The purpose of pollination is to enable flowering plants to set fruits and vegetables, which develop seeds, that in turn propagate the plant. Natural pollination occurs when pollen from the male part of a flower is deposited onto the female part of a flower. Some flowers are self-pollinating and some need cross-pollination. If you do not have natural pollinators such as bees and other insects, you will need to know how to pollinate your flowers manually.
Determine if natural pollination is taking place. Look for flowers that are dying or falling off without fruiting. Check on the ability of bees or insects to reach the flowers. If you observe pollinators at their work, yet no fruiting is taking place, you may have a pest or disease problem, or environmental stress, that you need to resolve before continuing with manual pollination.
Gently shake the flowers on self-pollinating plants, such as tomatoes and peppers. Shake them briefly and lightly by tapping the stem just under the flower; this emulates the effect of the wind on the flower and shakes loose the pollen. Do this with each flower on the plant.
Use a soft-bristle watercolor brush or a cotton swab to collect pollen from a male flower. Brush up and around the long, stringy stamens at the center of the flower. Male flowers typically grow on a thin stem extending from the branch or vine of the plant, and usually appear before the female flowers.
Transfer the collected pollen to the female flower by sweeping the brush or swab around the stigma at its center. Make sure to sweep all around the stigma, touching every part of it. Female flowers usually grow closer to the stem and have a pistil at the center, which is a long erect stem containing the stigma and other reproductive organs. You can usually also see the small bulb of a future fruit or vegetable at its base.
Use a gelatin capsule for collecting pollen if your male and female flowers are not within arm's reach of each other. This will help avoid losing the collected pollen during transfer. Open the gelatin capsule. Gently scrape one capsule half against the stamen of the male flower and allow the pollen to fall into the capsule. Collect as much as the capsule will hold and close it with the other half.
Go to the female flower and open the capsule. Gently place the watercolor brush or cotton swab into the capsule to sweep up the pollen and brush it onto the stigma of the female flower.