[gardeners] Improving tomato harvest

penny x stamm (gardeners@globalgarden.com)
Sat, 21 Mar 1998 16:49:22 -0500

Consumer Reports April 1998 issue has an article about a garden 
experiment which they made, and the results. It sounds excellent: 

There is a new red plastic mulch on the market which appears to 
increase both the size and the weight of your home grown tomatoes. 
The theory is that some plants respond especially well to certain
wavelengths of light. 

They planted three raised beds, filled with an identical mix of compost 
and soil, with Better Boy and Celebrity tomatoes. As a color control, 
they also planted green peppers in the same beds.Using red mulch 
on one bed, black mulch on another, and no mulch at all on the third,  
they then watered, weeded and fertilized periodically.

For those of you who like statistics:

The first week's harvest netted 3 tomatoes from the red bed 
averaging nearly 8 ounces.  2 tomatoes from the black bed and 1
tomato from the unmulched bed averaged about 5 ounces.

The second week they got 8 tomatoes from the red bed, 4 from the
black bed, and 5 from the unmulched bed. The tomatoes from the red 
bed remained consistently larger the entire season, by at least a
half an ounce each. 

Late in the season when nights grew cooler, the mulch helped keep
the beds warm, so both mulched beds continued to provide a larger
supply of ripe tomatoes than the unmulched bed. The red mulch 
clearly made an extended harvest at the start and at the end of the 

For the green peppers, there was no benefit at all, which leads one
to presume that yellow and orange tomatoes would also not benefit
from the red mulch -- my untested theory, btw. .

A 50x4 ft roll of reusable red sheeting from one source cost $14.95,
whereas a 50x3 ft roll of black plastic mulch would have cost $3.00..
This product was developed by the U.S.Dept. of Agriculture and 
Clemson University. 

If anyone is interested in the source, please just ask and I will post
the name.  

Penny Stamm, zone 6, NY

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