Mulching tomatoes in a greenhouse
Tomatoes are a thermophilic crop. Therefore, they are more often grown in a greenhouse than outdoors. This is a very popular vegetable that grows in almost every summer cottage. Many varieties differ in shape, color, height of the bush. And also the ripening time. However, the rules of care for all plants are approximately the same. With rare exceptions due to the specificity of the variety. If you have not grown tomatoes before and you are afraid of the complexity of the process, then believe me that with some knowledge it is not difficult to grow tomatoes. The main thing is to preliminarily study the agrotechnology of culture. And also know some subtleties and tricks that will help you avoid unnecessary problems and achieve a good harvest. Like mulching tomatoes.
Characteristics of tomatoes
By nature, the tomato was conceived as a perennial plant. But in the garden, we grow it as an annual crop, the growth of which, depending on the variety, can vary from 20 cm to two meters. In order for tomato bushes to grow well, they first of all need fertile soil with a neutral level of acidity. Loose enough and pre-fertilized with complex mineral fertilizer. Tomatoes need nitrogen, potassium and phosphorus.
When planting, you must follow the rules of crop rotation. And never plant tomatoes where nightshades grew in the previous year. Namely: potatoes, peppers or eggplants. A place after cucumbers, onions, beets or carrots is ideal. And next to the tomatoes, you can place celery, garlic. As well as spicy herbs. Joint planting with velvet or calendula will serve as additional protection against pests.
The optimum air temperature for growing tomatoes is +25 degrees, perhaps a little more. At temperatures above + 32 ... + 33 degrees in the greenhouse, plant pollen is sterilized. And they stop forming ovaries.
Tomatoes are grown by the seedling method, sowing seeds a couple of months before the proposed transplantation of plants into the ground. When transplanting to a permanent place, the distance between plants must be at least 40-50 cm. Sometimes more. For example, the bushes of the "Mongolian dwarf" do not grow upward. And in breadth and reach a meter in diameter.
Tomatoes are transplanted to a permanent place in May or June. Typically watered once a week. If necessary, remove stepchildren, install supports. And they also tie up the bushes so that they do not break under the weight of the fruit. From the middle of summer, you can already start harvesting from early varieties. To make the conditions for tomatoes more comfortable, and at the same time make it a little easier for yourself to care for them, there are a number of agricultural techniques. One of them is tomato mulching.
What is tomato mulching
The first mention of mulching dates back to the 17th century. It was then that the British began to cover the soil so that the strawberries would not get dirty. Later, other useful properties of this technique were revealed.
Mulching is covering the soil around the plants with some kind of organic or industrial material. This protects the roots of plants from cold weather. And also from overheating. It inhibits the growth of weeds, prevents excessive evaporation of moisture.And also with the right choice of material, mulching protects against harmful insects and the development of certain diseases.
When choosing raw materials for mulching, rely on the fact that they should not harm the plants. That is, it should not be toxic or strongly affect the composition of the soil during decomposition. And also raw materials should be easily accessible and profitable from an economic point of view. Because we are trying to avoid unnecessary financial investments and labor costs. The benefits of mulching the soil surface are quite large.
In hot weather, the topsoil does not dry out. Accordingly, no crust is formed. And also the access of air to the root system does not stop. Weeds grow extremely slowly at first. And then they stop growing altogether. Accordingly, all the nutrients go to your culture. Gradually, earthworms eat the bottom layer of organic mulch. They process it and enrich the soil with humus, significantly increasing the amount of nutrients.
When watering tomatoes, mulch protects the roots from soil erosion. And also prevents too rapid evaporation of moisture, thus reducing the number of irrigations, and at the same time controlling the level of humidity in the greenhouse. In a closed space with high humidity, an environment is created for the development of rot and fungal diseases. A layer of mulch prevents them from spreading.
Mulching tomatoes: what can you use?
The choice is rich enough so that everyone can choose the most convenient material for mulching. If you prefer organic matter, you can use straw, pine needles, freshly cut grass, sawdust, and compost. Or you can opt for inorganic materials. And choose between plastic wrap, geotextile, cardboard or newspapers. And also there are both organic and inorganic materials that are best not used for mulching. Whoever says anything. Because there will be much more harm than good.
Organic mulch is, of course, more popular. Because, in addition to protective functions, it also acts as a fertilizer, gradually decomposing and nourishing the soil. This contributes to much better growth. As well as the ripening of tomatoes.
Straw as mulch
In order for the mulch to be beneficial, you will need to lay at least ten centimeters of straw. After a while, it will settle down a little. But it will still do an excellent job with its functions. Namely: allow air to pass through, hold moisture, isolate heat. Also, straw keeps sunlight out of the weeds. This means that it does not allow them to grow.
In addition, straw protects tomatoes from rot and anthracosis. Straw is one of those materials that is processed into fertilizer. This means that it has a positive effect on the growth and yield of tomatoes. But there is one important drawback: mice are very fond of settling in straw. So you need to regularly inspect and stir it up, checking for the presence of pests.
