Tomato Dirt Newsletter
Issue #10, May 2011

Dear Tomato Dirt reader,

Welcome back to Tomato Dirt! Once or twice a month, we’ll send you this newsletter packed with tips about growing tomatoes and using them.

Reviews: Three Kinds of Tomato Mulch and Which is Best

Mulch is a covering placed over the soil around your tomatoes. It warms the soil, helps retain water, smothers weeds, and in many cases prevents the spread of diseases.

There are many kinds of tomato mulch. This month, we’ve reviewed three of our readers’ favorites. Each has strengths. And each can be “best” depending on circumstances.

Weed mats for mulching tomatoes

Weed mats are sheets of material that are placed in a garden as a weed barrier. They are made of variety of products which each have differing advantages. A significant advantage of mats (over other types of weed barriers) is that they let in air, water, and nutrients into the soil.

Woven mats (especially professional-grade) are long-lasting, durable, and re-usable. One of the best is Pro Weed Mat icon by Gardener’s Supply. Woven mats are an excellent option to use if you want a mulch that is long-lasting and can be used year after year.

Read a review on woven weed mats.

Biodegradable weed mats are completely “green” and can be tilled into the soil at the end of the growing season. Gardener’s Supply offers a biodegradable weed mat icon that is chemical-free. This is an excellent option if you are environmentally-conscious.

Read a review on biodegradable weed mats.

Plastic mulch for tomatoes
Red tomato mulch has received a lot of press over the last few years. Technically, it’s not mulch. Red plastic’s touted strength is in its ability to reflect certain red shades of light back into the plant, accelerating fruit production and increasing yield. In other words, it helps your tomato plants produce earlier and bigger tomatoes. Another plus: red tomato mulch has been proven to reduce root nematode damage. This is an excellent choice if you want to increase yields.

Red plastic mulch is available in two options:
Red plastic mulch squares icon
Red plastic mulch rolls icon

Read a review on red plastic mulch.

Tomato of the Month: Yellow Pear Tomato

Photo: Hillside Community Garden

About once a month (maybe more, maybe less), we’ll publish a fun profile of a specific tomato variety. That way you’ll get to know different tomatoes better. And you may even be inspired to try to grow some of them yourself!

This month, check out Yellow Pear Tomato. This very old heirloom has been around more than 200 years. It produces bright yellow, pear-shaped cherry tomatoes with a sweet, mild flavor. Gardeners like Yellow Pear because it’s unusual and even cute. Traditionally they were used fresh and in preserves (and still are), but now chefs have also made them a favorite in salads, pastas, and salsas.

Tomato of the Month: Yellow Pear Tomato.

May's Tomato Tip: When Should I Mulch Tomato Plants?

By now, many gardeners in North America have their tomato plants in the ground.

But don’t make the mistake of mulching too soon. Even when the danger of frost is past and you have planted your tomatoes, still allow time for soil to heat up more before setting down mulch. Otherwise, you’ll trap in the cold – and delay tomato development.

A good rule of thumb: wait 3-5 weeks after planting before applying mulch. The exception, of course, is plastic mulch (like weed mats icon and red plastic mulch icon), which absorb sunlight to heat the soil.

Read these additional tips for mulching tomatoes to make sure your tomato patch gets off to healthy start this year!

That’s it for now. See you next month!

Until then, happy gardening!

Kathy with Tomato Dirt
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P.S. If you’re planning to grow tomatoes in containers, check out this review of Tomato Success Kit. It’s one of the best self-watering tomato planters on the market.

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