'Tomato tapping' – the unusual trick I use to get a bigger crop of healthier fruits, guaranteed

If you want to drastically increase your tomato yield this season, tapping might just do the trick

Tomato plant with flowers
(Image credit: Alamy)

I took up vegetable gardening in 2020 during the first few months of the COVID-19 lockdown. The first real success I had was with growing tomatoes, though, having never grown them before, it was very much a case of trial and error.

So, I started to read up to discover why sometimes I got what's called 'cat face' (ugly, malformed tomatoes) or why, sometimes, I got very few fruits at all. 

I discovered that tomatoes are self-pollinating plants, with the stigma at the end of the flower and the ovum at the center. To pollinate itself, the pollen needs to travel from up towards the the ovum, for which the tomato sometimes needs a little help in the form of movement and stimulation. This is where tomato tapping comes in.

Why should you tap your tomato plants?

‘Tomato tapping is a way of pollinating tomatoes by hand,’ says Zahid Adnan, Founder of The Plant Bible. 

You don't have to tap tomatoes with your hand if you have placed your plants in a spot that gets a nice breeze, or if you have plenty of plants that attract pollinators in your garden.

But if, like me, you are growing tomatoes in a very sheltered spot, you are growing tomatoes indoors or growing tomatoes in pots in a greenhouse, you will need to tap your tomatoes to get a much healthier, more abundant crop. 

Zahid Adnan
Zahid Adnan

Zahid is a renowned figure in the gardening industry, with extensive experience and hard-earned skills in horticulture. He is the founder and editor of theplantbible.com.

How to tap tomato plants

‘You essentially work your way up the main stem of the plant gently tapping until you reach the top, doing this four to five times daily.’ 

After discovering the tapping tip, I started to incorporate it into my daily tomato care routine as it only takes a few minutes. I now take hold of the stem and gently shake it so that pollen is released. I then tap up and down the main stem and tap the flowers too. 

If I notice one tomato plant is taking longer to pollinate, I take my tapping one step further. Using a Q-tip, I softly brush the inside of the flower in a circular motion and transfer the pollen collected onto the tip at the center of the flower. This way I know that the right ‘parts’ are meeting and the tomato plant can begin the pollination process sooner.

What I've not tried, but heard of, is gardeners using electric toothbrushes to stimulate the flower stems. Apparently it's much quicker to do if you have many plants; I only have two or three each summer.

Does tomato tapping work?

Since I have started ‘tomato tapping’ I have noticed some significant changes in my plants. The first change is the fruits grow bigger and stronger. My tomato plants also seem to have thicker stems which means they are more sturdy and suitable for carrying the fruit. 

My tomato plants also produce fruit earlier in the growing season; this is due to the pollination process being triggered sooner than it would on its own. 

I would suggest starting to tap your plants when they are around 10 inches tall and have produced their first set of flowers. 

Why isn't tomato tapping working?

If tomato tapping isn't working, it may be that you are neglecting your plant in other ways. Check for any tomato growing mistakes you might be making, such as under-watering them, or not supplying them with enough nutrients: fertilizing tomatoes is vital to healthy growth, too. Burpee's Organic Tomato Feed, at Amazon, is our top choice.


Do all tomato flowers turn into fruit?

Yes, most tomato flowers 'set fruit', which means they develop from flowers to tomato fruits. If no tomato grows from the flower you need to investigate why; obviously, tomato tapping will help ensure correct pollination, but you should also check your plant isn't under-watered, too hot, too cold, or not well fed. 

This quick and easy-to-implement tomato tapping trick was a great way for me to encourage my plants to produce lots of healthy fruit. Don't forget though, lots of lovely daylight (at least eight hours a day) is needed too. Tomato tapping alone won't do the trick.

Seraphina Di Mizzurati
Contributing Editor

Seraphina is a contributing editor at Homes & Gardens, writing Solved features on organizing and storage. She loves to decorate and also grow her own produce from her home in London. Her previous experience includes working at Women's Health and Fabulous Magazine.