Well, as promised, here is a report back.
When we returned from the farm in mid-January I was met with a veggie patch I could barely enter. It was completely overgrown with tomatoes, basil and borage - the borage plant was completely out of control, but that's fine, because I couldn't see a single thing wrong with my tomato plants - obviously they (and the basil plants) work brilliantly as companion plants to tomatoes. A word of warning though - because of the size of the borage plant achieved, don't plant them as close as I did - one plant (situated in the middle of one of the 3mtr beds) completely overtook this 2 X 3 mtr veggie patch. Or maybe it was just a mutant borage plant. It spread to 1.8 mtrs high (before it collapsed on the ground) and the full 3 mtrs wide...)
|How do I get in? Straw bale bed on the left,|
composed beach sand bed on the right.
As a control I had planted two tomatoes on the other side of the patch - in the composted beach sand the garden has as soil. They have also grown, although not as much. The one plant has absolutely no fruit on it, and the other has just a couple. A stark contrast to the profusion growing in the straw bale bed. And the straw bale bed does not get as much sun as the normal bed.
Also, the tomato plants which I had growing in (large) pots on my patio are not performing / producing anywhere near as much as the straw bale plants!
I had to string up my tomatoes to the roof structure - they covered the floor to the extent that I couldn't get inside without trampling on some...
|Plump, beautiful tomatoes|
|Gorgeous heirloom tomatoes|
|Collapsing straw bale|
|Collapsed straw bale|
And I will prepare the bales exactly as I did last time - yes, it is very different nipping outside on a chilly winter morning, pouring "you know what" onto the bales to fix them with nitrogen. They were also dosed with a sprinkling of Talborne Organics for Vegetables a couple of times. When it came time to plant out the bales, I opened a hole (putting the nitrogen fixing method firmly in the back of my mind) in the top on the bale, filled it with some composted sand, planted the seedlings, and kept them damp.
Voila! It worked!
Incidentally, I discovered the roots from the neighbours trees growing up into the straw bale which I had left outside the veggie patch. I had just plonked it down on top of the soil. The bales in the shadecloth veggie hut that I had placed on a thick layer of damp newspaper - they have no roots growing inside the bale at all :)