Horticulturist outlines dos and don’ts
MANHATTAN, Kan. – Ask home gardeners what is the first plant they tried growing, and many will tell you – you guessed it – the tomato. The plants are prolific, their fruit can be canned, cooked or eaten fresh, and are a source of vitamin C, making tomatoes the most popular plant in home gardens.
For those who have their plants in and growing, now is a good time to mulch, according to Kansas State University horticulturist Ward Upham.
“Soils are warm enough now that tomatoes can benefit from mulching,” said Upham who is the state Master Gardener coordinator for K-State Research and Extension. “Tomatoes prefer even levels of soil moisture, and mulches provide that by preventing excessive evaporation.”
Other benefits of mulching, he said, include weed suppression, moderating soil temperatures and preventing the formation of a hard crust on the soil. Crusted soils restrict air movement into and out of the soil and slow the water infiltration rate.
Hay and straw mulches are popular for tomatoes, Upham added, but may contain weed or volunteer grain seeds.
Grass clippings can also be used but should be applied as a relatively thin layer – only 2 to 3 inches thick. Clippings should be dry because wet clippings can mold and become so hard that water can’t pass through. Do not use clippings from lawns that have been treated with a weed killer until some time has passed. With most types of weed killers, clippings from the fourth mowing after treatment may be used. If the lawn was treated with a product containing quinclorac, such as the product Drive, the clippings should not be used as mulch. If the weed killer used has a crabgrass killer, it likely contains quinclorac.
More information on home gardening and lawn care is available at county and district K-State Research and Extension offices and online at http://hnr.k-state.edu/extension/. Photo courtesy: hardworkinghippy