We've always had a number of straw bales in part of the garden, for straw bale gardening purposes. Over the last few years, straw bales have become increasinly difficult to source. This year, we can't find any. All farmers seem to have changed to straw rolls instead of bales.
So this leaves us wondering, how does one convert a straw roll into something as useful as a bale for straw bale gardening?
I'm assuming we are talking about the same thing; these are considerably larger than a rectangular 'square bale'. What I do is lay the bale on it's side (rather than the edge), and then cut all the strings. Then the bale will come apart in a long flat spiral formation heading gradually into the center. Peel off the spiral in about a two to three inch thick layer, which can be broken off at any time from the role. I walk around the bale and pull of a section, and put it in my wheelbarrow with others and then bring it where I need it. I use the material primarily for mulch.
I'm not sure what your garden method is, utilizing the bales, but these thin ribbons of bale can be stacked and used in a lot of different ways. They, of course, do not have the stability that using square bales might in a complete form, if you are planning to use them for borders. I'm not sure what your bale practice is.
I hope this is helpful.
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Have you considered using the Rounds by building a square bale form, dismantling the round and tying your own square bales for use. making a hand bailer
Last year we got lucky and found a farmer that sells straw and hay, he makes both Rounds and square bales, so we now have a year round source for square bales of both straw and hay.
We do buy many from him since our hogs eat the hay in the winter once all their greenery is finished. We use the straw for bale gardening, mulching and hog and dog bedding since our supplier uses no chemicals on his fields. (again we are lucky).
I found the hand bailer easy to build and it works a treat.
The best tip is to use two people when you are ready to tie off the new square bale.
I made ours to the dimensions of a machine made square bale (24" x 32" x 48")
I should have made it so the bales were only 36" when full to the top, it would have made handling the finished bales a lot easier on my old body.
To tie off make a loop knot in one end then you can feed the other end through and pull back to make the bale really tight, a couple of half hitches will hold until you can tie a millers knot right behind the half hitches.
We have two sections of planting bales, each using 8 bales in a two wide by 4 long configuration.
We use spent coffee grounds to provide most of the nitrogen to get the bales cooking, diluted urine is the only extra nitrogen added beyond the coffee grounds.
I've found this works very well and means I don't have to use any chemical fertilizer to get the bales heating up so they will be ready for planting.
We use the square bales because of the height of a round flopped on its side and for space saving.
Glad you like the bailer, it works great for tightening bales that are a little loose for building straw bale houses as well as being able to make up bales if we can't get squares from our current source.
We use the spent bales in other garden spots and as mulch around the fruit orchards.
One thing we started doing this year is to frame around the bales, now when the bales deteriorate we can just set a new batch on top of what's left.
Eventually these will become raised beds and we will frame and start new areas with new bales.
My wife loves raised beds since she doesn't have to bend over so much.
The only things we haven't grown in bales are root vegetables.