Hot Bed Gardening

Megan Venturella
Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

Has anyone tried this? I’ve been so frustrated because now that I live in a climate with frost and freezes, I finally realized that my greenhouse won’t be enough to start tomatoes and peppers in. So what’s the point? It’s probably obvious to the rest of the world, but coming from such a warm climate I didn’t understand how much moving would alter the way I need to garden. I know there are meat mats, I looked into getting a fish tank heater- inexpensive- but I think building a hot bed makes the most sense if you have the space because it requires no electricity and I’d be composting at the same time! I’ve got to try this. If I build one soon I can start tomatoes and peppers by the end of the month to put out in May. I plant to use pallets, line them with cardboard, and then maybe cover the top with a plastic drop cloth from the paint section from the store. If you’re interested, here are a few of the videos I watched. Charles Dowding and Dirt Patch Heaven had great videos explaining how it all works. I must have watched ten- I was in a real bender- but here’s enough to get started


Comments

  • marjstratton
    marjstratton Posts: 1,132 ✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2022

    Sounds like a much better way to start veggie seed than having to go get a heating mat to warm your seeds. I want to do something like this. Thanks for sharing. Sounds like the same principle as starting my hay bales that I did a couple of years ago, but in the directions I was working from, they said to let the bales cool down before planting. This seems much more reasonable.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,454 admin

    @Megan Venturella Thank you very much for sharing! Never heard of, but I find it very interesting as I am also from the cold climate with frost and snow on all my high beds. I am using high beds, and it means, that I can start much earlier than many of my neighbours as the soil gets warmer in high bed, but this hot bed gardening really impressed me. And high beds made of pellets is also a very good idea and a much easier one. I was just thinking - if I put all my kitchen compost into a high bed, made in autumn and then, towards spring add compost on top, may be it would also work. My hands are already itching to try it out!

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    Yes, I’m really excited to do this. In one of the videos from Dirt Patch Heaven she shows all her tomatoes and peppers surviving a freeze this way. I think you have to add all the compost in one day to get it to really heat up though.

    I never thought about it, but there is crossover with straw bale gardening. Pretty cool.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella Yes, hot bed gardening works very well.

    I have also used black plastic to catch heat, jugs filled with water to help heat at night and tin foil to bounce light and help heat.

    Another small covered bed in a heat bed will also help pickier heat loving plants.

    My area can have long cold spring or warmer ones so I have to be prepared

    As for heating greenhouses I use wood and a rocket stove set up and additional small beds and cover them to keep them warmer. I would like to have solar heat one day... but...

    And winter sowing helps me too to have crops but not to have to heat space

  • dipat2005
    dipat2005 Posts: 1,279 ✭✭✭✭

    Thank you for sharing these video's on hot bed planting. I have never heard of that before. I now have some interesting ideas.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie I’ve been watching a number of videos in winter sowing, and I got a little confused. Is the idea that you just put the seed in the ground and when conditions are right, they germinate?

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella You use milk jugs or any plastic container that can be somewhat sealed and plant in them with garden soil or potting soil. It will act like a greenhouse act like a greenouse. There are open areas in any container so snow, cold and water can get in. When mother nature knows its time for a seed to sprout you will see growth. At first you can ignore the seeds but soon you will need to water them or slightly open them on warmer days so they don't cook.

    When the temperature is better in your area and you can set them in the ground you replant them in the garden

    If you have ever noticed volunteers in your garden they grow faster when they get started and are usually hardier.

    Have you been to the winter sowing site? It has detailed information for most growing areas.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    There’s a winter sowing site? Is that a webpage or something on the grow network? Thanks!

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella I don't seem to be able to find the link I want but this one will help


  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭
  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    If you are on facebook there is a group called winter sowing

  • vickeym
    vickeym Posts: 2,116 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Megan Venturella Thank you for sharing. Great information. Might have to start experimenting with these. We can't put stuff outside here until Memorial day under normal conditions.

