Mulching helps in conserving soil moisture, protecting the plant, and keeping weeds in check. There are several options to consider when it comes to tomato mulch, many of which are free or very low cost, but effective. Mulch serves as insulation over the garden. Mulch prevents weeds, stabilizes soil temperature, and helps retain moisture in the soil. Good mulching can greatly reduce the amount of water required for the garden.
Mulch also prevents the soil from drying out during heavy winds. Mulching protects this delicate layer of topsoil, 90% of the microbial activity of the soil is found in the top four inches of the soil, the layer that dries out the fastest. Mulch is a layer of material applied to the surface of the soil.
Reasons for applying mulch include conservation of soil moisture, improving fertility and health of the soil, reducing the growth of weeds, and enhancing the sight of the garden.
Mulch is usually, but not totally, organic. It may be permanent (e.g. plastic sheeting) or temporary (e.g. bark chips). It may be applied to the bare soil or around existing plants. Mulches that are of manure or compost origin will be incorporated naturally into the soil by the activity of worms and other organisms in the soil.
The effect of mulch upon soil moisture content is very complex. Mulch forms a barrier between the soil and the atmosphere, thus preventing sunlight from reaching the surface of the soil, thus reducing evaporation. However, mulch can also prevent water from reaching the soil by absorbing or blocking water from light rainfall.
To take full advantage of the benefits of mulch, while reducing its negative influences, it is often applied in late spring or early summer when the temperature of soils has risen sufficiently and soil moisture content is still relatively high.
Tomatoes can withstand a lot of heat during the day, 100-degree temperatures, or more. But it is the temperature of the soil at night that matters. Tomatoes can only set fruit when the nighttime soil temperature is between 55 and 70 degrees. When the nighttime soil temperature rises above 70 degrees, the plant may live, but it will not produce tomatoes. That is the reason tomato plants often stop producing by July or August. But the soil can be cooled and made to produce tomatoes through the heat of summer with good and proper mulching.
The best mulch for tomatoes depends on many things including; budget and personal preferences.
The best mulch material is always the most native, and the very best mulch of all is raked up leaves from trees. Native leaves have a special relationship with the soil. Their chemistry is highly adapted and they are a perfect match for growing vegetables.
Native leaf mulch is available in large quantities; native leaf mulch does not cost anything. Leaves from deciduous trees, which drop their leaves in the autumn or fall are a very great choice to consider. They tend to be dry and get blown around in the wind. These leaves should be chopped or shredded before application in the garden. As the leaves decompose they stick to each other allowing water and moisture to leak down to the soil surface.
Thick layers of entire leaves, especially leaves of maples and oaks, can form a soggy mat in winter and spring which can hinder the new growth of lawn grass and other plants. Dry leaves are used as winter mulches to protect plants from freezing and thawing in areas with cold winters. Note, these leaves should be removed during spring.
Oak Leaves as Mulch in the Garden
Tomato plant in the garden loves thick live oak leaf mulch. As the leaves slowly decompose, they add structure to the garden soil and improve the soil pH. Oak leaves can be used in compost piles, and as bedding for laying hens.
Oak leaves make great mulch in the garden and when shredded with the mower can be left on the lawn. Oak leaves should never be left intact on the lawn, their large surface blocks light and traps moisture. This can be detrimental to the health and vitality of the lawn. Oak leaves are slow to disintegrate so shredding will help speed up decomposition getting the valuable nutrients and organic matter into the soil.
How to Mulch Tomatoes
Many make the mistake of laying mulch around tomatoes too early. It is advised to wait until late spring or until the ground has warmed up. Adding mulch will inhibit soil from warming and delay the harvest for a few weeks.
Once the soil has warmed, the tomatoes can be fed with Tomato’s tone. Then a 2-3” layer of organic mulch can be spread onto the garden. Ensure to leave 2” of room around the stem to enable water to reach the roots well.
Importance of Mulch in Tomato farm
#1. Mulch Prevents tomato rot
Many tomato plants grow large, heavy fruit. Mulch protects the lowest growing fruit from resting on the ground and developing rot.
#2. Mulch impedes weed’s growth
Weeds are usually no problem for tomatoes since the large plants, with their dense foliage, shade out and suffocate any weeds. However, mulch around staked or trellised plants will keep down emerging weeds, so they would not rob the plants of water and nutrients.
#3. Mulch conserves moisture
Staked and trellised plants usually benefit from mulch to conserve moisture. Since they are more exposed to sun and wind than plants without stakes, they tend to lose more water through their leaves. It takes extra effort to provide them with a sufficient and even supply of moisture.
#4. Mulch Keeps Plants Clean
A mulch blanket under the plants prevents soil from splashing onto the leaves, which helps in preventing diseases, something tomatoes are especially prone to.