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

Advantages
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

Advantages
Hold moisture well
Controls weeds well
Adds organic matter to soil
Disadvantages
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

Advantages
Maintains even soil temperature
Controls weeds well
Disadvantages
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

Advantages
Visually very attractive
Disadvantages
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

Advantages
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!

Enter the title of your tip. For example, “I don’t read newspapers. I mulch with them!”

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What Others Readers Have Said About Mulch ...


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

Shredded Papers Make Good Mulch Not rated yet
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 …

Sugar Cane Mulch Not rated yet
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 …

Mulch with wheat stalks Not rated yet
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, …

Tomato mulch: under the black plastic ... Not rated yet
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 …

Mulching with straw Not rated yet
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 Not rated yet
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 Not rated yet
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 Not rated yet
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! Not rated yet
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, …

Fall tomato garden preparation Not rated yet
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 …

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