Mulching Tomato Plants, Procedure, and Benefits

Introduction to mulching tomato plants

Mulching Tomato Plants, Procedure, and Benefits

What is Mulching?

Mulching is the process used to slow down the germination of the weed seeds in the soil. Covering the ground with mulch also reduces the light that reaches the soil surface. When the vegetable seeds or the transplants were planted onto the ground then the gardeners have to face few challenges that prevent your harvest victories. The mulches vary for different plants. Mulch is mainly used to avoid weed growth and also helps in preventing soil erosion.

A step by step guide to mulching tomato plants

As you keep spending much time in controlling the weeds compared to other home gardening activities. Hence this is the best way to control the weeds which reduces the time spent on the weeding process.

A guide to mulching tomato plants.

Different types of mulches used for plants

There are wide varieties of mulches to choose from, where the mulch is selected based on the type of plant species. Mulching has both advantages and disadvantages depending upon the type of mulch you choose. Mulches are used to either increase or decrease soil temperatures, also helps in reducing the rate of moisture evaporation from the soil thereby increasing the crop yield. Mulch also used to repel certain insects that harm the plan, slows down the development of certain plant diseases in particular. There are both organic and inorganic mulches.

Organic Mulches

Straw: Straw is mostly used among the organic mulches. But the wheat seeds in the straw might be a problem. This is proved as excellent mulch for growing crops in cooler soil temperatures. The crops which prefer this kind of mulch are cabbage or broccoli. In the same way, it might also slow down the growth of a few season crops. Straw mulch might also cause severe damage to plants such as squash and zucchini.

Wood Chips: Chipped wood pieces are used as mulches for vegetable gardens. Cedar and Cyprus wood chips last for a longer time because they are resistant to decay. You also need to remember that mixed chipped wood breakdowns faster especially when they are mixed with leaves. Wood mulches should be applied at 2-3 inches of depth for vegetable crops. Make sure that these wood chips should not be painted, as these are not suitable for organic vegetable farming.

Inorganic Mulches

Landscape fabrics: These are used for attaining higher yields for warm-season crops. These are most beneficial to crops such as tomatoes, melons, eggplant, and pepper. The dark color of these landscape fabrics will increase the soil temperature faster and results in higher yields. In melons, the yield has increased up to 50 percent by using landscape fabric or dark colored plastics. Compared to plastics, landscape fabrics are more into usage because they last for 10 or more years and the water can also easily move through them and into the soil.

Plastic Mulches: Plastic mulches are impermeable and can be used only for one year. Make sure that you need to use drip hoses or tapes under the mulch to provide sufficient moisture content. There are different types of plastic mulches in a variety of colors such as brown, black, red, and reflective metalized. Red color plastic mulch is mostly used for the growth of tomatoes and strawberries. Red mulch improves the quality of the fruit but not the yield. But when red reflecting mulch is used there is a significant growth of 15-20% of yield in early tomatoes when compared to black mulch. Reflective metalized plastic mulch helps in repelling the aphids, improving the color on apples, etc. The disadvantage in using the plastic mulch is it is subjected to degradation due to the ultraviolet radiation. Hence they have to be removed carefully by the end of the season if not it will become brittle and will be very difficult to remove from the garden soil.

Now let us see what kind of mulches is used for growing tomato plants.

Mulching tomato plants

Tomatoes are the favorite for many of the gardeners and it is an easy process to grow healthy plants for harvesting fresh, plump fruits. Most of the gardeners know the importance of mulching for growing robust tomato plants with healthy fruits. Mulching of tomato plants enhances the healthy growth of tomato plants as it retains soil moisture, prevents soil erosion, maintains cool soil temperature during summertime, and also helps in improving the overall soil health.

Organic mulch in tomato plants helps in the slow release of nutrients to the soil and benefits the health of the plant and soil during drought conditions. A number of mulches are used for benefitting the tomato plants which are listed below-

Mulching tomato plants with shredded leaves

Composted fall leaves is an excellent mulching material for any type of vegetable garden, especially for tomatoes. Mulching tomato plants with shredded leaves form excellent protection from weeds and also increases moisture retention.

Mulching tomatoes with grass clippings

The trims of your lawn will mostly have grass clippings which form an excellent mulching source for growing tomato plants. The grass clippings are evenly spread around the stalks. The grass clippings will form as a mat together and protect the plant from heat. Make sure that you place the grass clippings away from the stems of tomatoes so that the water can reach the roots freely.

Mulching tomatoes with straw

Straw forms a great mulch for tomato plants and other vegetable plants. Mulching tomatoes with straw is a good choice for retaining nutrients and moisture content in the soil. But there is a problem if you use straw as a mulch the seeds in the straw might become the weed plant. To overcome this problem you need to check out the source of straw in the bales. There are different types of straws among which golden straw and wheat straw makes a good choice for tomato mulching.

You need to place the straw of 3-6 inches around the tomato plants. Avoid touching of stems and leaves as there is a chance for fungal spread.

