Monday, August 26, 2013

Straw Bale Update

Strawbales August 26th
The six nice firm straw bales that were set out on the driveway at the beginning of the season are breaking down. On the left of the photo the tomato plants are tilting and the bale is about half of its original height.

Production by the tomato plants in the bales has been significantly less than the same seven plants that are in the regular garden. Although these plants produced the first tomatoes the difference in time was only a few days. When I was keeping track of the individual plants the straw bale plants produced about half of what the garden bed plants did. And after that the difference increased. The plants that produce the larger tomatoes (brandywine, Hungarian heart, jetstar and Polish linguisa) were far less productive than those in the garden bed.

Location might have been a factor, these plants being on the shady side of three arborvitae, but it is more likely that lack of nutrients and inability of the straw to retain moisture the way that soil does were bigger factors. The plants were watered daily and were provided with green sand, bone meal and blood meal mixed with compost but that wasn't sufficient.

The squash plant did fairly well and kept up with the squash plant in the garden for quite a while. The first squash were picked from the bales on July 4th and the first from the garden on July 16th. As of August 10th, when I stopped keeping track of where squash came from, the plant in the bales had produced 10.7 lbs and the plant in the garden 10.2 lbs. Then there was a five day period in which it was watered only once and production dropped after that.

One problem with the bales is that water tends to run to where the edges of the bales meet and, over time, enlarge the gap between the bales. I tried to counter this by planting in the middle of the bales.

It will be interesting to see how much structure is left in the bales at the end of the season.

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