Re: [tomato] Red Plastic Mulch - results

Greg Park (
Mon, 1 Nov 1999 11:16:30 -0800

Hi William,

I applaud your report!  I love hearing real life stories about products.  I
used black plastic mulch this year and I will report my findings after next
weekend when I pull up my 40 'mater plants.  I too will take close notice to
see how the soil looks under the plastic.

Best regards,

-----Original Message-----
From: William McKay <>
To: <>
Date: Monday, November 01, 1999 10:27 AM
Subject: [tomato] Red Plastic Mulch - results

>This year I was taken with the idea of using plastic mulch to solve a
>of problems I have been having.   Almost every year, many of my plants wind
>up with septoria leaf spot and I was under the impression that a plastic
>mulch would tend to prevent this.  Also, I use municipal water and the
>rates in the Boston area are among the highest in the country.  I had also
>heard that red plastic mulch increases yields even over black mulch.
>Finally, I expected the mulch to cut down on weeds.  I wound up using red
>plastic mulch on the bulk of my tomatoes and black mulch on peppers and
>eggplants.  I left four or five plants unmulched as sort of a control.
>Tomatoes were almost entirely heirloom varieties, although I did two or
>three hybrids.
>I laid down red plastic mulch on raised beds with soaker hose under the
>mulch.  The tomatoes were transplanted in mid may, a week or so earlier
>usual.  In general, I was not satisfied with the results.
>The good news was that the mulch worked extremely well keeping weeds down.
>However, a few passes through the tomatoes with a stirrup hoe would have
>done as good a job.  Other than that, I believe I would have been better
>not using the mulch.
> One of the things I have started doing is using lightweight remay cloth
>over my transplants when they first go out.  The cloth provides a few
>degrees of extra warmth, but most importantly, protects them from wind and
>to some extent, excessive sun.  I couldn't use it in combination with the
>red plastic;  the few plants where I tried it burned up.
> While the plastic mulch may have saved me some water by preventing
>excessive evaporation, it also kept out any supplemental water from rain
>(not that we had a heck of a lot of rain during the spring and early part
>the summer.)  Had I used grass clippings or ground up leaves as mulch, I
>would have saved even more water.
> The plastic mulch prevented the manure I had added in the spring from
>breaking down-the combination of plastic & soaker hose irrigation resulted
>in minimal moisture in the first four or five inches of soil.  This fall
>when I took off the plastic and turned over the soil, I noticed the manure
>had not broken down in the beds, although it had done so in the walkways
>which were uncovered.  There was a much larger worm population in the
>walkways than in the beds.
> I did not notice any significant difference in production between the
>plants under plastic mulch and the unmulched plants (all did fairly well).
> While the incidence of spetoria leaf spot was less this year than last, I
>still had it and a number of varieties did not survive much past mid
>   Only a few of the most resistent varieties made it until the first
>  (Part of the disease problem, I am convinced, is due to my cultural
>practices.  I made my rows too close (4-4.5 feet).  Also, I have some tall
>trees on the west side of my garden which cut down significantly on sun.
>This winter I plan to visit them with a chain saw.  I also do not spray.
>I am at a loss to explain my fairly dismal results given the generally
>glowing reports in the literature of the use of red plastic.  In addition,
>there is a very successful farmer down the road from me who has done
>considerable experimentation with red plastic and he is extremely
>enthusiastic about it.
>I would be interested in the results of other folks who may have used
>plastic mulch, although I suspect there is nothing could convince me to use
>it next year.
>Bill McKay in E. Massachusetts
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