Mulching

The soil should be mulched when tomato plants are about 0.5 m high. Straw is the most common mulch material, but ground corn cobs are also acceptable. The mulch reduces evaporation and soil compaction. Also, when mulch is present, little soil is splashed onto plants during watering, thus avoiding dust in the greenhouse. Furthermore, mulch releases a considerable amount of carbon dioxide as it breaks down, which helps plant growth. Mulch also turns into useful organic matter after it is incorporated into the soil at the end of the cropping season. However, mulching with organic by-products gives rise to the well-known problems associated with the addition of any organic matter to intensely cultivated soils, as discussed earlier. In recent years, mulching has not been practiced widely; instead, a white polyethylene film is used to cover the ground whenever the irrigation method permits it. This mulchingalternative has several advantages and is best practiced in conjuction with drip irrigation.

Table 9 Recommended fertilizer application rates (kg/ha)

Stock solution 1 Stock solution 2*

Week from 10-52-10 Magnesium Potassium Calcium Amonium planting starter 20-5-30 sulfate nitrate nitrate nitrate

1 100

2 50

3 50

4 100

1 100

2 50

3 50

4 100

5

100

100

50

50

6

100

50

7

100

100

50

100

8

100

50

9

100

100

100

100

10

100

100

11

100

100

100

12

100

100

100

13

100

100

100

14

100

100

15

100

100

100

100

0.5

16

100

100

17

100

100

100

0.5

18

100

100

100

19

100

100

100

0.5

20

100

100

21

100

100

100

100

0.5

22

100

100

23

100

100

100

0.5

24

100

100

25

150

26

150

  • Choose soluble fertilizer formulations that are as free as possible of chlorides, sulfates, and carbonates.
  • For a spring crop do not vary the schedule.
  • For a low-fertility soil or early setting cultivars (e.g., Vendor) omit, weeks 3 and 4 and proceed immediately to week 5 after week 2.

For a fall crop omit weeks 2, 3, and 4 and proceed immediately to week 5 after week 1.

• Caution ; If fertilizers are first mixed in thick stock solutions before they are applied to the crop, they should be grouped as indicated. Do not mix in the same concentrated solution a fertilizer containing calcium and one containing sulfate or phosphate, as such a mixture results in a thick suspension that can plug watering equipment.

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