Question from Newport News, VA. What are good mulches for the vegetable garden?
Answer: I use a variety of materials and all have merit. Melons do well with black plastic mulch. Tomatoes here in Oregon are showing good results from red plastic mulch. This year I will plant peppers with a newspaper mulch to suppress weeds, about three sheets seems sufficient and it just breaks down into the soil. Straw makes a good mulch, but can be weedy so you might seek out rotted oat or wheat straw. Plastic is kind of a hassle at a cleanup time but it is reliable. Shredded leaves are excellent. You will conserve water with mulches but need to adjust irrigation, running leaky pipe under the mulch is probably the easiest. Match your mulch to the plants requirements, don’t use acidic pine needles with lime loving cucumbers, or heat retaining plastic with cool crops such as broccoli or cabbage. If your garden is in a breezy location fix the mulch in place so it doesn’t blow around and make a mess. If slugs and snails are an issue in your area don’t create a safe haven under the mulch. Keep an eye out for them, trap and cleanup and consider using a safe product like sluggo.