Self-Pollination Basics

When a plant requires a bee, other insect, animal or wind to transmit its pollen it is not a self-pollinating plant. Plants that grow flowers containing both male and female parts, transmit their own pollen and reproduce a nearly identical plant if you save the seeds. Cross-pollination is a lesser worry with these plants than with other types but they can still cross pollinate – this is called ‘natural selection’ and occurs natural in nature. Fruit may develop poorly if these plants receive too little light or water or when temperatures climb too high, causing the pollen to do a poor job.


Lettuces produce flowers with one seed in each flower that only remains open for a few minutes. When planting lettuce, place different varieties that produce flowers at the same time no closer than 6 metres / 20 feet to make sure none of their pollen crosses from plant to plant, which could cross-breed the varieties. When saving seeds from an heirloom variety lettuce, harvest the whole plant’s stalk when the seed heads begin to look downy and place upside down in a bag or pillow case. The seeds will drop off when the stalk is fully mature. Do not pick while the flowers are still green and yellow, these will be too immature.

Solanaceae Family

While botanically these are fruits, tomatoes, peppers/capsicums/chillis and eggplants – members of the Solanaceae family – are commonly served as vegetables. This group also is known informally as the Nightshade family. Flowers normally do not open before the plant has released its pollen and become pollinated. Still, gardeners should keep modern varieties and heirlooms well separated at extreme ends of the garden, to avoid any cross pollination from insects, especially bees and ants.

Beans and Peas

Many varieties of beans, including bush, climbing and lima, and peas, also pollinate themselves. Beans and peas normally pollinate with little interference by bees or other insects. However, much like other self-pollinators, keeping a 6 metre / 20 foot distance between the plant types is an effective way to eliminate any potential for cross-pollination and keep the seed true to the parent plant.


Many grains need to be grown close together. Most grain plants produce a female flower – the silks; and a male flower – the tassel. Pollen falls on or is blown by wind to the silk and grain kernels begin to develop. For example when corn or wheat is planted in a single row, inadequate amounts of pollen may reach the silk and poor kernel development results. It’s best to plant sweet corn in three or more short rows or blocks together rather than a single long row.
The Cucurbitaceae family, sometimes called the gourd family, have over 900 species which we eat. These are:

  • Cucurbita – some young gourds, pumpkin, squash, zucchini
  • Lageneria – mostly inedible gourds
  • Citrullus – watermelon and others
  • Cucumis – cucumber, and various melons
  • Luffa – or loufah
  • The plants in this family are grown around the tropics and temperate areas. The Cucurbits ranks among the highest of plant families for number and percentage of species used as human food.

Google or ask experienced growers – preferably in your own area if you are still feeling you need to know more, they will have good solid knowledge of what is most likely to be successful locally and it is the best way to learn more about your favourite vegetables