Wow such good information! Thanks Ridgerunner and Smartred.
Ridgerunner you put mulch under your tomato plants?
Last year I watered my tomatoes from the top like everything else and did have quite a loss in yield, silly me, now I know why water from the bottom. I could make soaker cans then so water would come out of the lower part of the can slowly? I don't have a soaker hose.
Sorry I am not too bright yet on the whole vegetable gardening thing but I will be lol.
Yes mulch is great for tomatoes. Mulch is good for most things but especially tomatoes. Mulch keeps the dirt from splashing up on the tomato. There might or might not be disease in the dirt, maybe blight. If there is then the mulch helps keep it away from the plant. Mulch keeps weeds from growing. The few that do start are lot easier to pull out if the mulch is there.
But a real big reason mulch is so good for tomatoes is that it helps stop blossom end rot. That's where the blossom end of the tomato just rots. It can happen to other stuff too, like peppers and eggplant. What causes it is a lack of calcium at the fruit. Unless you have sand you probably have plenty of calcium in your soil but if the soil gets too dry or too wet the calcium does not get transported to the fruit in the proper amount. If it rains a lot nothing can help keep it from getting too wet. But mulch conserves water and helps keep your soil evenly moist. It helps keep it from drying out so the right amount of calcium is transported to the fruit.
What Ridgerunner said! I plant my tomato plants, cover the soil with brown paper grocery bags, and cover the whole area with straw. This keeps the soil more evenly moist and I seldom need to water. When I do water, I put the hose near the tomato plant stem and soak really well. Unless it rains, the plants do not get wet from above.
We have had some discussions about pruning tomatoes. Well, I prune the lower leaves off my tomato plants -- any leaves that might touch the straw. That is another way to prevent splash back on the lower leaves.
If you use straw for mulch, and the tomatoes get out of control and end up in the straw, you still get slugs eating the bottom of the tomatoes that touch the straw. Speaking from experience. I always mulch with straw, prune occasionally, and really haven't had a bumper crop in several years. So far this year, the plants look so-so. They looked fantastic till I planted them in the garden, so that may be a clue that I am not preparing the ground properly. (They were outdoors in pots for a month, nearly, so I know they were hardened off) And, we have had so much rain the last couple of years....well, last year and so far this year....that watering has not been critical or even necessary.
Gardening is a constant learning process, even for an old gardener. Throw in the changing climate and weird weather patterns and it's always a new ball game.
@CrazyFeathers, if you end up buying soaker hoses, I suggest you get the round ones, rather than the flat ones. I have both. The flat ones have to lie straight to work, and are hard to turn corners with, without kinking them, thus cutting off the water flow.
I will mulch around my tomato plants, I like the idea of a paper bag around the plants, would newspaper work just as well? I do have wood chips or hay right now which of these do you suggest I use? Thanks
I use newspaper, usually two or three layers, covered with wheat straw. The newspaper really helps keep weeds and grasses from growing through the mulch, though they are pretty easy to pull if they do. The wheat straw serves two purposes. It keeps the newspaper from blowing away and it keeps the newspaper from drying out. If the newspaper dries out it may shed rain instead of allowing it to soak through until it gets wet.
I sometimes use cardboard boxes or brown wrapping paper between rows, covering that with wheat straw. I avoid newspaper or other stuff that has a lot of bright colors on it. Some doesn't bother me since the pigments they use for colors these days generally aren't nearly as bad as the ones they used to use, but I avoid sheets that are pretty solid colors. It's probably not necessary but I just feel better trying not go to extremes with that. I also avoid slick paper or cardboard. That can stop water from going through.
Like everything else, you'll find we use a whole lot of different things. We have different climates so different things work. @flowerweaver can't use wood chips because of her climate. They would never decompose. We have different things available or often free.
In the past I used year old wood chips but pretty much stopped doing that. I'd put fresh wood chips on flowers or landscaping beds the first year over landscaping cloth, then remove them after a year to use for mulch in the garden. I have to remove them every year and replace them because they rot and form a real rich soil for weeds and grass to grow in. By using year old wood chips they have already partially decomposed so after another year in the garden they basically disappear. If I use fresh wood chips in the garden they are still around after that first season. You can turn them under and they will disappear eventually but they hurt my fingers when I'm digging around in the dirt.
Some things are pretty much self-mulching after they reach a certain size, like sweet potatoes, squash, regular potatoes, or cabbage, but I try to mulch about everything I can; tomatoes, pepper, eggplant, okra, beans, many herbs, melons, and some things I'm forgetting. It not only keeps the moisture in and the weeds and grass down during growing season, If it is left until the next spring it keeps weeds and grass from growing after harvest is over. It makes garden prep so much easier. I turn it under the next spring so it is my cover crop.