Growing Tomatoes with Free-Standing Hog Panel, Straw, and Bale Twine

By RavenCroft
April 2, 2014

My method of using hog panel provides easy access and super support for tomatoes, squash, beans, and gourds alike. I also pile on the straw for moisture retention and weed control.

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Apr 18, 2014 9:45 PM CST
Name: cheshirekat
New Mexico, USA Zone 8 (Zone 8a)
Bee Lover Dog Lover Herbs Garden Procrastinator Vegetable Grower
"The rows are mulched thickly with straw. This blocks the weeds. As far as weeds go, they are always going to be a problem for those of us destined to garden. It's finding the best way to manage them that is key. The wheat seeds in the baled straw sprout and grow, but they are easily managed and are the lesser of evils for me. Another big benefit is the moisture retention. The straw mulch lasts about 3 years before having to be replenished, and the sprouting wheat decreases each year. (In the above photo, the straw is 1 year old on the left and 2 years old on the right.) The soil is so friable from the dense mulch that the earthworms are abundant. It's amazing! Come spring, I just rake the straw back to add lime, Epsom salt, alfalfa, and wood ashes, rake those in a little, and replace the straw. Tilling isn't necessary. The straw and the worms do that work for me."

I've read somewhere that people have less of the sprouting wheat by curing the straw for a while I think it was a period of a week. I just recently got a few bales of straw to use as mulch, so this has been fresh on my mind. Did you cure the straw before mulching with it? Is this why you recommend a heavy application of the straw? I think the straw is a great idea for the moisture retention benefits. I live in the very dry land of Albuquerque, NM, so I'm really hoping the straw will work out better than the watch-all-water-evaporate-within-the-first-few-mm-of-soil method I used last year because I didn't have a clue that it was really this dry here.

I'm definitely already decided that straw mulch is a good thing. But it would save a bit of work for me if there were only minimal gains with curing the straw.
"A garden is a friend you can visit any time." - Anonymous
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