By Mindy McIntosh-Shetter
Mulch is a wonderful thing for the tomato garden.
It provides weed control, helps retain soil moisture, raises the soil temperature, and in some instances can raise fruit yield.
But being an environmentalist and avid recycler I am always looking for ways of use some items that normally would end up in the trash.
So as I look at my collection of birthday balloons I come up with the idea of Mylar.
Mylar has a wonderful reflective nature that tomatoes love. It is easy to work with and if you have a lot of tomatoes it can be purchased on a roll. But if you have a few tomatoes recycling your old Mylar balloons is the way to go not only due to the expense but also it keeps those pesky balloons out of the landfill.
To complete this project gather the Mylar balloons together and remove any ribbon or string that may be attached. Begin to cut the seam apart with a pair of scissors. Once this is done lay balloon half shiny side up where you want to place your tomato plant. Secure to the ground or pot with landscape staples, cut an “X” in the center, and plant in this space. Close “X” around plant and stake if needed.
One may ask why besides the repurposing factor would one want to use Mylar as mulch and the answer is simple. The reflective nature of Mylar increase produce yields of plants such as tomatoes that thrive in warm soil and warm weather. Also it has been found that certain pests such as whiteflies do not like the reflective surface for Mylar and will not infest plants with this type of mulch. Deer also steer away for gardens with Mylar mulch or streamers placed in and around the garden area.
If you do not have any Mylar balloons or do not want to buy Mylar by the roll there is another choice for silver reflective mulch. This is good old fashion aluminum foil. This product has the same reflective properties, as Mylar but if you have a large garden can be quite expensive. Another alternative is painting cardboard silver but again the size of your garden may be too large to warrant such an expense.
But regardless of what one chooses to use it is always better to recycle and/or repurpose when ever possible to save money, resources, and time.
So until we blog again, Mirror, mirror on the wall whose the fairest gardening gnome of them all? It is the one that can see her face on the ground here and far, and in between the plants to protect them all. While some creatures thrive in their own reflection, tomato pests run from the pure thought of seeing their own expression. So if you can and if you must recycle your birthday balloons that have bust, into reflection pools of light around your tomato plants of delight.