Peat moss mulch around tomato plants

Peat moss adds nutrients to the soil by decomposing slowly during the growing season. Peat moss forms an attractive top dressing for any home and garden centers. Make sure that you water thoroughly before spreading the peat moss around your tomato plants. Peat moss absorbs the moisture content from the soil hence, it is mandatory to water your plants thoroughly before spreading the peat moss.

mulching of tomato plants with pine bark

Pine bark mulch is efficient in maintaining dampness in the soil. Pine bark makes an attractive appeal in the garden and also keeps the soil cool by suppressing noxious weeds. Pine bark mulch is an excellent organic mulch that offers longevity to the garden. Pine bark mulch when used for tomato plants gives tasty tomatoes with increased yield. It is recommended to spread a 3-4 inch layer of pine bark mulch around the tomato plants. Too much pine bark mulch harms the plant. Make sure that you leave a space around the base of the plant because if the pine bark mulch is stacked around the base causes rotting and also attracts the rodents that are fond of bark. Hence, the pine bark mulch should be placed 8 feet away from the base of the plant. You also should use the old mulch as the dried ones will have more capacity of absorbing water and allows the free passage of water or air to the soil.

Mulching tomatoes with pine needles

Pine needle mulch has proved that it is a great option for growing tomatoes. The pine needle mulch will reduce splashing on the lower surface leaves of the plant with reduces blight. This also helps in suppressing the weeds, regulates soil temperature, and conserves soil moisture. You need to spread the pine needle mulch of 2-3 inches loosely around the tomato plant. Maintain 6 inches from the base of the tomato plant to create mulch free zone around the developing stem.

Mulching of tomato plants with newspaper

Newspaper mulch is used for complete weed control in tomato farming. You need to lay up to 8 layers of newspaper around and between the tomato plants. This prevents the germination of existing weed seeds in the soil. As the newspaper is light in weight it may fly away so you need to top it with 2 inches of straw or wood chips.

Cedar mulch around tomato plants

Cedar mulch forms the exceptional long-lasting where it cannot be replaced with any other mulches. Cedar mulch is a hardwood mulch that is fibrous and knits well around the plant preventing soil erosion, retaining moisture, and inhibits weed germination. Make sure that you place the mulch as per the requirement because too much of mulch can cause stagnation of water in the soil that causes root rot in tomato plants. Cedar mulch also helps in repelling the insects along with spiders and other bugs.

Cardboard mulch for tomato plants

Cardboard is safe to use as a mulch for the vegetable garden, especially for tomatoes. The main advantage of using cardboard mulch is it kills pesky weeds and helps in the growth of the earthworms. Cardboard also kills the lawn grass which is proper for the gardeners to grow vegetables. Make sure that you use the corrugated cardboard as mulch because a few wax-coated cardboard will restrict the water and air penetration into the soil. But wet cardboards might attract the growth of cockroaches. Hence you can use the materials that are cockroach free.

The best mulch for tomatoes in containers

Till now we have discussed the different types of mulches used in the garden now we will discuss the mulches used in containers for tomato plants. The best mulches for growing tomato in containers are pebbles, bark mulch, and straw. If you want to use red plastic then you need to prepare a large slit allowing the plant to grow properly but you need to secure the plastic with metal stakes.

When and how to use mulch for tomato plants

Mulching tomatoes is done 3-5 weeks after planting the samplings. You need to spread the organic mulch evenly around the plant leaving enough space around the stem and the base so that water can easily reach the roots. The most common mulch used for tomato is wooden stakes is straw. A newspaper or cardboard also resulted in good yield. Using mulch for tomato plants results in healthy growth increases yield and the taste of the tomato fruits.

Step by step procedure to mulch tomato plants

Procedure to mulch tomato plants.

Step 1: Spread the mulch forming a 2-4 inch layer around the tomato plant.

Step 2: Remove 6 steps diameter around the tomato plant so that it forms a small well around the base of the plant. This helps in preventing the compaction in and around the stem which might lead to stem rot. The well-formed around the base of the plant forms a dish to absorb the water and directly reaches the root.

Step 3: If you have extra mulch then you can apply it in between the rows so that the mulch controls the growth of weeds.

Step 4: Water your tomato plants regularly by checking the moisture content in the soil with your finger so that you will know the water content near the roots.

Step 5: Make sure that you place the mulch after 3-5 weeks so that the soil gets warmed as the tomato plants like heat. Allow the soil to heat up as much as possible before adding the mulch. Adding mulch too early delays blossom and in turn fruit development is delayed.

Advantages of mulching

  • Retains moisture content:The layer of mulch spread over the soil helps in absorbing more water. Around 2-3 inches of mulch is used because the outer layer gets dried faster than the lower layer. This helps in reducing the evaporation of moisture content from the soil. Mulching adequately provides moisture for your tomato plants.
  • Regulates soil temperature:In hot summer the layer of mulch helps in cooling the soil temperature. Whereas in the winter season the layer around the plants will help in keeping the roots warm.
  • Controls weed growth:Weeds are a serious problem in any garden or farming. Using weedicides has resulted in many disadvantages to the farmland. Mulching is the better solution to control the growth of weeds.
  • Prevents plant from fruit rot and fungal diseases:Mulching forms as a layer on the surface of the soil that helps in preventing the bacteria and fungi from the soil entering into the plants. When the tomato falls onto the mulch the chances of getting rot are reduced when compared to the fall onto the soil.
  • Protects soil from erosion:The upper layer of the soil is well protected by using organic mulches. These mulches also help in improving the soil nutrient capacity because these release the nutrients slowly into the soil by natural degradation.

Disadvantages of mulching

Apart from the advantages, there are also a few disadvantages. Organic mulches such as straw or hay form a habitat for slugs. The wood chips might also attract rodents and few pests. If you use plastic then it might also result in a few disadvantages.

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