Pollinating Tomatoes and Pumpkins by Hand

The following question was sent to the P&PDL diagnosticians here at Purdue University:

Question: I have tomatoes and pumpkins planted in my garden. They have lots of flowers but no fruit. I would try to pollinate by hand but I can't tell the male from the female flowers. They all look exactly the same. Whats wrong?

Answer: Tomatoes have both male and female flower self-pollinated, the flower structure is such that the petals form a closed tube around the male and female parts of the flower. If the tomato flowers are falling off without setting fruit, it is likely due to extreme heat or cold. (we've had both this year!)

Pumpkins do have separate male and female flowers...the females are the ones that look like they have a small fruit at the bottom. The male flowers just have a "normal" small stalk below the flower.

Often, the first flust of flowers will be all males, and these are expected to fall off. If the plant has both male and female flowers and is still not producing any fruit, it too could be due to extreme hot or cold temperatures, as well as lack of bee activity. Hand pollination to transfer the pollen from the male to the female flowers might help. Use a small artists paint brush to transfer the pollen from the male flowers to the female flowers.

-Rosie Lerner (6/26/98)