Newspaper is a great way to mulch tomato plants as it will keep weeds away for longer as it forms a protective barrier to stop weed seeds growing. Newspaper as mulch works best when combined with a top layer of 2-3 inches of straw which will hold the newspaper in place and feed worms and soil bacteria.
How to mulch tomato plants with newspaper – 6 Easy steps
Mulching tomatoes with newspaper is a great way to keep weeds away longer from your tomato plants. Here are the easy steps to mulch tomato plants with newspaper.
1. Clear the soil of other mulch
The first step to mulch tomato plants with newspaper is to remove any old mulch. Use a rake to gently pull the mulch back from the tomato plant. This old mulch can be placed in your compost bin to break down.
2. Add a handful of pelleted chicken manure or aged cow manure (this adds extra nitrogen)
Before adding the newspaper, sprinkle a small handful of pelleted chicken or aged cow manure on the soil. This will feed the tomato plant and soil bacteria with extra nitrogen to offset the small amount that will be trapped from the soil as the newspaper breaks down.
3. Layer 4-6 layers of newspaper between the tomato plants
Layer newspaper on top of the soil up to 6 layers thick in a cross hatch pattern. This will ensure that all areas of the soil are covered and any edges will be connected by many layers. This will reduce the amount of light that is able to reach weed seeds stopping them from growing.
4. Keep the newspaper 2-3 inches away from the tomato stem
Move the newspaper 2-3 inches away from the stem of the tomato after laying. This will ensure that the newspaper does not touch the stem and hold extra water against it which may cause rot. This will also allow rain water to easily drip through to the center of the tomato plant.
5. Layer 2-3 inches of straw mulch on top of the newspaper
Layer 2-3 inches of straw, sugar cane or hay on top of the newspaper layers. This will hold the newspaper in place and add extra protection from weed growth.
6. Water the mulch thoroughly
The final step is to water the mulch layers in thoroughly with the spray nozzle of your hose. This will hold the newspaper and straw mulch in place and thoroughly hydrate the mulch. The water will seep through to the soil keeping the tomato roots well watered.
Avoid spraying water on the tomato leaves to avoid disease. Always water on the soil near the tomato plant to keep the upper leaves, stem and flower dry.
Benefits of mulching tomato plants with newspaper
There are many benefits to mulching tomato plants with newspaper. Check out my top 4 reasons to mulch tomato plants with newspaper.
1. Prevent weeds for longer
Add newspaper layers around the tomato plants will keep weeds away for longer than a single mulch layer. The newspaper will add extra protection and stop weed seeds from receiving light and growing near your tomato bush.
This will mean that the tomato plant will not be competing for nutrients or water from the weed seeds and it will be longer before you need to top up or re-mulch altogether.
2. Keep water in for longer
Adding extra newspaper layers to the soil around your tomato plant will keep the water in the soil for longer. Tomatoes are thirsty plants so adding newspaper will help to reduce evaporation of water from the soil and keep the water levels regular.
The precious water you add to your tomato garden will be directed and used effectively by your tomato plant instead of evaporating out of the soil when the weather gets hot.
3. Add extra carbon to the soil
Newspaper is a great carbon source so will improve your soil structure over time. Soil bacteria and worms will come to digest the newspaper, breaking it down and mixing it into your soil. This will improve your garden soil over time and increase its water holding capacity
4. Low cost
Newspaper is a low cost or sometimes completely free way of adding an extra protective mulch layer around your tomato plants. If you can get your hands on a free newspaper, or an old one from a neighbor you can protect your plants for free and save on waste.
Mulching tomatoes with shredded newspaper
Shredded newspaper is another fantastic way to mulch your tomato plants. The shredded newspaper will hold air, moisture and protect the soil from weeds. This can be combined with straw to form an effective 2-3 inch layer of soil protection preventing weeds.
Shredded newspaper is light, will break down quickly and will work to improve your soil. Any extra can be added to your worm farm or compost to add an extra carbon layer that will absorb moisture and prevent your compost from smelling.
What to do with old newspaper mulch from tomato beds
Old newspaper can be removed from tomato beds once you are ready to replant and be placed in your compost bin or worm farm. If the old newspaper has broken down almost completely, the remaining pieces can just be dug into the soil and watered in.
The last bits of newspaper will break down quickly to feed the worms in your soil. Larger pieces should be removed and broken down further in your compost.
Mulching tomato plants with newspaper | Summary
Tomato plants can be mulched with newspaper to keep weeds away for longer. I would always combine this with a layer of light mulch such as straw or sugar cane to keep the newspaper in place and prevent it from blowing away.
For more on mulching windy spots, check out my previous guide here.
Mulching tomato plants with tree mulch can also work as a longer lasting mulch that will improve the soil. The key for success with all mulches is to keep it away from the tomato stem to prevent rot.
Mulch will help to protect the tomato plants from disease caused by soil splashing up onto the leaves.