What Is The Best Mulch For Tomatoes

What Is The Best Mulch For Tomatoes?

If you’ve ever grown tomatoes, you know they grow large and heavy. Most times, tomatoes can’t hold their weight so they fall to the ground. If there’s no covering or support, these fallen tomatoes rot. Therefore, to avoid losing your produce, you’ll need to mulch your garden. Mulching also protects the soil and adds nutrients. It covers the surrounding farm, so your tomatoes don’t rot on the ground when they fall. 

But, what is the best mulch for tomatoes? The best mulch for tomatoes are plastics, shredded bark, leaves, straw, and grass clippings. You should put mulch around tomatoes. Mostly use leaves and shredded clippings. The color of mulch isn’t necessary when it comes to tomatoes. 

Continue reading for more information on tomato mulching. 

What Is The Best Mulch For Tomatoes

The best mulch for tomatoes are ones that not only protect the tomatoes from pests and diseases but also add nutrients and moisture to the soil you’ve planted on. 

Here are some of the best options for mulching your tomatoes. 

  1. Plastic

Let’s start with the most difficult to use. Unlike other mulch you’ll read on this list, plastic mulch is inorganic and doesn’t decompose. There’s no nutrient content your tomatoes receive from this mulch. 

However, it’s best for tomato growers looking for an option that guarantees the protection of their produce. 

Plastic mulch comes as either black or red; growers prefer red because it’s aesthetically pleasing when laid out on the soil. Additionally, people believe the red plastic reflects its color onto the tomatoes, making them more radiant and appealing. 

How To Use It

First, you should know when we talk about plastic mulch, we mean plastic tarp. You can shred plastic and use it as soil cover; it’s not advisable because of toxins from plastic. 

When you’re ready to use, spread the plastic covering onto your farm and poke holes on it the size of your tomato plants. 

Then, plant your tomatoes inside the holes. 

This mulch is a very effective moisture retention agent. Additionally, tomatoes thrive with plastic mulching because it insulates heat.

What I Like

  • Easy use: You’ll only need to spread your plastic covering, poke holes, and plant. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Possibility of toxins: There’s a possibility your tomatoes may choke or be affected by toxins from the plastic. 
  1. Straw

Most gardeners prefer straw mulch; it’s one of the most easily maintained mulch products. It’s best for improving soil structure. Additionally, you can use leftover mulch as compost additives to improve soil nutrient capacity. 

The most common examples of straw mulch used are rice and wheat straws. They’re lightweight and quickly decompose. 

How To Use It

Once you’ve purchased the straw, separate them into little bundles. Afterward, spread them out in the sun to dry so that there’s little chance of weed seeds growing. Weed seeds like to hide between straws. 

Once they’re thoroughly dried, spread them evenly under each tomato plant. 

What I Like

  • Affordable: Straw mulch is relatively affordable compared to plastic. 
  • Convenient for the long term: Unlike other tomato mulch products, you can store straw and use it for long periods without decaying. 
  • Only tiny quantities are required: You only need to spread little chunks of straw in your garden to cover your falling tomatoes. 

What I Don’t Like

  • High prevalence of weeds: Straw tends to harbor a lot of weed seeds, meaning there’s a likelihood that while they’re spread on your farm, weeds may grow as well. 
  • Costly: Using hay as straw mulch may be expensive. 
  1. Leaves

It can be tiresome to rake up leaves from your garden each time your trees shed. Straight racking losses up the soil, making it susceptible to erosion and loss of nutrients. 

Leaves add humus, holding together the ground. Leaves are also soft, making them one of the best options for mulching tomatoes. 

How To Use It

You can mulch tomatoes in two ways:

  • Shredded Leaf Mulching

You can decide to rake up your leaves and break them into small pieces as you spread them on the ground. Although this is an extra step you’ll need to take each time you mulch your tomatoes, shredded tomato mulch is best. 

Since shredded leaves have a wide surface area, they don’t cover the ground so much that aeration is restricted. 

  • Full Leaf Mulching 

Whole leaf mulching involves spreading leaf falls on your garden as they are. 

Once you’ve raked up these leaves, you’ll pour them all over the farm, covering the grounds around your tomatoes. The leaves are a bed for the tomatoes to fall on when ripe. 

