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General discussion regarding the techniques and methods used to successfully grow tomato plants in containers.

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Old May 8, 2018   #1
jillian
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Default Container mulch

I have an abundance of leaves accumulated over several years, it gets added to yearly at leaf blowing time. I don't have a shredder but most of the leaves are broken down and there's quite a bit of leaf mold as well.
I pile them on tarps and chop as best I can with a shovel, then mulch my garden beds.
I usually use pine needles or bagged mulch for containers, but I don't have any on hand. Straw is hard to find around here, and my leaves are free.
Are there any cons of leaf mulch in containers? I don't want to jeopardize the potting medium and cause potential problems to the plants.
Thanks in advance.
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Old May 8, 2018   #2
Stvrob
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I do the same, if there is a downside Id like to know about it.
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Old May 8, 2018   #3
Nan_PA_6b
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Mulch as you're using the word is organic stuff that's going to eventually break down to help the soil, probably in a year or so. I don't see why leaves would be better or worse than other organic matter.

I've got a thick layer of leaves on my garden this year.

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Old May 8, 2018   #4
jtjmartin
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My garden soil seems to have bacterial wilt so I graft. However, last year I grew dwarf tomatoes in containers with bagged garden soil lightened with chopped leaves and rotted wood. The ungrafted dwarfs did fine without any wilt.

I think leaf mulch would do just fine.
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Old May 9, 2018   #5
brownrexx
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I think that it would depend of why you are growing in containers. If it is to avoid some pathogen in the soil then you might not want to use leaves since they have lain on the soil and may have picked up spores of whatever you are trying to avoid.

Otherwise chopped leaves make great mulch on the garden and I don't see why they would not be good in containers.
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Old May 9, 2018   #6
jillian
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Thanks guys. I guess my thought was using the leaves in "soilless" containers might introduce some "bad bugs". That's why in the past I have used bagged mulches, but I think I will go ahead and use the leaves which I have on hand for free.

I have always had success growing in containers, the critters don't seem to bother them as much. This year I am comparing growing inground, raised bed, and containers. New to me this year are several earthbox containers, so far so good. All of my container plants are ahead of the ones in the beds, maybe due to the fact we had several nights of mid 30 temps and had frost damage. I thought I might have to pull a couple of them but they are recovering

Last edited by jillian; May 9, 2018 at 11:41 AM. Reason: Typo
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Old May 9, 2018   #7
bjbebs
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I incorporate many tons of leaves into ground soils every year. I add to a large pile and keep it stirred with a loader bucket. This pile is allowed to break down. It might take a good 5 years to produce what I call leaf mold. This is added to all my container mixes, not as a mulch but an ingredient. I really believe leaves are the best nature provides for plant growth and soil health.
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Old May 10, 2018   #8
fonseca
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Downsides depend on where you live. I don't use leaves, even partially composted leaves, as mulch because it attracts earwigs and pillbugs. Both love hiding under leaves during the day.

Fully-composted leaves are fantastic, I added six cubic feet to my soilless mix this year.
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Old May 11, 2018   #9
jillian
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Fonseca, earwigs and pillbugs are plentiful here, especially earwigs. I hate them, but not as much as the evil fire ants. Both seem to eventually find my container plants, so I am on guard anyway. Finally found a product that takes care of fire ants, I just have to stay on top of it.

I also use my own finished compost in my containers. I got lazy about it and didn't have any ready when I planted out but I have a couple piles coming along nicely.

I went ahead and mulched containers with the leaves. All seems well at least for now.
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Old May 12, 2018   #10
pecker88
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The only downside to shreaded leaves as mulch I've seen is they blow away easily. Here on the windy plains we commonly get winds around 30-40 mph and the leaves blow away immediately, whereas traditional wood mulch wouldn't.
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Old May 12, 2018   #11
Nan_PA_6b
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Chopped leaves or ground up leaves stay a bit better. Wet 'em down for a temporary fix, then can get something to put on top of them, like a bit of dirt or wood chips.
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Old May 15, 2018   #12
fonseca
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jillian View Post
Fonseca, earwigs and pillbugs are plentiful here, especially earwigs. I hate them, but not as much as the evil fire ants
I am thankful not to have fire ants. Earwigs do more damage than slugs in my garden, and sometimes they get indoors. Ugh. Never had them in Virginia.

I use coconut coir husk chips as mulch. I hate paying for it when I have bags of both partially-composted and dry leaves, but the coir chips with their "sharp" fibrous edges seem to deter slugs and host fewer earwigs. It sort of forms a mat in the container after a while.

I always have a few containers with pine straw, shredded oak leaves, and pine bark. I don't use plastic mulch sheets, even on my earthboxes. I don't like the idea of an impermeable layer of plastic. I want to conserve enough moisture that the top layer of soil doesn't dry out, but evaporation and oxygen is also good.
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