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Using Shredded Paper as Mulch in the Vegetable Garden

The last three years we have used shredded paper from my office as mulch in our vegetable garden.  This year the tomato plants didn't grow much and we had very few tomatoes.  The beans growing in non-mulched areas performed better.  Could it be the paper?

Typically mulch helps minimize the stress on the plants and reduce the work for you.  As microorganisms break down the mulch they use some of the nitrogen from the soil as an energy source.  Mulches that break down quickly release nutrients in the soil and no nutrient deficiencies are seen in the plants.  Sawdust, bark and other wood products break down slowly and can cause some temporary nutrient deficiencies in the plants.  Large quantities of any material can also cause a deficiency.  Consider incorporating a low nitrogen slow release fertilizer in the soil this spring.  If plants still exhibit stunting try an additional application in summer. I would continue using the mulch but monitor the amount, adjust your fertilization or add a layer of pesticide-free nitrogen rich grass clippings to the paper mulch.


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