Straw Bale Tomatoes
“Tomato craziness” sums up what happens when you successfully grow tomatoes in straw bales. Early in the season after the bales have been fully conditioned I pull out a circular section of straw so that I can plant the tomato as deep as possible. Tomatoes are some of the only fruits that can be planted deep, as they grow roots all up the stem. I have read some gardeners actually plant the stem of the plant horizontally in the dirt and the plant thrives from the extra contact with the soil. I don’t recommend this with straw, however.
In anticipation of a bumper crop of tomatoes, I install four foot metal posts on the sides of the bales and then wrap twine between them to make a simple fence. The tomato vines can then be supported by this makeshift fence as I also wrap twine around the plant and attach to the fence for extra support. This year, I even had to add additional eight foot tomato posts to support the weight of the tomatoes.
This year I added some Osmoscote, (a pelleted slow release fertilizer) to the dirt mixture in the bale. It gives it a little extra nutrition continuously throughout the season. Usually it takes the bales until July to really get cooking and by August when the plants are huge and growing strong, the bales sustain them until frost. In addition to the tomatoes in the bales, I interplant basil. Basil grows great alongside of the tomatoes and I think the smell of it helps to keep deer away.
As a side note I ordered some Blue Basil Seeds from Rare Seeds this year and one description called it “the most aromatic basil” and a reviewer even stated that it was “too aromatic”. Basil too aromatic? I planted it everywhere and even thought the reviewer appears to have been right, the flip side is that all sorts of tiny pollinators love it, so it stays!