Why Use Colored Plastic Mulch: Learn About Different Colors Of Mulch

Why Use Colored Plastic Mulch: Learn About Different Colors Of Mulch

If you’re a gardener who has always used a standard type oforganic mulch, you may be surprised to learn about the popularity of plasticmulch. It has been used to increase crop yields for decades. Plastic mulch isnow available in an array of colors, with different mulch colors said to assistin different garden tasks. If you want to learn more about plastic coloredmulches and their uses, read on.

About Colored Plastic Mulch

Plastic mulch, virtually unknown just a little while ago, iscoming into its own. These days, many farms and backyard gardens use“plasticulture” to modify microclimates and improve crop quality. In fact, thebenefits of using plastic mulch are numerous. It warms the soil, minimizesevaporation, limits leaching of nutrients from the soil, and results in moreand better crops that are ready to harvest earlier.

Mulch,of course, is a material you layer over garden soil to reduce weeds, hold inwater and control soil temperature. The plastic mulch on the market aids cropgrowth by either reflecting, absorbing or transmitting the sunshine. The colorsof mulch determine its impact on a crop.

You may have seen the rolls of black plastic mulch availableat garden stores. But if you look around, you’ll also find mulch in differentcolors in commerce, from yellow to green to red. Colored plastic mulch is notintended to be ornamental. Each of the different mulch colors is said to workwell in a particular circumstance or with a particular crop. You pick yourmulch colors to match your garden needs.

Colors of Mulch and Benefits

The research on the benefits of plastic colored mulches isfar from complete, so these products are not sold with guarantees. However,preliminary research suggests that mulch in different colors can be usedachieve different results.

Of all the colors of mulch, black is perhaps the mostprevalent and the least expensive. It is said to suppress weeds better than anyother plastic mulch thanks to its opacity. It also keeps soil warm during thegrowing season, raising the soil temperature by up to 5 degrees at a 2-inch (5cm.) depth. That allows you to put out plants earlier and expect a quickerharvest.

On the other hand, red colored plastic mulch is said to workmuch better for some crops. For example, tomatoesin some studies yielded 20 percent more fruit on red mulch colors, and strawberriesgrown on red plastic mulch were sweeter and had a better fragrance.

How about blue mulch? Blue plastic colored mulches arebetter than black for big harvests if you are planting cantaloupes,summersquash or cucumbers,according to reports. Silver mulch is great at keeping aphidsand whitefliesaway from crops, and also reduces the population of cucumberbeetles.

Both brown and green colors of mulch are available ininfrared transmitting plastic (IRT). This type of mulch is said to warm up yoursoil better than plastic mulch in the beginning of the growing season. GreenIRT mulch also seems to support an earlier ripening date for your cantaloupecrops, with higher yields of fruit.

Edible Landscaping - Much Ado About Mulch

Pine straw mulch is popular in the Southeast where it's harvested from pine forests. It's attractive, conserves soil moisture, stops weed growth, and adds organic matter to the soil as it breaks down.

If there is one technique that will make your gardening easier this summer it is proper mulching. Whether it's mulching the vegetable garden, around fruit trees, amongst berry bushes, or in the herb garden, the right mulch will reduce weed growth, conserve soil moisture, make the garden look beautiful, and increase yields. The question is which mulch to use for each plant. Here's my rundown of various mulches and how to use them in your edible landscape to make it more beautiful and productive.

Vegetable Garden Mulches

A mix of organic mulches is the best way to go in annual vegetable and flower gardens. Which mulch you use depends on where you live and what you're growing. Cool-season crops, such as broccoli, lettuce, greens, cabbage, peas, and pansies, do best with mulch that keeps the soil cool and moist. A 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of straw, pine straw, untreated grass clippings, or shredded dried leaves is best. Other regional mulches may work well too. (Refer to the Mulching Fruit Trees and Berries section of this article.) Avoid using hay if possible since it can be loaded with weed seeds. The added benefit of organic mulch is it will break down during the growing season, improving the soil structure and fertility.

If you're really into production, consider using soil-warming plastic mulches on heat-loving crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, squashes, cucumbers, and melons . In all but the Deep South and Southwest, plastic mulches will increase yields and encourage crops to bear earlier. Some of these mulches decrease pest attacks, too. However, in hot climates the plastic will warm the soil too much and cause a decrease in growth. And to most gardeners they're not as attractive as organic mulches.

It's not as simple as laying down black plastic anymore. Research has found that different colors of mulch increase the yields of different crops. Below is some information to help you match mulch color to crop.