What I Like

  • Versatility: Leaves as mulch for your tomatoes can be used in two different ways, hence creating options for other farming preferences 
  • Accessible: Everyone has at least one tree growing on their farm or could borrow leaves from neighbors. It’s an option everyone can access. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Blocked aeration: If you choose to use leaves in their complete form, there’s a likelihood that they’ll stop the aeration of your soil. Your tomatoes may die if this happens. 
  1. Shredded Bark

This kind of mulch packs more than just a tree trunk. Shredded bark mulch comprises tree barks, tiny twigs, grass clippings, and almost all the other types of mulch listed. Additionally, it’s an excellent additive for microorganisms in the soil that help in churning. Shredded bark also improves soil structure when fully decomposed. 

Equally important, shredded bark has an acidic pH that tomatoes prefer. 

How To Use It

Before spreading the mulch, make sure the barks come in tiny pieces. Since this mulch is a little heavy, you’ll need to spread it in tiny amounts—about three inches from the soil. 

Additionally, some barks may take longer to break and decompose than others; this comes about because of different tree species. 

To avoid uneven decomposition, mix the mulch with other readily decomposing products. 

What I Like

  • Variety of products: Shredded bark mulch contains more than tree cuttings; therefore, as a farmer, you get more from one option. 
  • Variety of benefits: Shredded bulk provides a soft landing for tomatoes

What I Don’t Like

  • Acidity: Sometimes, this mulch can be too acidic for the tomatoes leading to scorching. 
  1. Grass Clippings

You’ll get grass clippings from raking or mowing your lawn. Grass clippings are excellent mulch beds for tomatoes because of their bounciness. They can impede water and air passage due to their density. 

How To Use It

Cut the grass and lay them out in the sun to dry. Turn over the grass constantly to ensure complete dryness. Once the clippings are dry, spread them on your garden under each tomato plant. Rake the grass clippings to ensure they’re not piled up against each other. 

What I Like

  • Accessibility: You can find grass clippings everywhere. This mulch can also be substituted for leaves and shredded bark. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Too dense for mulching: Since grass clippings come freshly cut, they tend to be too dense for mulching around tomatoes and might choke them. 
  1.  Newspaper and Cardboard

Newspapers and cardboards are great nutrient additives for the soil. They’re also excellent weed restrictors and air churners if spread correctly. Also, newspapers and cardboards are easily accessible materials. Therefore, most gardeners find them an easier option for mulching. 

How To Use It

Before adding the newspapers and cardboard, shred them. Newspapers and cardboards are heavy materials to add to your soil as they are. Once shredded, spread the mulch to cover 2 inches of your soil. 

Ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the stems of the tomatoes to prevent rotting. 

Equally, you can wet the cardboard and newspaper to loosen them before spreading them in your garden. Although this option might work, sometimes it backfires and makes the mulch more dense and restrictive. To be safe, shred your cardboard before spreading mulch in the garden. 

You can add organic mulch onto the cardboards for loosening. 

What I Like

  • Accessibility: Newspapers and cardboards are materials you can find easily; they don’t have selling restrictions. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Restricted Aeration: They’re heavy compared to other options on this list. Therefore, if not shredded before spreading, they can restrict air and water flow into and out of the soil to your tomatoes. 
  1. Compost 

If you’re a large-scale farmer, you’re sure to have compost lying around on your farm. Compost is comfortable bedding for tomatoes. Once your products have decomposed, compost forms a soft layer on top of the soil. 

Products making up compost are excellent purifiers of soil and improve the structure, aeration, and nutrient content. Therefore, your tomatoes are supported when ripe and heavy, but they also grow succulent and in good condition. 

How To Use It

Compost is an excellent mulch cover once It’s fully cured. Therefore, before using it in your garden, make sure all the sections in the compost have decayed. If this is the case, spread it on your farm using a shovel. Be sure to pour in tiny quantities to avoid high temperatures in the soil that may dehydrate the tomatoes. 

What I Like

  • Excellent soil formation: Compost is an excellent soil formation agent. With all the organic products, it contains excellent nutrients for the soil. 
  • Accessibility: Compost mulch can be made from any garden product decays. 

What I Don’t Like

  • Heavy material: Compost as mulch for your tomatoes can be a heavy choice. Since compost making involves several products, some may have adverse effects on your tomatoes, for example, having low yield. 

What Kind of Mulch Should I Use on My Tomato Plants?

You can use plastics, shredded bark, leaves, straw, and grass clippings on your tomato plants. However, if you’re looking for the best accessibility and results, I suggest straw mulch. Straw mulch is not only lightweight but also affordable. It doesn’t choke up the tomatoes when placed underneath. 

Should You Put Mulch Around Tomatoes?

Yes, you should put mulch around your tomatoes. Mulching around your tomatoes assures the plants’ stability by building soil structure. It also improves the nutrient content of the soil, improving the yield you’ll get at harvest. 

