Update on Planting Tomatoes in Straw Bales

As noted below  (Hot Weather Accelerates Planting Schedule – All Bales Planted!), we mistakenly planted the tomatoes deep into the bales, as you might with regular soil. Big mistake, because as we learned the hard way, freshly fertilized bales stay raging hot, so warm that you can’t even keep your hand very long without feeling the heat. This literally cooked our tomato plants (see below). So we chalked it up to experience, started over and bought new plants.


Here are the types of tomato plants we replanted to replace the dying plants (with descriptions from Silver Heights Farm catalog):

  • Mortgage Lifter (Huge, red beefsteak, 2-4 pounds each, with few seeds)
  • Dagma’s Perfection (Elegant fruit, bi-colored, pale yellow with delicate, light red striping, about 12 ounces/3″ diameter)
  • Green Doctors Frosted (Oval fruit, 1.25″ long, green with a silver frost, ripening with a touch of gold. Sweet with low acidity)
  • Mirabelle Blanche (small, light yellow fruits, with a sweet, full flavor, garden candy)
  • Jaune Flamme (Persimmon orange tomatoes, very juicy, sweet flavor with fruity overtones, 2-3 oz)
  • Cosmonaut Volkov (Bright red fruit, smooth, slightly flattened, 8 oz to 2 1/2 pounds, perfect for fresh eating)

I got the advice of Silver Heights’ farmer Trina Pilonero, who sold me the tomatoes (and most of the plants for the Children’s Workshop Garden). She noted that it takes quite some time for bales to cool down, so your best bet is to trench them on their sides about 3-4 inches deep, if you have the horizontal space. She also advised to remove all flowers from the plant for the first two weeks in the ground so plant can direct its energy towards creating healthy roots and not divert it to flower/tomato production yet.

Here’s how to plant properly without burning the tender roots:

  1. Dig a trench in the soil mix and straw about 3-4 inches deep, and long enough to accommodate all but the top 6-8 inches of the tomato plant.
  2. Lay plant on its side with root ball pointed slightly down.
  3. Water trench well.
  4. Cover with 3+ inches of soil mix.
  5. Mulch to hold soil mix in place until plant sets its roots
  6. Don’t worry about the top of the plant being askew, it will right itself in a day or two and grow straight up.

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We’ll keep you posted on how well these new tomatoes fare in the bales using this method.


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