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.

Larry Hodgson is one of Canada’s best-known garden communicators. He has notably been editor-in-chief of HousePlant Magazine, Fleurs, Plantes et Jardins, À Fleur de Pot and Houseplant Forum magazines and is currently the garden correspondent for Le Soleil and radio garden commentator for CKIA-FM Radio. He has written for many garden publications in both the United States and Canada, including Canadian Gardening, Harrowsmith, Horticulture, Fine Gardening and Organic Gardening. He also speaks frequently to horticultural groups throughout Canada and the U.S. His book credits include The Garden Lover’s Guide to Canada, Complete Guide to Houseplants, Making the Most of Shade, Perennials for Every Purpose, Annuals for Every Purpose, and Houseplants for Dummies, as well as nearly 60 other titles in English and French. He is a past president of the Garden Writers Association (now Garden Communicators International) and the winner of the prestigious 2006 Garden Media Promoter Award offered by the Perennial Plant Association. He resides in Quebec City, Quebec, Canada.

2 comments on “When Tomatoes See Red

  1. Deborah B.

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

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