Additionally, mulching around your tomatoes secures them once they’re ripe. Tomatoes grow heavy; the branches aren’t usually strong enough to hold the ripe fruit. They fall to the ground and may rot if not picked immediately. 

Mulching provides a soft landing cover for the ripe tomatoes. Although they may rot if not picked, their chances are reduced with soil cover.  

When Should I Mulch My Tomato Plants?

You should mulch your tomatoes immediately when they start growing. Tomatoes thrive in warm soil; therefore, place mulch around the soil once you notice fruiting. Mulching is not only for the benefit of holding the tomatoes when they drop; as you’ve discovered, choosing the best mulch and applying it to your garden goes hand in hand with the yield you’ll harvest. Therefore, mulching after you’ve started planting ensures your soil is constantly supplied with nutrients. 

Equally important is the frequency of mulching. As you decide which one from the list above to select from, note the mulch lifespan. It’s advisable to change tomato mulch every three weeks. Worthy noting is the possibility of some mulch dehydrating your soil; as you change or turn over your preferred product, ensure you water around your tomatoes to keep them hydrated.  

What Color Mulch is Best for Tomatoes?

The best color mulch for tomatoes is any that doesn’t let out the dye. Mulch that seeps off dye could add chemicals that may impede the growth of your tomatoes and damage your soil. 

However, most gardeners prefer red mulch. They prefer this because it makes the tomatoes look more radiant. However, here’s a little advice: use mulch that’s inverse to the color of your tomatoes. 

Why? It’ll be easier to notice if anything in the mulch or your tomatoes changes when there’s a change in the colors. 

How Should I Mulch My Tomatoes?

You can mulch your tomatoes by spreading the mulch 2cm around the plant. The mulch spread should also be 2 inches thick. As you spread, ensure the mulch doesn’t touch the stems of the tomato to prevent rotting. 

Prune the leaves of the tomatoes as well and add them to the mulch. Additionally, water your mulch regularly to prevent dehydration of the plants. Since most of the mulch you’re using is mostly dry, it’s essential to rehydrate the soil and tomatoes often. 

Moreover, it’s essential to rotate the mulch regularly. Depending on the mulch you’ve used, some rot faster than others. Fast-paced routing increases the temperature of the soil. Therefore, the compost needs to be rotated every two weeks. Straw and plastic mulch last longer than the rest on the list above. 

FAQs

Do Tomatoes Like Coffee Grounds?

No, tomatoes don’t like ground coffee. Although tomatoes like slightly acidic environments, ground coffee varies in pH. Some are above the required while some are below. Therefore, to avoid this confusion while mulching your tomatoes, it’s safe not to use ground coffee.

Some growers don’t mind the mix-up, though. If you’d like to use ground coffee on your tomatoes, pick one whose pH is just under 6. Also, ensure you water your tomatoes regularly since coffee can dehydrate the soil.  

Is Cedar Mulch Good for Tomato Plants?

Yes, cedar mulch is good for tomato plants. Since mulch has been in use as a ground cover for the soil and nutrient additive, this kind of mulch is good. The mulch takes time to decay, therefore, providing good cover for your soil for a long time. 

Is Pine Bark Mulch Good for Tomatoes?

Yes, pine bark mulch and pine needles are good for tomatoes because it’s acidic, and tomatoes like acidic environments. Place the mulch 3 inches from the ground, ensuring it doesn’t touch the tomatoes to avoid scorching. 

Do Tomatoes Like Peat Moss?

Yes, tomatoes like peat moss. They’re preferably excellent for growing cherry tomatoes. However, you’ll have to mix the peat moss with the tomato seedlings for them to grow together. They’re perfect for tomato breeds with tender roots. In about a week of mixing the peat with your tomato seedlings, you’ll see sprouts. 

Why is Peat Moss Being Banned?

Peat moss is banned because it contains high levels of carbon that are toxic to the environment. When peat moss is used in excess, it releases high carbon dioxide levels that corrupt the ozone layer. 

Most environmental activists called for the ban because of the recent spike in climate action. However, this issue has only taken effect in European countries. 

If you require a substitute for peat moss, some of the best options are compost, shredded barks, and leaves. 

Conclusion

You’re spoilt for choices when it comes to mulching your tomatoes for growers whose first responsibility is their tomatoes. I’d advise taking the option of shredded bark and plastic. This mulch protects your tomatoes from the possibility of weeds more than the other options. 

On the other hand, farmers are more concerned about the condition of the soil as the tomatoes grow should go for compost since it has the most nutrient benefit for your soil. Additionally, you can choose leaves for further soil protection.

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