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Friday, May 24, 2013

Straw Bale Gardening Basics with Determinate Tomatoes

Straw Bale Gardening Basics with Determinate Tomatoes
(Join Me for Another Garden Experiment)

'Straw Bale' gardening has been something that keeps showing up in some of the Google+ gardening communities. It has peaked my interest and I did have a seasoned bale of straw from last fall in the garden. I figure why not give it a try and see if it is effective. Another garden experiment to occupy my time.

A straw bale is essentially a raised bed and a container. The theory is that the tomatoes or vegetables can root right into the bale. Bales will hold moisture and have a degree of nutrients. Not only can you grow tomatoes in a bale, you can use the used and decomposed straw to improve your garden soil in the following years.

A NEW straw bale has to be conditioned for about 14 days. A bale has to go through a composting stage like a pile of green cut grass. In my case, my bale is from last year so it is ready to plant. New bales should be soaked for 14 days to let the microbes do their thing to the newly cut straw. Some people jump start this process with a high nitrogen fertilizer and even use urine to start the process. Just soak the bale with it.

Once the composting process has occurred you can plant the tomato or vegetables. You don't want the heat generated from the compost process to potentially harm plants and you don't want the microbes challenging the plants for nitrogen and other nutrients. Let the process finish before you plant.

I planted 3 determinate tomatoes that will each get about 2 feet tall. I am starting small to see if I can manage a straw bale. You want to make sure you add soil to the hole and work it in, before putting in the tomato. You want to ensure the roots contact the soil and the soil thoroughly contacts the straw. Over fill the planting hole with more soil once the tomato is dropped in and pack it tightly around the planted tomato. That is the basic set up for planting in a straw bale. Wish me luck!

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