Has anyone used red plastic mulch on your tomatoes and if so do you think it was worth it?
I have and it does work. It warms the soil and acts as a mulch in retaining moisture and preventing erosion as well as reflecting light up towards the plants. When the plants get so big that no direct light hits the red plastic, I switch it out and put down a thick layer of cotton burr compost as a mulch.
I would recommend putting extra holes in it as the perforated red squares are not very permeable. Even though I use drip irrigation under the plastic I don't like pools of water stagnating on mulch.
Here is a link that might be useful: Red Mulch Facts
There have been several discussions about in the past here but I don't know if they are still available or not. As I recall it generally gets mixed reviews at best. Much of its advertising claims just don't seem to pan out in actual practice. So it boils down to one of expense vs. plain organic mulches.
Personally I tried it 3 years in a row and found no noticeable improvements with it due to its color and some real problems with it just because it is plastic.
Mulch the plants? Definitely. But the red plastic stuff? The problems with plastic mulches aside, I decided it simply wasn't worth it.
I used it a few years ago...and found it annoying...puddles on the plastic and I just kept poking holes so the rain would get to the roots..I really found it messy..my favorite mulch is straw..even though it attracts slugs..or grass clippings..
I tried red mulch once. Did not do anything for me. What shocked me was that weeds grew like crazy underneath. I have much better results with plain old grass clippings.
I believe PSU researchers indicated that you might expect a benefit from red plastic in one out of five years. Go ahead and use it if you only need a small plot to mulch. I lay over a mile of plastic yearly and since the red stuff is over twice the price of black it hardly is economical. I do keep a roll in my market truck as it makes a suitable table covering, a nice contrast beneath green vegetables.
If it was free I would not use it! Stick with Straw/Grass Clippings and amend your soil with worm castings and Kelp.
I read about the red plastic in one of my gardening books. I thought it was a neat experiment to try out this year which is why all my container tomatoes are red. Let's see how they do this year, and I will report back.
I had a gardening friend in MA who used the red plastic (of course he paid $$$ for it) on his beds and had Awesome results. I've had good success without the red plastic but hey if you can make things better with "red" why not. As long as it is not costing me anything, i have nothing to lose by trying.
My plants look great this year. Even though i had some lousy weather for the past 2 weeks. Hopefully "red" does help with more yield :) and early ripening.
Here is a link that might be useful: Red Plastic
I tried the red plastic years ago...not that impressed. Then I tried SILVER reflective plastic film and WOW! It's not so much for the tomato plant, but it eliminates aphids! In four years of using the SRM film, I've only had one small outbreak of aphids and that was on a bed that didn't get covered with SRM. I quit using all pesticides since I started using SRM...never had a tomato horn worm, no problems with stink bugs, no bug problems at all except for night time moth invaders such as cabbage loopers and squash vine borers.
THe main problem with SRM is finding a source. I had to buy a huge roll of it out of Pennsylvania, but I've got many years worth of film for me and have sold a bunch of it to other gardeners for 50 cents a linear foot (it's 4 foot wide)
The best thing about SRM film is that you can see your gardens from space! lol
Huntoften, there must be a typo. 50 cents per foot would be $1000 for a 2000 ft roll. I can find other ways to control bugs at those prices.
I was present at the NE Vegetable Conference many years ago when Clemson U first introduced the red plastic.
It was never introduced as a mulch, rather, it was introduced as a method to increase yields and the first estimates were a 20% increase and it was introduced for commercial large scale farmers, not backyard growers.
There has to be several feet of the red showing on either side of a row of preferably determinate plants and the reflective properties were supposed to, as I said, increase yields.
But as the yars passed those yields went down to 15-20 % and then down to 10-15% and I don't know where they are now.
But consider this for the home grower. You have a plant that gives you 20 fruits, with the red you might get two more fruits, on average. And ask yourself if the cost of the plastic is worth it. For the large scale farmer with acres and acres of tomatoes it might be.
So, never introduced to be a mulch, always a way to increase fruit yields but many catalogs and websites still tout it for this and that.
I sat in the audience when the Clemson researchers presented their data and after the presentation there were pamphlets of data as you left the room which I took with me.
One nice thing about the conference was that it was held at Sturbridge, MA, and many of us took the opportunity to visit the reconstructed original village.
I also remember very well being boxed in by two semis as I drove the Mass Pike back to the Albany area. ( smile)
Carolyn, who was there b'c she'd been invited to give a presentation on heirloom tomatoes.
2,000 feet of tomatoes? That's a lot of lycopene!
Not sure what your profit is off of 2K feet of tomatoes, but if aphids are a problem, the SRM will save you a lot of weakened plants and a lot of money on pesticides.
If you buy the roll yourself it's much cheaper than 50 cents a foot...you have to buy a huge quantity (no problem if you have 2,000 feet to cover.