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Black Plastic Mulch under tomatoes?

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Black Plastic Mulch under tomatoes?

Post  1chichi on 6/6/2010, 12:57 am

I used this Black Plastic Mulch in a bed w/ tomatoes in it and
in my SFG too (I used cedar mulch to cover it in my SFG).
It's supposed to allow water through it, but I noticed w/out the cedar on top, quite bit of water rolls down to the sides before it gets a chance to absorb through it.
I think I read somewhere that in hot climates it shouldn't be used as it creates more heat. I don't need more heat, as it was in the upper 90's today.
Does anyone have any experience w/ this Black Plastic Mulch?
I was hoping I wouldn't have to cover this whole bed w/ cedar mulch.
The plastic does a good job keeping the weeds out.
* I didn't get the soaker hose until after I laid the plastic mulch down.


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Re: Black Plastic Mulch under tomatoes?

Post  boffer on 6/6/2010, 9:58 am

I use black plastic as mulch specifically because it helps increase soil temperature, and it works.

As far as allowing water through, double check that there's no inside out and outside in. Some products will allow moisture to flow through from one side and not the other. Would covering the soaker hose with grass clippings be an option?
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black plastic mulch

Post  ander217 on 6/6/2010, 7:14 pm

We've used black plastic mulch in our row garden many times over the years, mainly under tomatoes because as Boffer said, it warms the soil up faster and we didn't like pulling weeds. We never used the kind that allowed water to pass through, we just made holes here and there in it to allow water to drain through, and we never had any problem with getting enough water to the soil.

When the temps get up in the high 90s tomatoes stop producing, and the black plastic probably hastened that time, but we were usually ready for a little slack time in harvest anyway by then. We never hit a period where we were completely without tomatoes.

In late summer the plants would start producing again.
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Re: Black Plastic Mulch under tomatoes?

Post  1chichi on 6/6/2010, 9:51 pm

@boffer wrote:I use black plastic as mulch specifically because it helps increase soil temperature, and it works.

As far as allowing water through, double check that there's no inside out and outside in. Some products will allow moisture to flow through from one side and not the other. Would covering the soaker hose with grass clippings be an option?


Uh oh...I thought it was laid down correctly, but I'm not 100% sure. I'll check this tomorrow.Thanks!

I can't collect grass clippings, it gets mulched into the grass by the lawn mower.

Maybe, it should only be used for cool weather crops in the south. I may just cut it down the midddle and peel it back from the center of the bed. That way it can just keep weeds down on the border of plants.
Then I'll have to get more shredded cedar to go down the center of the bed.
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Re: Black Plastic Mulch under tomatoes?

Post  1chichi on 6/6/2010, 9:59 pm

@ander217 wrote:.

When the temps get up in the high 90s tomatoes stop producing, and the black plastic probably hastened that time, but we were usually ready for a little slack time in harvest anyway by then. We never hit a period where we were completely without tomatoes.

In late summer the plants would start producing again.
Thanks! I didn't know they stopped when it was in the 90's.
YIKES, I may need shade cloth soon, because it's been close to 100 degrees lately.
I'm going to have to open up that black plastic. In the fall, I can plant a cool weather crop in that bed and just fold the plastic back to the middle.
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black plastic mulch

Post  ander217 on 6/7/2010, 8:07 am

I think it's actually high night-time temperatures which cause tomato blossoms to fail to set fruit. Usually day temps above 95 and night temps above 75 for extended periods can cause problems. Here that usually begins in mid-July. (Maybe we need to add an a/c to our gardens in the hot and humid Upper South!)

There are heat-tolerant varieties that can be grown, or you can wait for cooler temps to allow the flowers to fruit again, or you could probably add an organic mulch on top of the plastic which should serve to cool it down. The plastic does help keep the ground moist underneath. This year I am growing my tomatoes on a trellis on the north side of my garden, and the bed three feet south of them is growing corn. I'm hoping the corn will provide enough shade during the hot summer to keep my tomatoes happy.

As I said before, the green tomatoes that have already set when high temps hit will go ahead and develop - take care that they don't sunscald. It's just that during those dog days you don't get many flowers that set new fruit.
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