Laidback Gardener Tip of the Day

When Tomatoes See Red

20150530For reasons still somewhat unclear, certain colors can help stimulate the growth of tomatoes… and that includes the color red. It is believed that this effect comes from the color reflecting a specific spectrum of light to the plant, which in turn triggers photosynthesis… and of course, photosynthesis boosts growth, increases yields, and stimulates faster maturation. So if you spread the red plastic mulch under tomato plants, they’ll grow better with more numerous fruits that will ripen faster than those of tomatoes grown in bare soil.

Of course, part of this effect comes from the fact that plastic mulch of any color warms the soil and therefore also stimulates faster growth, especially in cool climates. Still, red plastic mulch gives better results than black plastic mulch or transparent mulch.

Red plastic mulch has also been tested with success on other fruit-bearing vegetables: melons, peppers, squash, cucumbers, etc., even strawberries (which aren’t vegetables, after all). All bear more, better and earlier with a red plastic mulch, at least when compared to bare soil. In increase in yield of 20% is often stated… although that depends on local conditions.

You can readily find red plastic mulch specifically for tomatoes on the market. If it’s not available locally, try Lee Valley Tools and Harris Seeds, just two of many mail order sources.

20150530BWhat? Red is just not your color? In that case, more recent studies show that the blue plastic mulch is even more effective than red plastic mulch. However, it is difficult to find blue plastic mulch on the market. Harris Seeds is one of the rare places that does offer it.

Garden writer and blogger, author of 65 gardening books, lecturer and communicator, the Laidback Gardener, Larry Hodgson, passed away in October 2022. Known for his great generosity, his thoroughness and his sense of humor, he reached several generations of amateur and professional gardeners over his 40-year career. Thanks to his son, Mathieu Hodgson, and a team of contributors, will continue its mission of demystifying gardening and making it more accessible to all.

3 comments on “When Tomatoes See Red

  1. It is a very useful blog and very important information about Red Plastic Mulch.

  2. Deborah B.

    The blue looks like a blue tarp. Is that what it is out is it something else?

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