Add mulch, a natural covering on top of soil, to keep moisture in, block weeds and provide added nutrients. But did you also know that mulch is particularly important for tomato plants?
If you grow tomato plants, then you have to understand the importance of mulch.
Why is Mulch So Important for Tomatoes?
1. Mulch Protects
Many tomato plants grow large, heavy fruit. Mulch protects the lowest-growing fruit from resting on the ground and developing rot.
2. Mulch Blocks Weeds
Weeds are usually no problem for tomatoes since the large plants, with their dense foliage, shade out and smother any weeds. However, mulch around staked or trellised plants will keep down those baby weeds, so they won’t rob the plants of water and nutrients.
3. Mulch Saves Water
Staked and trellised plants usually benefit from mulch to save moisture. More exposed to sun and wind than unstaked plants, they lose more water through their leaves. It takes extra effort to provide them with an ample and even supply of moisture, but in dry climates, it’s worth it.
4. Mulch Keeps Plants Clean
A mulch blanket under your plants keeps soil from splashing onto the leaves, which helps prevent disease, something tomatoes are especially prone to.
How to Mulch Tomatoes
Many make the mistake of laying mulch around tomatoes too early. You should wait until late spring or until the ground has really warmed up. Adding mulch will inhibit soil from warming and delay the harvest a few weeks.
Once the soil has warmed, feed your tomatoes again with Tomato-tone. Then spread a 2-3” layer of organic mulch. Be sure to leave 2” of room around the stem so water can reach the roots. Water well.
The Best Organic Mulches for Tomatoes
Shredded Leaves: Composted leaves are great for vegetable gardens because they provide natural weed protection and increase moisture retention.
Grass Clippings: If you apply organic lawn fertilizer, dry grass clippings are a great option. They mat together to protect plants and retain heat.
Straw: Straw makes great mulch for tomatoes. But stay away from hay, as it’s full of seeds. Spread a 3-6” layer around tomatoes.
Newspaper or Cardboard: Newspaper is best for blocking weeds. Cut or tear into strips that fit easily around plants.
Peat Moss: Peat moss slowly decomposes over the growing season, adding nutrients to the soil. Water plants thoroughly before spreading peat moss, however, because it sucks a lot of moisture from the soil.
If you’re looking for more information on tomatoes, please visit our Organic Tomato Gardening Guide for more tips and tricks.