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Plant & Pest Advisory > Vegetable Crops

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The points of contact between Rutgers Cooperative Extension Service and the grower & business communities are the NJ County Agricultural Agents. The agents are a tremendous source of information for both new and experienced growers. Visit your local county extension office.

Tuesday, June 7, 2011

Reducing Potential for Plastic Burn

Though not as susceptible
as peppers, tomatoes,
eggplant and squash trans-
plants can suffer plastic
burn on bright sunny, high
temperature days.
If you are using plastic mulch for weed suppression and water management, and less so for earliness because you're planting later in May and on into the summer months, black is probably not the best option in southern NJ, especially if the weather predictions indicate higher than normal heat patterns. Actually, it only takes a day of bright sun and high temperatures soon after transplanting to cause plastic burn.
--Rick VanVranken

I've advised for years that white, white striped or silver coated plastic mulch is a better choice in areas that have later planting windows than areas that are naturally early (think Hammonton vs. Swedesboro, respectively). If you are using black plastic, other means of cooling the plastic around the transplant hole include:
  • Place a scoop of soil (treated the same as the soil beneath the plastic including herbicides and/or fumigation) around the transplant and overlapping the plastic, preventing contact between the plastic and plant, as well as reducing wind flapping. If you use soil from another source, or from between the rows, it may be contaminated with weeds or fungi that can easily infect the seedling. 
  • Whitewash a stripe at least 8" wide over each row of holes. 
  • In small plantings, a stryrofoam cup with the bottom removed can be placed around each plant.
The intention in all of these treatments (including using non-black mulch) is to prevent contact between the plastic mulch and the transplant stem, or to reduce the surface temperature of the plastic immediately next to the plant.