Thursday, June 14, 2012

Tomato Patch: Help Solve My Mulch Problem

My mulched tomatoes, May 31
I have a new problem—living mulch—in the Tomato Patch, and I hope you will tell me how you think I can solve the problem.

I mulched most of my rows of tomato transplants in my usual way—sheets of newspaper covered with a thin layer of straw.  About a third of my plants are mulched just with straw because I ran out of newspaper.

Most years I discover one or two volunteer wheat plants—or maybe they’re barley—in late June or July—from seeds that hitch-hiked in with the straw.  I’ve always pulled those few volunteers without a thought.

'Living mulch,' June 14
This year, however, I have hundreds—no, thousands—of volunteer grain plants—weeds, if you will.  Tomato Patch looks like a newly seeded lawn sprouting in the springtime.  I think some farmer must have harvested his grain before it was fully ripe and much of the grain ended up in bales of straw for sale at a local farm-supply store instead of in a bag of flour or chicken feed.

What should I do?  I can easily hoe the volunteers at the edges of the rows, but how should I attack the living mulch in my rows of tomato plants?  It’s growing on top of the newspaper in places and directly in the garden soil where I hadn’t used newspaper.

Help!  If you have a suggestion, please post a Comment—soon.

I’ll let you know later how I solve this baleful problem—if I do indeed.


  1. I'd say you have a lot of work cut out for ya!! Guess you will just have to tackle it with your hands and on yer knees!! Gardening is fun, but troublesome at times. Be thinkin about ya!! Hope you find a solution!!

  2. I had that happen once many years ago, and have been very careful to use other types of mulch ever since!! If you come up with an easy solution, please be sure to pass it along.

  3. 1. A great experiment in intercropping!
    2. Mow the "grass," don't pull it.
    3. Pull the tomatoes and harvest grain. Easier "weeding."
    4. Lay down cardboard mulch over the grain, remove after kill.
    5. Drip irrigate tomatoes, no water for grain. Might work here in California, probably not on East Coast.

    Troy Dickson