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alternative to red sheet mulch

 
Leah Sattler
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I was browsing at the local green house today and ran across the red plastic mulch/weed barrier for tomatoes and peppers that is supposed to increase yeilds. I was trying to think of something to use that would be both more permanent, dual purpose and soil freindly. so far all I can come up with is painting rocks red. any ideas?
 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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To tell the truth, I wouldn't worry about it.  If you don't get enough infrared (or whatever this stuff promotes to hasten ripening) in Oklahoma, I haven't got a prayer here in WA.

As long as the tomatoes are in the sun, have enough (but not too much) nitrogen, enough calcium and aren't water-stressed, I would think they would do just fine.

This article was moderately interesting, and they said that none of the colored mulches were much good for keeping weeds down:  http://gardening.about.com/od/totallytomatoes/qt/Red_Mulch.htm

Did your cherries get there yet?

Sue
 
Leah Sattler
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its not like they need more light. but I like to mulch with something (usually hay) and I thought..well... if I could manage to get more maters out of the deal.......why not?!

cherries got here yesterday and I got them in the ground last nite! thanks so much! they all looked good. the little leaf buds were still green. there was just a little black mold on some of the roots but I doubt that will be a prob. I dusted them with rooting hormone and settled them in. I'm keeping my fingers crossed that they weren't stressed too bad. it was 88* yesterday  it might be a bit shocking to them.
 
Jeremy Bunag
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Location: Central IL
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Maybe I'm missing something?  Why is red so good for 'em?  Tomatoes' fruit is red, which is the light they're reflecting (not taking in).  I'd think you'd want the color complement to whatever they want.  Of course, they don't use the fruit to get the nutrients, so that line of thought isn't quite right either.  If you want to give your plants the "glare" of light, then blue's your color.  Blue mulch...interesting!

Ah well, there's plenty I don't know.  I'm pretty much talking out of my arse...

-Jeremy
 
Leah Sattler
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It is something to do with the red reflecting certain light that can help growth. Beyond that i don't know. this said blue mulch did better!! I haven't looked into to heavily. this is the first thing that popped up.

http://gardening.about.com/od/totallytomatoes/qt/Red_Mulch.htm
 
paul wheaton
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I suspect that companion planting (polyculture) and good soil structure (lots of microbes and mycelium) would probably be of far greater value.

 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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Also, the red (and probably the blue) needs to be a particular shade of red, not just any red.

And I didn't notice how much sooner the tomatoes ripen -- just a few days probably wouldn't worth the expense, energy and time.

Sue
 
                        
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Here's an idea. I don't know if it would work, but you could try using a natural red juice to color the hay. Maybe cherry or beet juice. I think soaking the hay in boiling juice would make it soak in better than pouring it on cold. Or soak an old piece of cloth.
 
Leah Sattler
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paul wheaton wrote:
I suspect that companion planting (polyculture) and good soil structure (lots of microbes and mycelium) would probably be of far greater value.




of course but it is still and interesting idea. I am now imagining myself making a red manure tea to douse the hay mulch with......   
 
Dave Boehnlein
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Location: Orcas Island, WA
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A few years ago someone on the island was building a big, fancy house with a slate roof. We managed to acquire the larger scraps of slate that were left over afterward. We use them as an alternative to black plastic for weed suppression and soil heating. Check out the pic below. If we had enough we could cover the whole bed. They also have the benefit of allowing water to percolate through to the soil better than black plastic (unless you use drip tape underneath).

They seem to work pretty well. I wonder if you could acquire some and paint/dye/tint them red?

Dave
slate_mulch.jpg
[Thumbnail for slate_mulch.jpg]
 
Leah Sattler
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that stimulates an idea! although the color may not be exactly correct............some roof tile, brick and paving stones are already red! they would capture and hold heat which would be good in late season when this would be most useful and they don't have many ickies to worry about leaching into the soil...... 
 
Brenda Groth
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Location: North Central Michigan
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brainstorming is good for the soil..remember, whatever mulch you use it is helpful if water doesn't splash back on the lower leaves of the maters..as that is what causes some wilt..think it is fusarium..but it might need to splash SOIL up onto the leaves to be a problem..so maybe the slate would prevent that too..i know that you should water maters from the bottom..but rain won't do that..it hits wherever it hits !!

i've read a lot about the red mulch and they say it does work..but i'm not big on paying money for petroleum products if i can avoid it.
 
                              
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Location: Inland Central Florida, USA
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I know in hydroponic indoor growing ya want to use different color spectrum lighting for different stages of plant growth.  Higher color temp (more blue) for vegitative growth and then switch to a lower color temp (more red) lighting to induce blooming and fruiting (along with all that the nutrient mix is usually switched to provide more phosphorus and less nitrates.)

Outside in good soil with good sunlight....... Is red plastic effective.  I don't know.  I would much rather simply mulch with something that allows the soil to breath better but still helps with temperature and moisture.  Then again, Most of my tomatoes grow in the Aquaponic system since our sandy ground is really prone to nematodes so how would I know.

 
Susan Monroe
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Location: Western WA
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Brenda, I'm pretty sure it's the soil splashing onto the lower leaves of the tomato plants that causes the wilt.

When I first started growing tomatoes here in western WA, everyone said not to mulch because it will cool down the soil and the plants will slow down their ripening.  So I kept the soil bare.  And the soil splashed onto the leaves, and they got wilt.

So one year I planted my tomatoes and encircled them with largish rocks to absorb heat in daytime, and release it at night.  Once I took the plastic 5-gal bottles off them, I removed the rocks and replaced them with straw mulch, after removing the lower leaves.  No soil splashed on the leaves through the mulch, and the plants didn't get wilt.  They got their leaves watered, and they got rained on, but they didn't get wilt.

Now, that's how I grow tomatoes.  The straw also seemed to reduce the not-enough-water/too-much-water stress problem, and the plants grew better and more steadily. And they ripened just fine.

Sue
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