By Charity Shumway |

Garden Rescue: Tomatoes


Are your plants suffering from some mysterious plague? Yellowing before your eyes? The garden sleuth (that’s me) may be able to help. Send your questions to, and I’ll see what I can do for you! This week’s mystery…

The Case of the Lots-of-Flowers-but-No-Fruit Tomato Plants

The Q: “Any thoughts on why my tomato plant is flowering but not producing tomatoes? I’ve tried shaking it, as recommended by Spade & Spatula.” — Matt, Brooklyn, NY

The A: Dear Matt,

There are a few things it could be. When it’s too hot (as in, nighttime temperatures above 75 degrees) the pollen on your tomato plants can become sterile. So that could have been a problem earlier in the season, though not now. If it’s too humid, the pollen can stick together, which means they pollinate poorly. Again, that’s something that could have caused trouble a few weeks ago, but is unlikely now. So my vote is some more shaking and hoping. I bet they’ll fruit soon!

Follow-up: was I right?

Matt emailed to let me know that, sadly, they’re still tomato-less. But the flowers are still coming. He also let slip another detail — the tomato plants are inside. Inside is tough for tomatoes! Outdoors, you have wind and bees and the pollen stands a much better chance of getting where it needs to go, especially with a little helpful shake now and again. Indoors, the best bet is to get in there with a small paint brush. Each flower has both male and female parts, so a little “pollen painting” in each flower and things should take off.

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  1. MattB | November 29th, 2011

    Not clear what changed, since we didn’t move the tomatoes outside. But we continued to shake and as the weather cooled off, we started to get some fruit. As it stands, we’ve eaten 2 of our delicious little cherry tomato/sugar bombs and have another dozen that are plumping up. 4 more are yellowing and others are still growing. I bet we’re eating some (alright, a very, very few!) of the last home-grown tomatoes in Brooklyn right now.

  2. Charity | November 29th, 2011

    So glad they finally gave you some fruit! Three cheers for late season tomatoes!