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

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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

mulching with grass

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

(Read more about black plastic mulch for tomatoes.)

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

See more mulch ideas on our Mulching Tomatoes Pinterest board.

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!

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What Others Readers Have Said About Mulch ...

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, …

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 …

No Cost Mulch in Your Backyard Not rated yet
How many of you bag up your leaves every winter and then have them trucked away? Leaves are the first stage of mulch. Find an out-of-the-way place …

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.

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