Tomato plants are one of the most beginner-friendly plants to grow, although a lot of people simply do not use any mulch for them and this is a big mistake. If you want your tomato plants to grow strong, tall, and produce a lot of tomatoes then you will need to use some kind of mulch. Tomato plants need a lot of nutrients and the mulch will provide them with these valuable nutrients although it really depends on what kind of mulch you actually use.
You can mulch tomato plants by placing the mulch around the plants in a 2-5 inch layer, make sure that the mulch is not in direct contact with the stem of the tomato plant. For tomato plants, you should use organic mulch which decomposes relatively fast, this way the nutrients from the mulch can be used by the tomato plants as soon as possible. The best mulches for tomato plants are grass clippings, hay, straw, cardboard, leaves, and compost.
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Mulching tomato plants has several benefits, the mulch ads valuable nutrients to the soil which the plant can use, and mulch is also excellent for retaining water. You might think that the mulch retaining water might not be beneficial, but tomato plants like moist soil, this way their roots can expand fairly quickly. If you do not use any kind of mulch around your tomato plants then you will notice that the soil around the plants will start to dry up and compact.
This also happens if you water the plants fairly regularly, the water will simply erode the topsoil and the tomato plants will have a hard time establishing strong roots. Not all mulches are good for tomato plants, ideally, you would want a type of mulch that can break down relatively fast, like grass clippings for example, for more information on mulching with grass clippings check out my recent article Mulching With Grass Clippings ( Top 9 Best Practices ).
Mulching Tomatoes With Grass Clippings
Grass clippings are an excellent mulch for tomato plants, the grass clippings will retain plenty of water and most importantly they will shade the soil from the sun. In addition to this, grass clippings break down relatively fast, which means that your plants will be able to use the nutrients from the grass clippings a lot faster than the mulch from wood chips for example. Spread the grass clippings mulch around your tomato plants without the mulch actually touching the stem of the plant and make a layer of 2-5 inches of mulch.
Mulching Tomatoes With Hay
Hay is also an excellent mulch for tomato plants, and the main reason why hay is so good as mulch is that it is jam-packed with valuable nutrients. For the most part, you can use both regular hay and one that has already started to decompose. Place the hay mulch around your tomato plants without the mulch touching the stem of the tomato plant and make sure to water the mulch, this way it will break down faster and the wind will not blow it away. If you are having problems with slugs and snails eating your tomato plants then check out my recent article How To Get Rid Of Slugs And Snails ( Top 19 Methods ).
Mulching Tomatoes With Straw
A lot of people tend to use straw as mulch for their tomato plants, although not the best mulch for them but it is still better than nothing. The biggest problem with using straw as mulch is that it tends to contain a lot of seeds, and sooner or later you will be seeing wheat growing out from the mulch. Place the straw around your tomato plants in a 2-5 inch layer, without the straw actually touching the plant, and then water it.
Mulching Tomato Plants With Wood Chips
Wood chips are a relatively common mulch used for tomato plants, although it is not an ideal mulch. Wood chips tend to break down relatively slowly, it could take 1-2 years until the wood chips start adding back to the soil the valuable nutrients. So if this is the first year of you mulching your tomato plants with wood chips, then you should add some other type of mulch that breaks down faster or some compost for the best results.
On the other hand wood chip mulch is excellent at suppressing weeds, just layer a 2-4 inch of wood chip mulch around your tomato plants without the mulch touching the stem of the plant. Keep in mind that tomato plants do not like having water on their leaves, as this exposes them to diseases. If you are using wood chip mulch then you will see that once it rains the water will be splashed around once it hits the wood chips, so you should cut down the bottom leaves of the tomato plant to avoid getting them wet.
Mulching Tomato Plants With Plastic Mulch
A lot of people who grow tomatoes for selling tend to use plastic mulch, although plastic mulch is probably the worst mulch for any kind of plant. The problems with plastic mulch are that it doesn’t help the soil retain water, it doesn’t add valuable nutrients to the soil and it will dry out the soil. On the other hand, plastic mulch is excellent for keeping weeds away from your tomato plants, although your tomato plants might also suffer.
