What’s the best mulch? Compare different types to use when growing tomatoes

Gardeners often want to know the best mulch to use when growing tomatoes. In a well-known study, North Dakota State University’s Dickinson Research Extension Center evaluated different kinds of mulch to use in the tomato patch.

Use this information to help you choose the best mulch for tomatoes in your garden!

Grass clippings

Easy to work with
Hold moisture well
Controls weeds well
Visually attractive
Inexpensive (free) and easy to come by
Top-rated much in this evaluation!

Wood chips

Hold moisture well
Controls weeds well
Adds organic matter to soil
Limited availability for the individual gardener without access to wood shredder; packaged wood chips are expensive.

Rated as second-best much in this evaluation

Black plastic

Maintains even soil temperature
Controls weeds well
Makes watering difficult because stream must be directed at plastic opening; water tends to form puddles on plastic
Production not as significant as with grass clippings or wood chips

Rated third in this evaluation, mainly due to production

Buckwheat hulls

Visually very attractive
Mounded hulls made watering difficult
Hulls sprouted buckwheat seedlings all season long
Production was low, likely due to the high absorption of water by the hulls

Rated fourth in this study

No mulch

No work
No expense
Good production
Very few weeds, possibly due to an herbicide application during the previous season
A regular watering schedule meant plots did not dry out

Have a favorite mulch for growing tomatoes? One that works well for you?

Tell us what you use to mulch your tomatoes why you like it. Other gardeners want to know so can grow great tomatoes, too!

[ ? ]

Upload 1-4 Pictures or Graphics (optional)[ ? ]


Click here to upload more images (optional)

Author Information (optional)

To receive credit as the author, enter your information below.

(first or full name)

(e.g., City, State, Country)

Submit Your Contribution

 submission guidelines.

(You can preview and edit on the next page)

What Others Readers Have Said About Mulch ...

Mulch with wheat stalks 
Use wheat stalks, after harvesting, as a mulch. They're also known as wheat straw or hay. You usually can buy a bale of it and spread it around your plants, …

Mulching with straw 
I live in Phoenix, AZ, and like most homeowners here - or at least 50% of us - I have no grass, so can't use it for mulch. To have a summer garden in Phoenix …

Spanish Moss 
I live in central Florida and have lake cypress trees with Spanish Moss. I use the moss to mulch my raised beds.

Pine Needles: Not Yard Waste, But Tomato Mulch 
I use white pine needles to keep the worms and bugs out of my tomato patch. It seems to repel things, just like turpentine does, but of course is healthier. …

Shredded Leaves Are My Favorite Tomato Mulch 
I use shredded leaves around my tomatoes as mulch. They are free. Also they compost well over the season. I shred them with a lawn mower (some people use …

Trim Your Evergreens and Mulch Your Tomatoes! 
I had to trim a long row of evergreen shrubs on my property this spring, but decided not to throw the clippings away or shred them and compost them. Instead, …

Shredded Papers Make Good Mulch 
Since I have a Shaklee Distributorship, I end up with a lot of office-type paper that at the end of the year needs to be shredded: old checks, old information …

Mulch with pine straw 
Pine straw for mulching tomatoes works for me. I find it keeps the weeds down and makes watering easy.

Fall tomato garden preparation 
Q. I'm starting to put garden beds to sleep for winter and have raised beds in mind for tomatoes next year. What amendments do you suggest to add at …

Sugar Cane Mulch 
Here in Australia, we have easy access to bales of chopped sugar cane leaves and stems, which are left over after the sugar refining process. This makes …

Tomato mulch: under the black plastic ... 
I've been mulching with black plastic for many years now. The trick to watering is to run a soak hose/ weeping hose under the plastic and about 8-10 inches …

Click here to write your own.

More on mulching tomatoes

How and when to mulch tomatoes ...

Black plastic mulch for tomatoes ...

Review: red plastic mulch - does it really make a difference?

Review: Woven weed mats for mulching tomatoes

Review: Biodegradable weed mats for mulching tomatoes

More on growing tomatoes

Watering tomatoes: the basics ...

Watering tomatoes when planting and just afterwards ...

Watering tomatoes: FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions) ...

Techniques for watering tomato plants ...

How to control weeds in the tomato garden

Why staking tomatoes produces a bigger harvest ...

Use tomato fertilizer to get best production ...

Kinds of tomato fertilizer ...

Organic tomato fertilizer: advantages and disadvantages...

Pruning tomato plants: how and when to do it ...

Growing tomatoes: top 4 areas of tomato care ...

Return from Best Mulch for Growing Tomatoes to Tomato Dirt home

New! Comments

Have your say about what you just read! Leave a comment in the box below.

FREE! 10 Must-Know Tomato Growing Tips: 20-page guide
Get yours here: