Mulching Tomatoes - Knowledgebase Question

Brighton, MA
Question by gshbri
July 17, 1998
Is there a particular mulch recommended for tomato plants? I've heard that either straw or hay is not recommended as one of these type of mulches actually do not warm up the plant but decrease the temperature..is this true?


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Answer from NGA
July 17, 1998

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There are probably as many preferences for mulch material as their are gardeners! Mulching with organic matter does several things: it helps the soil retain moisture, keeps the roots cool, suppresses weeds, and releases nutrients to the plant's roots as it decomposes. Hay or straw contain fewer nutrients than materials like compost or aged-manure, but they would effectively retain soil moisture, cool roots and suppress weeds. However hay and straw have a tendency to mat down, making it difficult to thoroughly water plants. They generally contain large quantities of weed seed so you may be importing problems. Hay and straw also make attractive hiding areas for rodents, who think it's perfect nesting material. Finally, as organic mulches decompose they heat up as part of the decaying process. Hay and straw will generate some heat as they decompose.

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