It’s no wonder the tomato remains America’s most popular homegrown vegetable. I’m glad grocery stores offer tomatoes, because the tasteless produce makes us savor our garden tomatoes all the more. In fact, a few years ago I conducted a homegrown tomato taste-test of various popular garden varieties. I snuck in a store-bought tomato also. One of the panelists, upon unknowingly tasting the grocery store tomato, commented “this variety tastes bad enough to be store-bought.” He was right.
Anything we can do to boost homegrown tomato success is always welcome, and mulching is an important step.
Benefits of applying a 2 to 3-inch layer of mulch around tomato plants:
- Mulch conserves soil moisture, which is especially important during dry years.
- It keeps soil moisture more uniform and consistent, which has been shown to reduce blossom-end rot of tomatoes.
- A mulch layer reduces soil splashing onto the plant’s stems and leaves, which can prevent foliage blights because the organisms causing the blights are often present in soil.
- Tomato fruits stay cleaner.
- Mulch helps with weed control.
Tomato mulching pointers:
- Tomatoes should be mulched after the soil temperature has warmed. Too-early mulching keeps soil cool, which tomatoes resent. Late June or early July when soil temperature has reached 65 or 70 degrees is ideal.
- Straw, compost, peatmoss or grass clippings can be used, and then tilled into the soil in fall. Don’t use grass clippings from lawns that have been weed-sprayed until the lawn has been mowed at least twice. Clippings from the third mowing should be safe. Tomatoes are extremely sensitive to weed-spray residue, causing leaf curl and distortion.
Have a great gardening week!