with the nutrients they need to produce an abundance of flowers, and also enable them to maximize the number of flowers that set fruit.
However, it’s important to avoid over-fertilizing, as this can harm the plant and significantly decrease the number of tomatoes it produces.
Tomato plants should be fertilized during the period of most active growth – normally from around four weeks after planting out. Continue fertilizing regularly until the first fruits are set, then decrease the frequency or cease fertilizing altogether.
Make sure to use a fertilizer designed specifically for tomatoes, as this will contain the right balance of nutrients to maximize the chances of successful pollination and fruit set. If your plants are producing an abundance of lush foliage with few flowers, over-fertilization may be the problem.
Remember, gardening is all about having fun and enjoying the process – every gardener will tell stories of their successes, but there are just as many tales to tell about things that didn’t work out as well as we’d hoped!
While there may be some trial and error involved in getting your tomatoes to produce fruit, it is important not to get discouraged. With these techniques and a little bit of patience, you’ll soon be harvesting a bumper crop of delicious tomatoes.
So, pull on your gardening gloves, grab your pruning shears and watering can, and get ready to enjoy the juicy, delectable fruits of your labor!