It is a well established fact that mulching is a critical function in the practice of growing healthy tomatoes with high yields. Gardeners are always trying to figure out what would be the best mulch for their tomato plants.
In truth, there are several types of mulch that can be used for tomatoes. These include bark chips, wood chips, straw, leaves, grass clippings or even peat moss.
Now, before we consider the question of using bark chips, let's first look at why it's so crucial to mulch.
Why mulching is important
Mulching your tomatoes is perhaps one of the best things you can ever do for your plants. Here are some of the reasons why you must do it;
1. Mulch helps to conserve soil moisture. This is obviously due to the fact that the rate of water eveaporation is significantly reduced because of the soil covering.
2. It helps to suppress weeds that would otherwise be competing for nitrients with your tomatoes.
3. It will prevent your tomato fruits from touching the soil, causing them to rot or even transmit diseases.
4. Mulch especially with something like bark chips and wood chips works very well at reducing soil erosion as it is not easily swept away by winds unlike soils.
So, are bark chips good for mulching tomatoes?
Now,let's turn back to our initial question. When you conduct research online on this topic, you'll come up with lots of mixed opinions.
You'll find people who literally swear that bark chips are great for mulching tomatoes. You'll also find those who are adamant that bark chips do not qork for mulching tomatoes.
One thing you'll quickly notice is that the primary argument for those who are opposed to using bark chips is based on the assumption that the chips will deplete the soil of nitrogen.
You'll however notice that there is no authoritative document that is cited to back up this assumption.
To begin with, it is very doubtful that bark chips deplete soils of nitrogen. Here's one excellent article to read in order to know why;
Does wood chips deplete nitrogen from the soil
Although the above article is on wood chips, the principles apply 100% on bark chips. The truth is that there are some micro-organisms in the soil that need nitrogen in order to sustain themselves. These micro-organisms will hold on to the nitrogen until the bark chips have broken down.
The simple solution to the problem is to add some extra fertilizer which will provide adequate levels of nitrogen both for the micro-organisms as well as your tomato plants.
This way, you get to enjoy all the benefits of mulching with bark chips as stated above without suffering any loss of nitrogen.
Some tips when mulching with bark chips
Point 1 - Do not put thick layers of bark mulch around your plants. If the layer is too thick, it might be a bit of a problem for the water to find its way to the soil resulting in your tomatoes being water starved.
Point 2 - Conduct some periodic inspections and be certain that there are no moulds developing and that there is no compaction of the bark chips
To conclude, let me restate the fact that you can use bark chips to mulch your tomatoes. It is however important that you do it right, and you use quality bark chips for the task.