Plastic mulch tends to absorb a lot of heat, this heat will be trapped near the soil surface which will evaporate the water even faster, thus the soil will start to dry out. If you are using plastic mulch for your tomato plants then make sure to use some organic mulch below it or some compost. In addition to this, you should use a drip-feed watering system, especially as the plastic mulch tends to dry out the soil.
Mulching Tomato Plants With Rubber Mulch
Rubber mulch is usually made out of shredded tires and some people do use it for their tomato plants as mulch. The problem with rubber mulch is that it tends to melt, especially if you live in a hot environment. Once the rubber starts melting it will seep into the ground, and so will all the chemicals in the rubber which will harm the quality of the soil sooner or later. If you are using rubber as mulch for your tomato plants then make sure to use compost or some organic mulch with it.
Rubber mulch is excellent at suppressing weeds, but as the mulch starts heating up it will dry out the soil, so make sure to water your tomato plants regularly. Place the rubber mulch around your tomato plants in a 2-4 inch layer and make sure that the rubber doesn’t touch the stem of the tomato plants.
Mulching Tomato Plants With Cardboard
Cardboard is an excellent mulch for tomato plants, as cardboard is made out of wood pulp. Basically, cardboard mulch has the same nutrients as wood chips, but the main difference is that cardboard tends to break down a lot faster than wood chips. Either use large pieces of cardboard or shredded cardboard as mulch around your tomato plants layered 2-5 inches and make sure to wafter the cardboard mulch. For more information about mulching with cardboard check out my recent article Mulching With Cardboard ( Top 6 Best Practices ).
Mulching Tomato Plants With Newspaper
Newspaper can be used as mulch for tomato plants, although it does have its fair share of cons. The biggest problem with newspaper as mulch is the actual ink, depending on what kind of ink the newspaper has been printed it might contain dangerous chemicals. In addition to this, some newspapers are treated with chemicals in order for them not to be destroyed by water, this is why you can not flush them down the toilet.
If you use newspaper as mulch then it will break down eventually, although you should probably use cardboard mulch instead. Layer the newspaper around your tomato plants in a 2-5 inch layer, without the mulch touching the stem of the plant, and make sure to water the mulch. In addition to this, it is a good idea to use an organic mulch combined with the newspaper mulch, this way the organic mulch will add valuable nutrients to the soil.
Mulching Tomato Plants With Leaves
Leaves are an excellent mulch for tomato plants, they contain a lot of valuable nutrients and do an excellent job at retaining water. In addition to this leaves tends to decompose relatively fast and they will feed the soil in which your tomato plants are growing. Place the mulch around your tomato plants in a 2-5 inch layer, make sure that the mulched leaves do not actually come in contact with the stem of the plant, and then water it.
Mulching Tomato Plants With Pine Needles
Pine needles can be used as mulch for tomato plants, they contain a lot of valuable nutrients although they tend to break down slower than a grass mulch for example. Pine needles tend to make the soil acidic, although this is only temporary and your tomato plants will not be harmed. Once the pine needles have turned brown they will stop making the soil acidic and as they are decaying they will add valuable nutrients to the soil.
Place the pine needles mulch around your tomato plans in a 2-5 inch layer, make sure that the pine needles are not in direct contact with the stem of the tomato plant. Pine needles mulch can also be combined with other mulches like cardboard, grass, hay, wood chips, and so on.
Mulching Tomato Plants With Compost
Mulching tomato plants with compost is a good idea, as compost does contain all the valuable nutrients which your tomato plants need. In addition to this, compost tends to break down relatively fast which will boost the growth of your tomato plants. Just keep in mind that how good compost will be as mulch for your tomato plants is mostly determined by what kind of compost you actually use.
If you are composting kitchen scraps then you shouldn’t use it as mulch, as the compost will start attracting a lot of critters. Place the compost mulch around your tomato plants and layer it 2-4 inches, make sure that the compost is not in direct contact with the stem of the plant, and then water it.
As you can see mulching tomatoes is relatively easy, just make sure you pick the right mulch. Ideally, you should use an organic mulch, which actually feeds the soil and also retains water, this way your tomato plants will grow strong and healthy.