Hand Pollinating the Peach Tree (with dog hair)

March 2, 2012 · 5 comments

Henry pokes his head in the cabin door and asks, “Do we have a paintbrush?”

I look around and quickly wrack my brain, “No. What do you want one for?”

“I need to pollinate my peaches. Do we have anything kind of like a paintbrush? Maybe something hairy?”

I look down at the dog napping at my feet. This is the time of year when her soft undercoat starts to shed in clumps. I pluck one such clump from her rear end and hold it up. “Will this work?”

“Perfect!” he says.

We have five young peach and nectarine trees growing in our greenhouse. Henry planted them under cover because Oregon’s climate is pretty marginal for peaches. Growers here only get a good crop about every third year. In the greenhouse, they will bear every year, though Henry has to prune them back heavily to keep them from getting too big.

The peach and nectarine trees are in full bloom right now, about a month ahead of a normal outdoor flowering schedule. Peaches are ideally pollinated by insects who smear pollen around the female flower bits as they buzz in and out of the flowers in their search for nectar and protein-rich pollen. The weather in early March or even early April in Oregon is often cool enough to keep insects grounded, sometimes leaving fruit tree flowers untouched.

Even if the weather were nice now, our wealth of honeybees doesn’t necessarily benefit the things Henry grows in the greenhouse. Honeybees will enter the greenhouse if the doors are open in warmer weather, but they have a hard time orienting under cover, so they often getting trapped inside and eventually die.














One remedy that’s really only feasible on a small scale is pollinating by hand. Hand pollinating is generally done with a paintbrush, but in this case, a clump of dog hair was a decent substitute. Henry simply went along swiping each flower with the “brush”,  accumulating pollen and redistributing it around the tree. This was not a precise operation, but it will greatly increase our chances of a good peach yield come July.

Here’s the “before” shot of the dog hair “brush”…

…and now the “after”. It’s pretty surprising how much pollen one tree can produce.

Henry is glad to have one more little random chore crossed off his to-do list. I’ll be sure to report back on the results when we get to peach season.

{ 5 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica March 3, 2012 at 4:58 am

Wow, that is devotion! I hope you have a bumper crop!


Deb March 3, 2012 at 3:33 pm

Wow! You guys always amaze me with something every time I come by here! Too cool!


gwyneth March 13, 2014 at 12:29 pm

hi,my nectarine is just about to bloom for the first time so i found this very interesting, we don’t have a dog but i do have a paint brush :)
my tree is growing out in the garden here in England i grew it from a seed from a nectarine i got from the local shop so if it bears any fruit i will be very happy


Alice April 27, 2016 at 9:37 pm

WOW thats so cool I hope the dog hair made some big peaches!


kelly howard March 7, 2017 at 11:53 am

I found some pits sprouting in my compost pile a coupla years ago –I eat a lot of peaches & nectarines so don’t know which they were– & now have 3 trees about 4 feet tall & 2 other much smaller ones. We had a bad ice storm in December (16), so I dragged the all that I could move into my spare back bedroom, which stays about 40 degrees 9I don’t have heat in the house). I don’t go in there often & was VERY surprised the other day to open the door & see a veritable riot of pink flowers on one tree (but no leaves), & lots of leaves on the other (but no flowers). I used a pedestrian paint brush –I wish I’d thought of using some fur from my American Eskimo (a.k.a. The Fluff Factory!) …what a great idea! But now I have no idea when would be good to put the trees outside, & that room is like the twilight zone (north facing small window which is shadowed by trees anyway).


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