Different Colored Mulches in Vegetables:

Studies at Pennsylvania State University have shown an increase in yields of various vegetables grown on colored mulches compared to the same vegetable grown on black plastic mulch, averaged over a 3-year period. Most of these colored mulches are available for homeowners to purchase.

VegetableColored MulchYield Increase
tomatoesred 12%
eggplant red12%
peppers silver 20%
melons green/blue35%
cucumbers blue30%
summer squash blue20%
Mulches for Fruit Trees and Berries

Organic mulch under fruit trees allows the roots to expand in the cool, damp soil without competition from weeds.

Mulching fruit trees and berry-producing shrubs is similar to mulching any woody landscape plant. Mulch not only reduces weed growth and conserves soil moisture, it also provides a barrier so lawn mowers and string trimmers won't scar the plant trunk. First remove the sod out to the drip line of the tree, shrub, or hedgerow of berry bushes. Add a 2- to 4-inch-thick layer of organic mulch around the plant. Good mulches include shredded bark, bark chips and nuggets, and pine straw. Check local nurseries and garden centers for regional organic mulches that are sustainably harvested or by-products of agricultural operations in your area. Some examples of unusual regional mulches include cottonseed, buckwheat, sawdust, corncobs, grape pomace, pine straw, and pecan, walnut, and rice hulls.Check that the crops weren't sprayed with harmful pesticides or herbicides.

There has been concern in the past about the decomposing carbon-rich mulches causing a nitrogen deficiency in the soil, but research has show that it isn't a problem on healthy soils. The bark decomposes so slowly that the soil microorganisms can digest it without using up the nitrogen in the soil meant for your plants.

Avoid "volcano" mulching -- piling new mulch on top of old until you end up with a tall mound. This technique leads to crown rot and eventually the tree's death.

If you add fresh mulch every year, remove the old mulch if it hasn't completely decomposed before adding new mulch. If mulch is allowed to build up it can create a mulch "volcano" that smothers roots and causes crown rot, eventually killing the plant. Always keep mulches a few inches away from the trunks of trees and shrubs.

It's cheapest to buy mulch in bulk, but that may not be practical. For small yards bagged mulch is fine. Consider the site and how it is used when choosing the type of mulch. Large bark nuggets are difficult to walk on and are best used along foundations and in garden beds rather than on paths. When mulching flood-prone areas and steep slopes, avoid large bark nuggets since they tend to float or wash away instead use shredded mulch or small bark chips.

Mulching Herb and Flower Gardens

Use a 2- to 4-inch layer of mulch in perennial gardens, keeping the mulch a few inches from plant stems. Don't bury plants in the mulch or they may rot in wet weather.

Apply a light layer of organic mulch around herbs and soft-stemmed annual and perennial plants. A 1- to 2-inch-thick layer is sufficient. Consider exotic mulches in the herb garden for an unusual effect. Cocoa bean hulls, a by-product of the chocolate- making industry, give off an alluring chocolate aroma when used as mulch. This material is best for areas out of the wind (it blows away easily), doesn't flood (it will wash away) and where dogs won't be tempted to eat it (chocolate is toxic to canines). The smell won't last all summer but makes a great conversation piece and a way to get the culinary juices flowing.

Final Thoughts on Mulching Your Veggie Garden

Mulching is a very rewarding gardening technique that will keep your garden healthy if done right. It needs very little of your attention to function as intended but still needs to be maintained. Overall, mulch offers countless benefits for your garden.

Final Tip: Remember, it is important to remove weeds as soon as they start to grow to keep your garden attractive and tidy.

Are there any other mulches you use for your vegetable garden? Please let me know by commenting below as I would love to add it to my list!

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About Benita Abucejo

Hi there! My name is Benita Abucejo. What can I say? I truly love spending my days in the outdoors, specifically in the garden. Gardening has always been a strong passion of mine since I was a little girl. It has brought me so much joy and happiness that it is definitely safe to say that I will be a gardener for life. For a period of time, I was able to work with people who are into home gardening and I found it to be quite beneficial to my physical health, as well as my mental well-being. Here at Seasonal Preferences, I am going to share with you my experience and ideas so that you can fulfill yourself with the same satisfaction and happiness. Of course, if you have ideas, I would love to hear those as well! Being creative in the garden can really be quite fascinating so let's share our experiences and be the best gardeners we can be. With that being said, thank you for dropping by and please leave me a comment on one of my posts if you would like to get in touch!

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