Mulching with Live Oak leaves
by John Atwood
(Lumberton, MS, USA)
I live in Zone 8 (South Mississippi) and usually try to get my first Early Girls (a 52-day indeterminate) planted by the second or third week in March. As luck would have it, I have a large live oak tree in my yard which sheds its leaves about this time. I use its leaves for mulch.
Here's how I do it. I cover my two 60-foot rows and middle with about 6 inches of leaves immediately after ground prep and before planting, to keep the soil from compacting from hard rains. To plant the Early Girls, I just pull back the leaves, dig the hole, plant and water thoroughly.
About 4 weeks after the Early Girls go in, I plant Better Boys in the second row.
I have an 8-foot T post at the end of both the 2 rows, with high tensile wire strung between the post. I use ground anchors and string clips to support the plants as they grow up the nylon string between the high wire and ground clip. I use soaker hoses for supplemental watering.
During the winter, I place several loads of leaves, pine straw and other yard debris down the rows and BURN. The ash contains all of the necessary trace minerals and other nutrients for tomatoes so no fertilizer is needed.
This past year, I gave away over 500 tomatoes to family and friends and had plenty for the table.
I have used this same system in the same location and never have end rot or disease. The leaf burning replenishes the soil.