Mulching tomatoes with grass
This method is especially convenient for the lucky owners of a lawn mower with a grass catcher. The grass cut in this way does not need to be further reduced. Because she's already chopped up enough. You just need to spread it out and let it dry for several days in the sun. Then, as with straw, spread a good layer of mulch over the surface of the soil.
After a few days, the layer will settle, then more should be added. As a result, the layer of mulch should always be at least five centimeters. As the lower layer of grass overheats and decomposes, important trace elements enter the ground. In particular, nitrogen, which tomatoes love so much in the first half of summer. In addition, the grass retains moisture well. Therefore, the amount of weekly watering can be reduced.
Another very popular mulching material.In addition to useful properties, sawdust also looks very decorative. Therefore, many gardeners prefer them. It is necessary to lay a layer of at least 15 centimeters. Because a smaller layer will not be an obstacle for the germination of weeds. Sawdust perfectly controls moisture, absorbing excess and giving it to the soil as needed. But there is also a significant drawback. Sawdust can pull some of the nutrients out of the soil. And also increase the acidity level of the soil.
In order to prevent this from happening, the sawdust must first be prepared. You can mix them with any alkaline material. For example, chalk, ash, lime or dolomite flour. Or you can “marinate” them for a month by adding a little urea and water and covering them with plastic wrap. Properly prepared sawdust will not harm the soil or plants.
Mulching tomatoes with compost
This is, from a plant point of view, the ideal mulch. It is not difficult to prepare it. Because on each site there is a compost heap or pit where gardeners send weeds. As well as waste for decomposition and production of useful organic fertilizer. It takes at least a year to make compost. If it is not completely overcooked, then weed seeds and insects may remain inside. Therefore, make sure it is ready before use. It should have a uniform consistency and be odorless.
It is necessary to lay 3-4 cm of compost on the soil surface. From time to time you will have to put a new layer. Because earthworms will process it very quickly. Compost protects and fertilizes tomatoes at the same time. But it's important not to overdo it. Because with a very large supply of nitrogen to the soil, tomatoes will begin to “fatten”. That is, to build up foliage, grow, without forming inflorescences and fruits.
The only drawback of this material is its unaesthetic appearance. But the merits in this case undoubtedly outweigh. Again, the main thing is that the compost is finally ready.
For mulching, you can also use inorganic materials, which will last much longer. They can be used for several seasons. Some gardeners do not consider it necessary to spend additional funds on the purchase of such materials. However, those who use them are satisfied with the result. Because a greenhouse effect is created, which significantly accelerates the growth of tomatoes.
Mulching tomatoes with foil
Of course, we are not talking about transparencies for greenhouses. And about a much denser opaque material. For southern, sunny areas, a light-colored film is better. For the middle strip, you can use a dark film. Such a covering material will definitely prevent weeds from growing. You just need to properly lay out the film over the surface. And it is also good to fix around the perimeter. Well, such a shelter is only suitable for a not very hot summer. Otherwise, the earth will overheat too much. And also the development of fungal diseases can begin.
Cardboard and newspapers
Such a shelter does not allow air to pass through and does not provide additional nutrition to the soil. So its main functions are insulation and weed control. The soil around the tomato bushes must be loosened. And also carry out additional feeding. Sheets of cardboard must be overlapped and fixed. You can make holes in them for air circulation. And paper or newspapers can be pre-shredded. Moisten in nutrient solution and lay in a thick layer like straw or grass. Be careful - slugs can breed in too damp paper.
Geotextile or non-woven fabric
It is an excellent material for mulching tomatoes. Its only drawback is not the cheapest cost. But on the other hand, purchasing geotextiles, you can use it for several years. So it might be worth spending it once.It is a dense material that is capable of permeating both air and moisture. And since it is opaque, it also protects against excessive overheating. And also from the cold. Prevents the spread of diseases and harmful insects. In summer, you can use it to mulch tomatoes. And in the fall, insulate shrubs or trees with the same canvas.
What materials cannot be used
There are a number of materials that seem to be suitable for mulching, but are not recommended for use:
- Peat is useful if mixed with soil in certain proportions. But as a mulch, clean peat will greatly increase the acidity of the soil. Which will have an extremely adverse effect on the growth of tomatoes.
- Manure - can also be useful as fertilizer, after overmaking. But when fresh, it is almost guaranteed to burn the roots of plants.
- Roofing material - on the one hand, it can be used forever. And also it will perfectly prevent the germination of weeds. But this material is generally quite toxic. Especially in hot weather when it gets hot. So it's better to refuse it too.
What time to spread the mulch
If your greenhouse is equipped with heating, you can mulch the soil at any time. Regardless of the weather conditions. And if there is no heating, then it is better to wait until the soil is completely warmed up. And also the absence of night frosts.
When planting tomatoes in open ground, you must wait until the seedlings are fully adapted. By this time, the soil should warm up to a depth of at least 30 cm to a temperature of + 14 ... + 16 degrees. After that, you can lay out the mulch.
Mulching tomatoes is an excellent agricultural technique that has a positive effect on plant growth. And also on the amount of the harvest.