Update on Tomatoes and Red Plastic Mulch

Earlier this year I launched a highly unscientific experiment to assess whether red plastic mulch would be beneficial to my tomato plants. You can read about it in my post about tomatoes and red plastic mulch.

The claim (by purveyors of red plastic mulch) was that the mulch could accelerate the development and ripening of fruit.  I planted tomatoes in the vegetable garden and mulched them with red plastic, and put more tomato plants (of the same age and some of the same variety) in my greenhouse without mulch.

Tomatoes ripening in the greenhouse

Due to an unseasonably cold and wet early summer I would have expected the greenhouse tomatoes to perform better than those poor plants exposed to the elements out in the garden.

But I have to report that the tomatoes mulched with red plastic did better than those in the greenhouse!  I didn’t measure, count or record anything, but it was pretty clear to me that the mulched tomatoes produced more and larger fruit, and they ripened earlier than those in the greenhouse.

Red plastic mulch and tomatoes ripening in the vegetable garden

The lower production in the greenhouse I attribute partly to the fact that those plants were container grown, so had limited access to nutrients and inevitably, more fluctuation in soil moisture levels than those grown in-ground.  But I have no explanation for the earlier ripening of the red plastic mulched tomatoes except for the mulch – in fact I would have expected (given the cool conditions this year) those plants to develop more slowly and they most certainly didn’t!

So the results of my very unscientific experiment show that red plastic mulch does, in my opinion, improve the yield and accelerate the ripening of tomatoes.

Tomatoes and assorted summer fruit

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About hortophile

I am a very opinionated, slightly obsessed gardener with decades of experience in the retail nursery industry. A lucky resident of the "Wet Coast" of British Columbia I tread a muddy path between practicality and beauty, with my veggie patch, herb garden and fruits vying for position with the beautiful trees, shrubs and flowers that I can't resist. DON'T ask me to choose between them! I believe in environmental responsibility and common sense.
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4 Responses to Update on Tomatoes and Red Plastic Mulch

  1. I have been curious whether red mulch works. Now I know. Will definitely use it when I finally have a place to plant!

  2. Pingback: 1 BEST 1

  3. Debbie says:

    Try using EZ-wall Plant Protectors on your tomatoes to get them started sooner in the spring.? They work wonders for keeping the frost off and warming the soil since they are like a little greenhouse teepee over your plants. They also set up super fast. I think they would be good for any plant you would want to set out sooner and get established a few weeks early.

    • hortophile says:

      Thanks for the tip Debbie, I imagine that they would work quite well, but I put my tomatoes in my own little greenhouse initially and that is sufficient…if I didn’t have a greenhouse I would definitely invest in something like this!

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