SacBee Garden: Adventures with tomatoes

Published: Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 - 12:00 am
Last Modified: Saturday, Aug. 10, 2013 - 12:48 am

Sacramento Bee readers share their gardening adventures.

Larry Rader of Carmichael has towering tomatoes – thanks to straw bales.

‘‘The tall tomato plant (in this photo) is an Early Girl, 10 feet tall from the top of the bale,’’ Rader said. ‘‘The SBG (straw bale garden) also includes basil, cucumbers, eggplant and two other types of tomatoes. Growing next to a block wall close to the street, it provides treats for my house and the neighbors.’’

That’s Rader’s granddaughter harvesting the tomatoes with help from the family Labradors.

Rader tried straw bales because of nematodes in his raised beds. ‘‘I tried the SBG because my main planting box contained such a concentration of nematodes – from planting tomatoes in the same place for over 20 years – that my Golden Jubilee tomatoes would die by the end of July,’’ he explained. ‘‘The roots would be swollen and knotted.’’

The straw bales, which were planted March 24, also brought an early harvest of Early Girls. ‘‘The ground temperature was under 50,’’ Rader said. ‘‘The bale temperature was almost 80.’’

He got his first ripe cherry tomatoes on May 15 and the first ripe Early Girl on June 4.

‘‘But even the tomatoes that I planted in my normal dirt box were early this year,’’ he added.


Do you have a gardening photo, tip or story to share? Or do you want to publicize a community garden event or activity? Post your news via our virtual SacBee Garden at Also, email your submissions to h& (put ‘‘SacBee Garden’’ in the subject line). Or mail it to: SacBee Garden, Home & Garden, Sacramento Bee, P.O. Box 15779, Sacramento, CA 95852. Follow us on Twitter @SacBeeGarden.

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