UACES Facebook Mulch


January 2013

QuestionFor the last two years my son has used black plastic under his vegetables for weed control . I wanted to suggest pine straw to him , but I don't know what happens with pine straw as it breaks down. We plant tomatoes, okra, peppers, purple hull peas. What should I use in place of the black plastic?


AnswerBlack plastic can be used in a vegetable garden, and it does heat up the soil early, but can get it too hot by later in the season. If you are using plastic, you need to make sure that there is a drip system or soaker hose under the plastic, or watering can be a real challenge. Pine straw is ok for a vegetable garden, but it is slower to break down than some mulches and will eventually make the soil more acidic. Shredded leaves, shredded paper and straw make great mulches and can easily be added back into the soil.

July 2012

QuestionI have tomatoes in size ranging from dime size to silver dollar size. A large number of these tomatoes have dark brown and/or black areas at the bottom of the tomato. What is causing this and what can I do?


AnswerBlossom end rot has started in our gardens. Although it looks like a disease, it is actually a calcium deficiency which affects some varieties more than others. It often hits our gardens when it has been really dry and we get a downpour of rain. Fluctuating water levels make it much worse. Try to mulch your garden and keep it as evenly moist as possible in these dry days. There are some calcium sprays like Stop Rot or calcium chloride which can help, but even watering and mulch should also do the trick. It won’t correct the tomatoes that have the problem, but should prevent more from succumbing.


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