What side of the bale goes up? What if my strings are on that side?

We prefer to have the cut side of the bale facing IMG_2824up.  The open stem ends allow easier penetration of the granular fertilizer and the water is better able to carry the fertilizer into the bales that way.  But if the cut side isn’t up, it isn’t a deal breaker, it may just take a bit more time to work the fertilizer in.   I think it is important to keep the strings on the sides of the bales.  If the strings are made of sisal or hemp twine, this is really key, as if the natural fiber is touching the soil it will likely decompose and break, allowing the bale to loose its compression and even fall apart.   One key to the quick decomposition of the straw and the conditioning is that the bales must be compressed.  If the straw is loose or not well compressed it will decompose much more slowly, possibly too slowly for our purposes.  If the strings are running along the top side of the bales, and you are stabbing into the bales with a sharp planting trowel to make holes for planting bedding plants, it is likely that a string could easily be cut.  If that were to happen it would be important to retie that string as tightly as possible.  Most bale makers, or balers, will make bales with two distinct sides, the cut side, where a knife simply shears off the straw stalks on one side and the other end of the bale is folded over inside the baler.  It is easy to see the difference, and any farm kid who ever stacked bales oIMG_1539n a baling rack knows the difference is distinct.  If you pick up the bales with the cut side bouncing against your leg when you stack them, it hurts, and you’ll have a serious rash on that leg before you know it.  If you are a city kid, then you might not realize there is a difference, but once you see another bale, you will see the difference, so remember to put the cut side up.  If by chance the cut side is also a side with the strings, then turn the bale to keep the strings on the sides of the bale.  You’ll also see that the strings on the side help to hold the poly tents from the straw bale greenhouse covers in place.


Jan MacKay 03-03-2015, 02:33

I have always put my strings on the ground and my bales have lasted 2 years usually. I do have a bit of a tough time making the holes for my seedlings but I always managed. I get huge strawberries and great beans and tomatoes.
Just saying that string off the ground isn’t law but another way of doing it. I was going to try it your way this year but I can see that I have less planting area on top of the bale. Still following you and you can always learn new things even if you are 65 years young.

Joel Karsten 15-03-2015, 16:28

No laws here, just suggestions and reasoning why those suggestions seem to work well. No laws, do what you want, but like I tell folks, just “don’t complain to me that your straw bale garden didn’t grow, and then in the next breath tell me how you did things way differently than I suggested”, because my method works, every time, no matter what, I assure success if you follow my method, but I can’t assure anything if you go rouge. That’s fair enough isn’t it?


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