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Member discussion regarding the methods, varieties and merits of growing tomatoes.

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Old December 31, 2019   #1
nickfarm45
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Default Growing on Black plastic?

Hey everyone, want to say Happy new year!

Just wondering about growing on black plastic, I'm in Ontario Canada. Wouldn't say I have a super cold climate but It doesn't hurt to have a bit extra heat here. I was thinking about doing some tomatoes and bell peppers as well on black plastic this year.

Hoping to get a few earlier tomatoes in 2020, and make weeding a bit easier in the early season. Is it worth doing this ? I know this sub is for tomatoes but I Am really hoping to get a much better bell pepper crop as well and hoping if the plastic can warm up the soil and give them a boost that would really help.

I will do some on plastic and some my normal way without it and see what happens but looking for some discussion on it.

thanks
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Old December 31, 2019   #2
Labradors2
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Happy New Year!

I do it and it works wonderfully for my tomatoes. I don't actually use it for peppers, but I should think they would love it too!

I also bought some red plastic (on sale) at Canadian Tire. The strips happened to fit my garden perfectly, but is rather skinny, so I have to put some newspapers under it, otherwise weeds still grow! It works fine as mulch.

I have noticed that the areas covered in black or red plastic seem to work better than the adjoining areas which are covered in a thick layer of pond weed. So there you are.

Linda
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Old December 31, 2019   #3
MrBig46
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I grow everything on black foil - tomatoes, peppers, pumpkins, kohlrabi, Chinese cabbage, lettuce, strawberries and in 2020 I also count on potatoes, ocher and aubergines. Without foil only beans and peas. Used woven foil that permits water. These woven foils should last for 15 years (I have some for five years and it is not visible on them).
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Old December 31, 2019   #4
NewWestGardener
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I used landscaping fabric like MrBig46 above in the field, and it makes a huge difference in terms of weed suppression and water conservation, it probably helps with temperature too.
It is a pain to plant with the fabric, and cleaning up at the end of season, so I may switch to mulching with hay which could be turned in. In home garden, it may not be a lot extra work, so definitely worth trying.
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Old December 31, 2019   #5
Cole_Robbie
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If you go with plastic, you will want to make a ridge in which to plant, so the rainwater runs off. And drip tape is the norm as well. I used the woven cloth for my hemp last year, and the plants did well. I got through most of the summer without irrigation, but ended up putting down drip tape when the weather turned very dry. My ground under the cloth was never tilled. It was very hard at first, but softens over time under the cloth.
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Old December 31, 2019   #6
Nan_PA_6b
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With plastic, how do you keep them watered? Garden cloth that is permeable by water works much better. If it's black it holds in water and suppresses weeds. I also have some white stuff I use where the plants don't get enough sun (white reflects back light to them) and it doesn't keep the weeds down.
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Old January 1, 2020   #7
Labradors2
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I use aqua cones because when the plants get big, it's really difficult to direct the water to the stem area. Some years I don't have to water much at all because the plastic stops evaporation and that's the whole point for me.
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Old January 1, 2020   #8
ddsack
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I use black plastic under my cucumber and squash. After planting everything, I hose it down thoroughly and look for the low spots where water pools and can't run off. I use a knife to make slits so the water can drain down under in these low spots. When I plant, I cut an X in the plastic about 8-10 inches long, make a depression for the plant, and lay the X flaps back down, so I can water and fertilize close to the stem. I only hand water, so in hot dry weather there has to be a way to get additional water under the plastic. If you have an underground irrigation system, it would be ideal. The aqua cones sound good too, but we rarely buy anything that comes in that size container.
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Old January 1, 2020   #9
Labradors2
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Dee, I don't drink soda either, but our neighbours do, so I scour the street on "blue bin" day, and now have a lot of recycled quart-sized plastic soda bottles .
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Old January 1, 2020   #10
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Good idea! We live out in the sticks, so no garbage pickup in our neighborhood or township road. We bring our garbage to the county transfer station when we accumulate enough, you throw it into labeled, partitioned areas, over a waist high fence. My husband usually takes it in by himself, and I'm pretty sure would object to going in the gates to retrieve the jugs! I should find some neighbor with teenagers that drink a lot of soda pop!
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Old January 1, 2020   #11
Labradors2
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Sounds good Dee. Actually, it's my 60+ y.o. neighbor who provides the most bottles which are from ginger ale and lemon drinks!

Linda
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Old January 7, 2020   #12
NewWestGardener
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What is an aqua cone, Linda? Could you tell me more about that? I kind of remember Lee Valley sells something, made of clay, to plug into soil with a water bottle attached, does that work well for you?
Watering is a big issue for me where I am volunteering, in a small farm with a greenhouse, with limited well water supply. So hand watering is one challenge but it is also difficult for me to get to ( have to drive there and take a little ferry), so I wonder if those cones can be used for the greenhouse (40-50 plants) What do you think?

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Old January 7, 2020   #13
FarmerShawn
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What I've read is that if you really want to heat the soil, use clear plastic. Black will help some, but only where it contacts the soil directly, and not very deeply. But clear plastic will be no help at all for weed suppression. Red, I've read, helps tomatoes some in the south, but not noticeably in the north. I plant almost everything now in either black plastic or landscape fabric, using drip tape for irrigation under both. Soil must be fertilized and prepped before planting, because adding it later isn't really an option. I do prefer the fabric, because it is reusable, and I feel guilty using the plastic. though I am switching to biodegradable plastic (made from corn starch) for much of it. It's more expensive, but I feel less guilty. Weeding is almost a thing of the past, though pathways are still a problem for me. The nicest option is 15' wide fabric, which covers several rows and pathways, and all my tomatoes and a few other things go in that. Making appropriate holes to plant in is one issue. That's why I still use the plastic, or the biodegradable. For the pathways that remain uncovered, I just let the weeds grow (my version of cheap cover cropping) and I keep the pathways weedwhacked to minimize seed production.
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Old January 7, 2020   #14
BigVanVader
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I've used black plastic, clear, reflective and weed cloth. They all serve a purpose and work well for particular applications. I use a drip line rated for underground use so it stays buried at the root zone year round. Since I never till more than a few inches to incorporate organic matter I don't ever need to move it. You gotta have drip if you use plastic. In my climate the plastic heats the soil by several degrees quite rapidly and also reduces watering, stops topsoil erosion, and holds amendments in place. I typically run my drip 30 mins per day during normal Spring/Summer weather. I use a cheap hose bib timer & it works great. I installed inline shut-off valves at every bed/row to eliminate the need for multiple zones. Now I just turn off the rows of anything I don't want watered. I have 3 kids & a full time job, weeding was ruining my garden experience and a combination of plastic mulches has eliminated 99% of my weeding. Good luck!
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Old January 8, 2020   #15
greenthumbomaha
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Agree on the usefulness for weeding. I buy in bulk, 3-6 feet wide and in 300 foot rolls. Dewitt is usually the brand I buy. I saw something about a new product that lasts longer - not sure if it is the same brand.

The nomenclature: fabric, foil, woven, non-woven is a bit confusing. The product Mr. Big uses looks like a woven polypropylene fabric which lets air and water thru but not light for weed prevention. A solid plastic or foil is very different in watering needs, but may be better in initially warming the soil.

It really cuts down on pulling weeds and keeping the soil moist for me.

- Lisa
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