Best Mulch For Tomato Plants – How To Choose & Use ?

In Brief: Best Mulch For Tomato Plants

The best organic mulches suggested are straw, grass clippings, compost, shredded leaves, compost, and bark chips. Spread them around the base of the plants after the soil has warmed in spring. You may choose a mulch depending on your budget and preferences.

This article will cover the best mulch for tomato plants, when, and how to use them.

I have tried many of these mulches for my tomato and other garden plants over the years. I have also highlighted the experiences of gardening experts for more weightage.

Shall we keep the ball rolling!

Why Mulching Is Great For Tomato Plants – Key Benefits

Mulching may help in retaining moisture, regulating soil temperature, controlling weeds, preventing fungal diseases and soil erosion. It may help in the growth of tomato plants.

Tomatoes are one of my favorite plants to grow. If you have grown tomato plants, you must have heard of the importance of mulching.

Mulches have been recommended to control weeds, regulate soil temperature, and reduce the evaporation from the soil.

The studies have shown that mulches may improve the quality of tomato fruits and decrease cracking. It helps in root proliferation and root length.

The other suggested benefits of mulching are

  • Minimize erosion
  • Prevent wilting of plants
  • Keep the fruits off the ground
  • Less penetration of heat in bare soil
  • High level of growth, development, and yield
  • Improve the structure of the soil
  • Make the garden very attractive

Best Mulch For Tomato Plants

The mulch for tomato plants may be organic or inorganic. You may choose different organic mulch for the best results. There are different mulches available for tomato plants. It could be organic and synthetic.

The various organic materials available are bark, wood chips, pine needles, dry grasses, paddy straw, dry leaves, sawdust, and grass clipping. The commonly used inorganic mulch is polyethylene plastic mulch.

Some of these are of low cost. You may choose a mulch depending on your personal preference and availability.

I have discussed some of the best mulches below.

1. Straw

Straw forms an excellent mulch for tomato plants. It does not compact and has a longer shelf life. Avoid using
the straw with weed seeds.

One of the most commonly used organic mulches for tomato plants is straw. It is convenient and easy to work.

You may break it down and spread it around the plants. I often use rice, paddy, and wheat straw as mulch.

Straw has a longer shelf-life compared to other organic mulches. It makes the soil more fertile after decomposition. It does not compact.

It is very comfortable to kneel as you work on the tomato plants. It doesn’t hurt as wooden chip mulch.

I don’t recommend using hay as it has weed seeds. It may spread to other parts of the garden and cause weed trouble.

Also, don’t apply a thick layer of straw as mulch.

2. Grass Clippings

The grass clippings are an effective and inexpensive mulch. It is preferable to use dry grass clippings. Don’t add it near the stem so that the tomato plants may access the water.

You may also use grass clippings as a mulch. It may be readily available, and I have used it as a mulch for my tomato plants for as long as I can remember.

Mowing the lawn provides an endless supply of mulch all year round. It helps to cool the root zone, retain moisture, and add nutrients back to the soil.

The wet grasses may stick together and form slimy mats. It may make it difficult for water and air to penetrate the soil. So, you may dry grass clippings and spread them evenly.

The University of Missouri Extension recommends mixing grass clippings with compost, dry leaves, or wood. It may be done in a 1:1 or 1:2 ratio.

Avoid using clippings from grass treated with chemicals around the tomato plants. It may affect the health of the tomato plants.

3. Compost

Compost is commonly used to add nutrients to the soil. It may also work as a mulch around the base of the tomato plants. But, it needs to be replenished often.

Compost is popularly used by gardeners as a soil amendment to improve the soil in the tomato garden. It may also work as an ideal mulch material.

In addition, it may provide food for your soil and plants. It may consist of decomposed leaves, wood chips, or bark compost.

One drawback is that it will break down and mix faster than other organic mulches. Therefore, it needs to be replenished often.

4. Dried Leaves

The composted shredded leaves are a good mulching material for tomato plants. Some prefer using leaf mold, a form of leaf mulch. It helps in warming the soil and increasing moisture retention.

One of the organic mulch that is offered by nature for free is dried leaves. The leaf litter mulch helps in keeping the soil warmer and fertilizing the soil.

