Benefits Of Mulching Tomatoes

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!