Sunday, May 24, 2009

Colored mulch 101

I have decided to experiment with colored mulch this year.
I have both the silver and red plastic. But have not installed it as yet. I used red cloth and tin foil first to see if it works. I have read that the plastic only is usable for 1 season. Which makes it an expensive buy. Also there are more than one brand sold. Some are of better quality than the others. And if we can use our recycling skills we can look around and find things that may work just as well.
The scientific theory behind using red mulch is a specific pigment system in plants (phytochrome) responds to specific red wavelengths of light. If we enhance those wavelengths in the plant canopy, we should be able to change plant growth. Much like the red and blue LCD lights. I read the mulch need to be placed in wide areas around the plat to be affective. As a tray directly under it will not have muck affect if it is covered up by the plant.

research results from studies examining red mulch under tomatoes is very conflicting- in some cases, a yield benefit was observed, in others, no benefit.

Some say you need to use it more in mass on 10 plus plants to see any results.

One University study showed in 1999 no benefit was seen, but in the year 2000 tomatoes and peppers plants mulched with either silver or red mulch set more fruit earlier than those on the other treatments & bore more fruit than plants.
Different tomato varieties also appear to respond differently to the red mulch.
There is also some indication from different trials that red mulch may also be reducing the severity of early blight on tomatoes. Fruit grown on yellow produced the smallest fruit

At this time I have cypress mulch under my tomatoes.
I always use this under flowers in my garden but I am trying it under the tomatoes. And it is helping them to regain health. The was signs of early blight and insect damage. I had yellow leaves. See photos here.

One week ago Saturday I placed the aluminum foil under my cabbage and I already see less bug damage to the new leaves .
silver mulch has s a reflective, silvery sheen. The finish tends to confuse insects, thus discouraging them from attacking the plants. Silver mulch is especially effective against white flies, aphids, and thrips.
I am mixing up the silver and red in the broccoli and cauliflower plants.
I will add red to one tub and silver to the other to see if any help is had.
The asparagus is doing well. by it's self.
Tomatoes with get red and silver to see what works best.
Lettuce is sprouting.
My corn is starting to grow.

I have a blue pool cover and brown tarp I will try on the melons and cukes.
I will try diffrent colors on the bean rows.
University study Notes.
Blue-colored mulch improved yields of zucchini & honeydew.

Muskmelons. Plants (cv. Cordele) grown on green IRT, blue, red, silver mulch produced significantly more fruit (total yield) than plants grown on white mulch. In addition, plants grown on green IRT or blue mulch produced significantly more fruit compared to plants grown on black mulch. Larger fruit was harvested from plants grown on brown IRT mulch and the smallest from plants grown on black mulch.

blue and red, can have a dramatic impact on the soil temperatures, raising soil temperatures to 167o and 168o F, respectively, at the 2-inch depth when the ambient air temperature was 104 o F in Kansas

Mulch Color
Benefits Best crops


Increase soil temperature, change light quality
Eggplant, tomato, onion, potato
Black Increase soil temperature Potato, onion
Blue Increase soil temperature, change light quality Cucumber, summer squash, cantaloupe, Muskmelon
silver, Aluminum Reflective Decrease soil temperature, deters insects Pepper, onion and potato
Yellow Attracts insects Basil grown over yellow and green surfaces produced significantly higher concentrations of aroma compounds .
White Decrease soil temperature
Larger fruit



Soil solarization




University of connecticut

potato tuber production can be influenced by colored straw mulches

Colored mulch starves nematodes

(Penn State Center for Plasticulture)

(University of Minnesota)

1 comment:

Wendy said...

I've never heard of any of this! Good for you for trying new things. I hope you get good results.