Hot bed???

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mr-cecil
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Hot bed???

Postby mr-cecil » Tue Feb 16, 2016 9:59 am

I have acquired about 250 Litre of fresh(ish) horse muck, and I was just going to make a compost heap; however, it occurred to me that I could make a "hot bed" in the polytunnel.

Does anybody have any advice on this? Is 250 Litres (about 6 sacks) enough?

From googleing, I get the impression that I just dig a hole, put some straw in, then the muck, then put some soil back on top.

Can I just dig a whole and bury the muck?
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby PLUMPUDDING » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:12 am

I think it's the action of the composting process on the straw that causes the heat to build up. I've noticed when I add the hen hut cleanings to the compost heap it gets hot really quickly if there is plenty of straw in it, but is much slower if there is no straw.
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby Pa Snip » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:17 am

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Re: Hot bed???

Postby mr-cecil » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:30 am

So, perhaps the straw is more important than the quantity of muck...
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby Pa Snip » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:52 am

Do a search for Jack First
and a lot more info comes up
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby Motherwoman » Tue Feb 16, 2016 10:58 am

Many years ago when I worked in a really old market garden we used to build beds in the cucumber house, (think old brick-sided Victorian here with cast iron heating pipes) by placing a line of new straw bales down the sides, dressing them with Urea and Sulphate of Ammonia, if I remember rightly, and then spreading horse manure on the top and then soaking them with water. The head grower would then monitor the bales over the next couple of weeks as the temperature rose steadily, he just used to place his hand on them, then as the temp started to fall we dressed them with a good layer of peat-based compost (well it was the early 70's) and when he judged it was right we used to plant the cucumber plants. They used to romp away.

This man would have learnt his skills in the 30's and 40's, and from his predecessors back to Victorian times. Sadly growing methods changed and the full process was never really recorded and a way of growing was lost.
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby mr-cecil » Sun Feb 21, 2016 9:12 pm

Do you think that using newspaper or cardboard rather than straw would work?
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby Motherwoman » Mon Feb 22, 2016 7:45 am

Don't know that it would Mr Cecil, the beauty of the bales was that they would hold up over the whole of the summer without collapsing. They came out dark brown but still in compressed blocks, cardboard would probably collapse. Straw manure would be a good bet if you could get hold of it but whatever you use needs to be compressed well.
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby PLUMPUDDING » Mon Feb 22, 2016 9:14 am

Thanks for the very useful info MW something else for me to try.
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby Pa Snip » Mon Feb 22, 2016 9:22 am

The use of hot beds is not a recent thing, far from it. So by now I feel pretty confident that the use of alternatives to straw have been tried.

Paper, even shredded, when used in quantity takes a long time to break down and I have never experienced it producing any heat in the process.

I am quite happy to lay thick cardboard over soil in order to keep ground covered and free of surface frost but again can't see it working sufficiently well enough in a hot bed requirement.

I'm guessing that since everything I have read on the subject of hot beds mentions the use of straw then that, at least until some new medium comes along, is the material to use.

Look to NASA for something new to try :)
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby Geoff » Mon Feb 22, 2016 9:44 am

I half heard a bit about hot beds on GQT yesterday, might be worth looking out for the repeat or using iPlayer.
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby Pa Snip » Mon Feb 22, 2016 12:08 pm

Thanks Geoff

Mrs Snip was quite keen to try making a hot bed but when the 'experts' can make it sound that much hassle I reckon I'm right to swerve by it.

For those who would like to listen to it here is the link to the full program.

If you only want to listen to the hot bed bit adjust the slider to 23minutes 26seconds into the broadcast


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b070hxsb#play
Last edited by Pa Snip on Mon Feb 22, 2016 5:22 pm, edited 1 time in total.
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby mr-cecil » Mon Feb 22, 2016 3:35 pm

So on GQT...Bob seems to take a mixture of garden compost (which is like an activator), grass clippings and leaves and put it in a plastic bag. He then stands the plant your trying to cultivate on top of the plastic bag (with perhaps a layer of insulation). He says that if you use plastic bags in this way, you can swap out the bag when the heat has gone.

Bunny Guinness seems to say organic mater could be newspaper, straw...it doesn't really matter.

So, in theory, I could use newspaper and horse muck....
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby PLUMPUDDING » Mon Feb 22, 2016 6:16 pm

I know they used to use hot beds to grow pineapples and other exotics in the 17 and 1800s, but it is something I've never tried. It's good to either grow something or do something different occasionally.

My experiment this year is to see what happens to Florence fennel if you pot it up and over winter it. The bulbs had gone to seed so I've chopped the tops off and put them in large pots in the greenhouse. I thought that they might send smaller bulbs out of the sides the second year as I saw some men from a local restaurant harvesting bulbs of fennel from a large clump growing up a mountain when I was in Crete a few years ago. So far there do seem to be new shoots sprouting from the sides.

Hot beds sound like an interesting challenge too both the mini hot bag Bob Flowerdew version and the real thing with straw and manure.
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Re: Hot bed???

Postby mr-cecil » Wed Mar 02, 2016 9:42 am

So there's an update:

Last Thursday I dug a hole about 1 yard wide x 2 foot long and about 6 inches deep.
I then put a layer of straw in the bottom about 4 inch deep, then one large barrow of horse muck on top, and repeated this until there were 4 layers of straw-muck. I've used some timber to shaw up the long sides and used some of the access soil to shaw up the short sides.
I then tipped about 10 litres of water and a bit on it.
I've stuck a garden thermometer just under the surface, and this morning at 7am, it was 3'C in the polytunnel but the hot bed as 25'C.

Now I plan to just put some large watering trays on top of it with my seedlings into it to make a large propagator (I will cover this with plastic with some air gaps to allow circulation.

I guess, even if it's just warmer for a week or two, it's free heat, all it cost was £3 for a bale of straw.
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