How to Plant a Tomato in Straw


A composting bale of straw provides an ideal growing environment for tomato plants. The composting process generates carbon dioxide, which boosts the plant's growth rate. Gardening in straw bales offers an especially attractive option for locations with poor soil or limited growing space, and it also minimizes weed problems. Before planting a tomato plant in straw, prepare the bale.

Step 1

Put one or more wheat or barley straw bales on top of black plastic ground cover. Set each bale on its side so the twines are parallel with the ground. The plastic prevents water from seeping into the ground.

Step 2

Water the bales until saturated. Sprinkle 3/4 pound limestone on each bale and fork it in. Fertilize each bale with 6 ounces of ammonium nitrate.

Step 3

Keep the straw bales moist. After three days, check the internal temperature. If the bale temperature is under 101 degrees F, sprinkle more fertilizer on top.

Step 4

Apply an additional 3 ounces of ammonium nitrate per bale six days after the first application.

Step 5

Allow the bales to compost for about two weeks. Check the temperature of the bales. The heat generated by composting should have diminished. If it has, the bales are ready for planting.

Step 6

Plant two tomato plants per bale. Use a spatula to create an opening in the straw bale and insert a tomato plant seedling in deep enough to cover the roots and the lower part of the stem so the bottom leaves are just a few inches above the bale.

Things You'll Need

  • Black plastic
  • Wheat or barley straw bale(s)
  • ¾ pound limestone per bale
  • Gardening fork
  • 9 ounces ammonium nitrate per bale
  • Thermometer
  • 2 tomato seedlings per bale


  • Mississippi State University Extension: Growing in the Bale
  • Grow and Make: Growing a Straw Bale Garden
  • Carolina Country: How to Grow a Straw Bale Garden

Who Can Help

  • Pioneer Thinking: Straw Bale Culture Technique
Keywords: straw-grown tomatoes, tomatoes in bales, plant in straw

About this Author

Ann Wolters, who has been a freelance writer, consultant, and writing coach for the past year and a half, has had her writing published in "The Saint Paul Almanac," and in magazines such as "Inventing Tomorrow" and "Frontiers." She earned a master’s degree in English as a second language from the University of Minnesota and taught English as a foreign language for nearly seven years.