This happened with my Green Zebras last year, and is happening with my Paul
Robesons this year. Tons of big fluffy yellow flowers, and then nothing.
Just little dried bits where the flowers used to be. Not a single fruit.
I live in southern Utah, zone 7 or 8. Daytime temps are currently around
90-100F. Direct sunshine during most of the daylight hours. The tomatoes
are planted in raised beds with a mix of my native clay soil and some
commercial potting soil. I water them fairly deeply every three days or so.
I gently tap the plants every few days to help pollinate the flowers. I
have applied no fertilizers to the plants, but they have a thin layer of
dead grass (cut after it was dead) as mulch underneath. They are planted in
the same bed as beans (there were no beads in the Green Zebra bed last year,
Other varieties of tomatoes seem to be fruiting okay, in similar growing
Can someone tell me what is going on, and if there is a way to get them to
1) If your tomatoes are caged, trellised or staked, grasp the cage,
trellis material or stake, and gently shake the plant. This can loosen
up clumping pollen and cause it to move around in/on the flower and
pollinate. This works best if you do it during cooler early morning
temperatures, or cooler evening temperatures, especially shortly after
sunrise or shortly before/after sunset. Doing this a couple of times a
day really does help improve fruit set, especially on the occasional
2.) If your temperatures are on the borderline of those that allow
pollination--max. temp. of about 92 to 95 and min. temp. lower than 75
(but higher than 55), shaking alone may not be enough but you can
improve the odds by "cooling" down the pollen and flowers with a brief
spray of water from the hose during the hottest part of the day (or
night). You don't want to hit the plant with such a hard stream of water
that the flowers fall off, obviously, though! Do this at least twice
daily when temperatures are right at the threshold of being "too hot"
and it can cool the flowers just enough that they will set fruit.
3.) Some people use an electric toothbrush (I've never tried this one
myself) to "vibrate" or "shake" the flowers to improved fruit set. If
you are interested in trying this, there is a thread on this topic on
the Tomato Forum that describes how it is done.
4.) Some tomato experts recommend that, on certain plants like
Brandywine which is notorious for not setting fruit in hot weather, you
emasculate the Brandywine flower and use a Q-tip to transfer pollen from
a DIFFERENT variety to the Brandywine. You still will get Brandywine
fruit from this fertilization, if it takes, but seed saved from THAT
tomato could give you a cross-pollinated fruit if you plant that seed
next year. If you want to know how to do this, do a search for
"emasculate flower" on the Tomato Forum. One of the guys on the forum
linked a video that shows how. Emasculating a flower and manually
transferring pollen is one way that home gardeners/tomato hobbyists can
do deliberate cross-pollination in an attempt to "breed" a tomato plant
that is a cross of two or more different varieties.
You can use the above techniques to improve the odds of fruit set any
time, but they are especially effective when we are having the
occasional slightly cooler weekend.
America is not broke. The country is awash in wealth and cash.
Or a similar tomato fruit set spray. One year when my tomato plants
were having trouble setting fruit, I bought this and tried it on one
plant. That plant had plenty of tomatoes, while the other plants did not.
Lots of interesting things I hadn't considered. Thanks; I'll try them all.
I actually remember spraying my tomatoes a little each day when it was hot a
few years ago. Apparently, I forgot all about that!
It's probably too hot for them. Optimum fruit set occurs with a night
temperature range between 60 - 70 degrees F. The plants need the rest
from the heat of the day. How hot is it there at night?
If it's too dry then the pollen might not be sticky enough. You might
need to spray the foliage with water during the day to help the plants
You can also try to help things along by shaking your tomato plants to
help distribute the pollen yourself.
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