It may help in suppressing weeds, retaining soil moisture, and reducing soil erosion. It may help to recycle the waste leaves in your garden.

Some gardeners use leaf mold which is a leaf mulch that has already begun the process of breaking down.

I prefer to shred the leaves to make the leaf litter, and it helps to break down easier. It prevents moldy mat formation on the topsoil

You may use leaf shredders specially designed for shredding the leaves to make your task easy. Take care not to use a thick layer of shredded leaves as it may cause root rot.

5. Bark Chips

Bark chips consist of shredded bark. It is popularly used as a mulch around tomato plants to prevent compaction. It adds a pretty look to the garden.

Bark mulches are made from the byproducts of pine, cypress, or hardwood logs. It includes shredded bark and bark chunks.

The advantages of bark mulches are that they resist compaction and will not blow away. It is readily available and adds a nice look to the tomato garden.

The pine bark mulch tends to last longer than other bark mulches. It provides aluminum that helps in promoting green, leafy growth.

Avoid using large-sized pine nuggets that may blow and wash away as it is lightweight. It may not work in tomato gardens on the slopes.

6. Plastic Mulch

Plastic mulch is also used for eliminating weeds, retaining moisture, and warming the soil. But, it is not organic and biodegradable.

Plastic mulch is a type of inorganic mulch that utilizes polyethylene film. The different types of plastic mulches include brown, black, red, and reflective metalized.

Black or red plastic mulch is the most available and used mulch of others. It is ideal for eliminating weeds, retaining moisture, improving soil structure, and warming up soil during the cold.

One drawback is that it is not biodegradable and may end up in landfills. Also, it is subjected to degradation due to ultraviolet radiation.

Therefore, they have to be removed from the tomato garden every year. It further adds to the cost of removing the plastic.

I came across this useful video on planting tomatoes through plastic mulch:

Best Mulch For Tomato Plants In Containers?

The best mulches for growing tomato plants in containers are pebbles, bark chips, and straw. Some gardeners also use plastic mulch.

If you are using plastic mulch, you may have to prepare a large slit. It helps in allowing the plants to grow without any problem.

When And How To Mulch Tomato Plants?

You may add mulch around the tomato plants after the soil has warmed up. Spread a layer of mulch around the plants by leaving some space around the plants.

You may add mulch in the spring once the soil has warmed up. Adding mulch to cool soil may damage the roots.

You may remove weeds around the tomato plants before applying mulch. It may minimize competition for water and nutrients. Water thoroughly.

You may mulch the tomato plants immediately after the soil has warmed up.

  • Sprinkle the mulch around the plants evenly. I prefer to leave some space (6-12inches) around the stem for the easy access of water by the plants.
  • Apply 2-4 inches of mulch around the base of the tomato plants. Do not apply more than two inches deep for finer mulches. Spread coarser bark chips about four-inch deep.
  • If you are using fresh-cut grass clippings, dry them in the sun. Sprinkle around the tomato plants in thin layers, and spread the layers two weeks apart.

You may anchor the plastic mulches around the plants and top them with organic mulch.

Table: Volume of mulch required for depth of mulch

Square Foot2 inch3 inch4 inch
200122.5
500356
10006912
150091419
2000121925

Apply extra mulch in between the rows so that the weeds are controlled.

Here is an informative video on how to mulch tomato beds:

FAQs

What are the disadvantages of mulching?

Organic mulches, including straw or hay, may encourage slugs. The wood chips may attract rats and other garden pests. The plastic mulch may be harmful to the environment and has to be reapplied every year.

Is it safe to use newspaper as mulch tomato plants?

Yes. Shredded newspaper may be used as a mulch for tomato plants. As most newspapers contain organic ink, you need not worry about lead contamination. You may place a layer of 2 to 4 sheets between the plant rows, water them, and top with other organic mulches.

Can peat moss be used as mulch?

If peat moss is used as a mulch, it may be blown by the wind and hardened by rain. The peat bogs are important ecosystems and so, stripping them is not sustainable. Also, it is considered a non-renewable resource.

Summary

I hope this article has provided you with some mulch options for tomato plants that may help with reaping tasty, fresh tomatoes.

Also, please let me know your valuable experience in mulching tomato plants. You may contact me for any queries and suggestions.

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