What should I use as mulch in my vegetable garden?
Not all vegetable plants like the same growing conditions, so it’s best to pair the mulch with the crop. For instance, heat-loving peppers, tomatoes, eggplant and melons are great candidates for black plastic mulch. Applied in early spring, the plastic will raise the soil temperature and help warm the air around the plants; it can present a watering challenge due to most plastic mulches being not water permeable. To prevent stressing plants, blossom-end rot or a diminished harvest, use a soaker hose under the mulch to ensure adequate watering.
Cool-weather crops, such as broccoli and greens, don’t want the extra heat from plastic mulch. They’ll be better off with straw, shredded leaves, paper mulch or newspaper. These mulches can lower soil temperature by as much as 20 to 25 degrees, which may keep cool-weather plants producing right through the summer’s heat.