A popular garden vegetable, the tomato plant rewards the grower with rich, flavorful, abundant fruit when the plant is well cared for. One of the tricks to attaining an ample crop is to provide the best mulch for tomatoes to grow within.
Mulch serves a variety of purposes; it is really an essential gardening component. It helps keep weed growth at bay and makes cultivation easier. Applying a 3 to 4 inch layer of mulch around the tomato plant will protect the plants relatively shallow root system from possible damage during cultivation. Mulch also helps to keep the roots warm during a cold snap and cool in the summer. An adequate layer of mulch helps the soil retain moisture by slowing evaporation.
Recycled plastic mulches are beneficial in regions of the country that have cool late springs and early summers. The mulch helps to absorb the heat of the sun, thereby keeping the tomato plant’s root system warm during the night. The added warmth that the plastic mulch provides can aid the tomato plant in flowering early with ample fruit production.
Grass Clippings and Leaves
Grass clippings offer a cheap alternative to store bought mulches. This type of mulch works well at retaining soil moisture and inhibiting weed growth. The grass clippings add nutrients to the soil as they decompose. This is the most beneficial mulch in terms of ease of use (simply gather grass clippings after mowing the lawn) and cost-efficiency. Leaves are another great efficient, effective option, which can simply be collected from the yard and used on their own or in combination with other natural mulches.
Bark chips are readily available at most garden supply and home improvement stores. A variety of trees are utilized in manufacturing prepackaged mulches. The most popular tend to be hemlock, fir and cypress. The mulch works well at retaining soil moisture and is excellent at reducing weed growth. It also adds valuable nutrients to the soil as it decomposes.
Pine needles have been widely marketed at garden supply stores in the southern states. As a popular mulch, it is now being distributed nationwide. People who have pine trees in their landscape can also utilize the needles as they drop for an acceptable mulch around tomato plants. Even the small pine cones can be raked around the plants. Watch for seedling pine trees and promptly pull them from the garden as they take root.
Mulches to Avoid
Avoid using hay or straw around tomato plants. The hay and straw break down at a rapid pace, releasing large amounts of nitrogen. This can cause the tomato plant to produce excessive foliage with very little fruit production. Weed seeds are also often found in hay.
Mulching Your Tomatoes
Utilizing the best mulch for tomatoes can benefit the gardener immensely in the care of the tomato plant. Overtime natural mulches will break down and require reapplication but most will last for the entire tomato growing season.