Growing tomatoes in straw bales

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

Has anyone done this??

My mom has a brown thumb and is wanting to grow a couple of tomatoes at her new condo.It's on the ground floor and has a little terrace.She would never be able to keep a tomato plant alive in a pot,but I was hoping that someone would know of this procedure.It makes sense,as the bales would retain moisture and drain well too. I figure I'll go over and fix whatever is needed and let her take it from there,but does anyone know if I put soil in the straw,or just plant it?

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

Melody, I've never done it but have read a bit on it. I remember the writer put some compost down in the bale (made a little hole I believe) and the put in the plant. By watering every so often the nutrients in the compost would spread thru-out the bale.
I think since I have stawbales laying around I'll give it a try this yr (I love experimenting!)
If anyone knows any more definite info I'd like to hear it!

Desert Hot Springs, CA(Zone 10b)

Hi, Horseshoe. I'm trying to find enough straw bales to use as material for bulding walls for a small guest house. It's an inexpensive way of building super-high R-value buildings. I live in the California Desert where nary a straw bale is to be found. The point is "one man's junk is another man's treasure." Ah, to have straw bales lying around! Maybe I should use the one I've been experimenting with to grow tomatoes instead. Who ever heard of importing straw? I would have to order a truck load from Northern CA at considerable expense. Sand I got plenty of. Tumbleweeds, too.

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

>Who ever heard of importing straw? <

Actually, Tim, almost all the straw found in central Kentucky is imported. This is tobacco country, so straw has to be trucked in by the landscape people.

Given your conditions, wouldn't rammed earth make more sense?

(Zone 6a)

Melody.....why do you say your Mom could not keep a tomato plant alive in a pot? I would think a bale of straw would be messy. Container gardening in a pot is soooo easy....once planted, just water and tie up:) Of if a bush tomato type, just water. Nothing easier than that:)


Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

Owen,You don't know my mom. The green thumb gene passed her by.
About the only thing that she's ever been able to grow successfully is mint.(heh heh heh)Regular moisture is a concept that she hasn't been able to grasp in 72 years.I've tried containers with her and it's a disaster.I was hoping that the straw would retain enough to withstand her watering habits.We'd deal with the straw mess if it would work. Since she sold the farm,we live about 45 miles away instead of 10.Every other year,it was no big deal to keep her supplied with tomatoes...this one will be a challenge. And she loves the heirlooms/OP ones so much.

Richmond, KY(Zone 6b)

Well cripes, Mel. She's only an hour away. What you do is figure on taking a bushel of produce on each of your weekly visits.

Waddayamean you ain't planning weekly visits? Who are you kidding? :-)

Murfreesboro, TN(Zone 7a)

Mel, another idea: if you could build her a small raised bed, string a drip hose through it, and put it on a timer, would that help? I can relate to your mom's dilemma - I don't have houseplants because I can never remember to water them. (But tomatoes - I DO remember to water them, LOL.)

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

Brook,I thought you knew by now that my mom has a more active social life than me. Hence the watering delimma. I have to call her at least a week in advance and she pencils me in her appointment book...I usually catch her as she zooms by HERE!She's in Frankfort this week on Retired Teacher business. But I digress...

She has a nice little yard area and there are some perinnials left by a former tennant.There is a small storage shed and I was going to put the tomatoes along the wall of it.It's a nice comfortable atmosphere, and she has her bird feeders and patio table there.I was hoping that the straw bales would hold moisture and overcome her erratic watering style.We're going to find out anyway. Sounds like something that might ought ought to be experimented with.

And yes...I'll take produce to her,but she actually _wants_ to try to grow tomatoes this year for some unknown reason.
The yard itself is pretty much hard clay and I would have to amend it so much that the straw bales look really tempting.I'm trying to get her what she wants without breaking my back in the process.

Desert Hot Springs, CA(Zone 10b)

Hey Melody, I considered rammed earth, but that would have to be imported, too. Nada but sand here and it would have to be steel reinforced since I live about 1/2 mile from the San Andreas Fault! I guess I'll stay with wood frame.

(Zone 6a)

This message was edited Saturday, Feb 23rd 5:30 PM

Efland, NC(Zone 7a)

So, by the way...anyone get any more info on planting 'maters in straw? I'd like to try it.

Benton, KY(Zone 7a)

I'm going to try it anyway. My own theory is to wet the bale down good and let it set for a day or two before putting compost inside the middle.I'm guessing about a gallon.

The only thing concerning me is how hot the bale gets on the inside.Anyone who has broken open a damp bale of straw that has been siting in the sun knows what I'm talking about.It's pretty warm.

It's not like I'm depending on this for my harvest and Mom will have tomatoes regardless,so what the heck? I certianly don't have any lack of seedlings either.

Allen Park, MI(Zone 6a)

heres an excellent link to a site on container gardening


Desert Hot Springs, CA(Zone 10b)


I would think that a wet bale of straw would heat up like compost and adding compost would only make it worse in a warm climate. Maybe it works well in a cool climate. I would like someone to try it. I'll pass. It will be in the 90's next month or two anyway.

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