July 12 - Legh B. writes:

"I am a new resident of Washington, having moved here from New Hampshire. I have just found your website and like it very much. I plan to erect a hoophouse according to your directions. I do have a question about the use of the hoophouse: how does pollination occur? Do the openings at each end allow enough room for bees to enter? I plan to plant tomatoes, peppers and eggplant in the ground under the hoophouse and utilize the heat to have a satisfactory harvest. I don't know if bees will enter a covered area to pollinate the crops."

Bees will enter a hoophouse or cloche - I've successfully grown cucumbers and melons under such structures - but with the plants you mention it doesn't usually matter. Tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant all have complete flowers, and with these particular species pollination can be accomplished simply by wind action jostling the flowers.

Inside commercial greenhouse operations, it had been a fairly common practice for the operators to walk around with backpack blowers or vibrators to effect pollination - obviously there's no wind in a greenhouse! But it's becoming more common for growers to introduce bees into their greenhouse operations.

Since some sort of agitation or other external mechanism (e.g. a foraging honeybee) must be present to trigger pollination, these plants' flowers cannot be said to be truly self pollinating (unlike, say, a snap bean's flower). Tomato, pepper, and egglplant flowers usually do end up self pollinating, but crossing can occur - so if you wish to save seed for a specific variety, steps should be taken to physically isolate the flowers from insects. Pollination bags exist for exactly this purpose - they are cheap and widely available.

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This page was last updated November 18, 2013