Last year I grew heirloom tomatoes in hay bales and had the best crop of maters ever. This year I used mostly straw bales and the plants were scrawny and only produced one or two late fruit. The few hay bales that I did use this year once again produced strong, healthy plants with lots of fruit.
Here's a rundown of what I did from my gardening journal:
On April 30 I set up and began "cooking" the bales by watering them daily. I added compost tea once or twice in May and planted my maters around Memorial Day. At planting time, the bales were warm (but not hot) and the straw bales had begun to sprout grass, but only a few bales had mushrooms. The hay bales, in contrast, all sprouted shrooms. I fertilized the plants with tomato food or miracle gro June 21 and twice in July. We had very dry weather in June, normal in July, and heavy rains in August.
I apologize if these sorts of questions have already been covered in an earlier thread...I have a toddler who kinda limits my online search time. :) If anyone could offer some insight, or direct me to the appropriate thread, that would be great!!!
The plants don't get alot of nutrients from the straw bales, especially nitrogen. I had a similar problem in my 2nd year of bale gardening until I adjusted my feeding schedule. I fed them daily for 3 - 4 days and then I started feeding my plants about every 5 - 7 days. They made a 180 recovery and prospered. Hay and grass bales have a built-in supply of nitrogen whereas the straw is mostly carbon.