Q: How many inches of mulch should I have in my tomato garden, and is it okay to use cypress mulch? –Calvin, Auburn, California

A: Roger Cook replies: When you first plant your tomatoes you don't want to mulch at all. You want the soil to heat up as much as possible, and adding mulch will inhibit soil temperature.

Once summer comes, you want to apply mulch to the soil to hold in moisture. An even more important reason to apply mulch is to keep water from rain or irrigation from splattering off the soil up onto the leaves and causing a fungus disease on the leaves.

You can mulch with grass as long as it's from a lawn that is not chemically treated. You'll need to replenish the grass clippings as they break down and leave the soil exposed.

Any mulch will work, including cypress, but I'd suggest hay as a good manageable mulch for the garden. Two to three inches of mulch should be fine.
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