Montana State University

Doctor Bob's Northern Gardening Tips: Tomatoes and Peppers Like a Mulch of a Different Color

June 23, 2003 -- with Robert Gough, PhD, Montana State University Extension Horticulture Specialist

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MSU News Service
Tel: (406) 994-4571
Bozeman--Your garden may be bursting with color, but what about your mulch? Red and silver plastic mulches will not only brighten up your garden, they may help you reap a bigger harvest of tomatoes and peppers.

A two-year MSU study indicated that peppers mulched with red or silver plastic set more fruit earlier than those with black plastic or no plastic. Ripening was speeded up, too.

We also found that tomatoes grown on red or silver mulches produced the greatest early fruit set and more ripe fruit. In our study, black plastic was similar to no mulch at all in terms of fruit set and ripening.

More studies need to be done, but we can now say that silver and red mulches speed ripening in tomatoes and peppers under Bozeman conditions. Why not try it in your own area?

For more tomato growing tips, request the fact sheet, "Growing Tomatoes in Montana" (publication MT199217-AG) at your local MSU Extension office; download it at, or search Dr. Bob's website at

The Montana State University Extension Service is an educational resource dedicated to improving the quality of people's lives by providing research-based knowledge to strengthen the social, economic and environmental well being of families, communities and agricultural enterprises.

Contact: Robert Gough, MSU Plant Sciences and Plant Pathology (406) 994-4832,