    Monek Marie Would you consider sharing pictures of your greenhouse setup? We have been considering a rocket stove idea for the greenhouse. Though my husband is thinking of trying to run the exhaust through a raised bed. The way some are run through a longer seating area as the heat sink. Like this one....


  • VermontCathy
    VermontCathy Posts: 1,980 ✭✭✭✭✭

    Hot beds have a long history, going back before widespread electricity. I don't have any experience with them, but they would certainly be useful in my climate.

    I have my hot pepper seeds sealed in bags with soil and water, sitting on top of my oil furnace. Hopefully that will be warm enough to get them to sprout, and then I can move them to a cooler room where the grow lights are.

    I'll probably start my tomatoes around late March/early April. They are a little more cool tolerant than peppers, though warmth does help.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    I did it! We screwed 3 pallets into a U-shape, filled it with animal bedding, screwed in the fourth pallet and filled it all up. I watered it quite a bit but was worried because I didn’t have cardboard to line it with. Well, I checked on it again this morning and it feels warm on top! I sowed all my peppers in module trays and after I get a shower curtain or something to cover it all with I’ll put them out. Hoping for the best because we get frosts through April.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭
    edited February 2022

    @Megan Venturella If you get a cold night, plan ahead and set milk jugs out with water to warm up. That extra heat will help keep a frost at bay. On colder nights I will also throw a blanket on top of my hot bed.

    You can also put black plastic on the outside of the pallets if you feel you need just a bit more heat. In my zone I need all the extras at times to help.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie Thanks for the tips! I got excited and started 33 pepper plants, so I need all the help I can get keeping them alive until May.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    @Megan Venturella What kind of Peppers?

    Did you save a few seeds back just in case? I always do,

    Winter sowing is supposed to bring seeds out when they are ready. Once they are up you just need to water them if they need it and make sure the plastic container is open if you have a hot day (once they are up)

    If by chance you have a warm spell and plants get bigger than you expected, you can repot some but keep them covered or place in garden if you have a cold frame to protect them.

    I love my pepper plants and odd tomato varieties so I usually baby a few to make sure they do well.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    @Monek Marie ALL the peppers, LOL

    I am trying rare peppers from Baker Creek, Italian heirloom, Pizza-My-Heart from Renee’s Garden because they are the best fresh pepper I have ever tasted, Hungarian peppers to make paprika, Korean peppers for drying, New Mexican peppers to roast and freeze, Thai peppers for flu season, Lesya peppers, and jalapeños. I’m starting a few just because the seed is getting old and I’m hoping to collect fresh seed.

    I’m going to put them on the hot bed and cover it so that hopefully with the extra insulation on top and the heat from below they will stay warm and toasty. It makes me nervous though. I’ll put a thermometer in there so I know for sure.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,454 admin

    @Megan Venturella you inspired me to experiment as well. I am accumulating compost on my high bed which I will cover with some ripe compost once it is defrosted.

    for heating my green house during very cold nights I use candles. Even better tee light under a bottom up clay pot. The air comes through the hole which is now above the candle and the whole pot gets warm.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    @jowitt.europe What a great suggestion! I’ve seen pictures on Pinterest but it always looked too good to be true.

    Here’s a picture of what we built- (not beautiful)

    I put a thermometer in with a six inch probe and the temperature jumped to 140 degrees F. I covered it and I’ll check in the early morning to see how warm it is in there. It’ll be 50 out tonight, so it’s a good night to test it without freezing my seeds.

  • Monek Marie
    Monek Marie Posts: 3,537 ✭✭✭✭✭

    This is really interesting.

    How often do you check the temperature of the air? I was wondering on a hot day if the air might heat up really fast.

  • jowitt.europe
    jowitt.europe Posts: 1,454 admin

    @Megan Venturella it is functional and that is much more important than beautiful. Thank you for sharing the photos. You did an excellent job and I am sure that you will have early vegetables. You use this new plant home also for germinating seeds. I was thinking of sowing directly into the soil radishes and carrots. And planting potatoes, so that we have crops earlier than usual. I germinate my seeds on the floor inside where we have underfloor heating and tiles.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    So the one problem I’m running into is that our temperatures here are all over the place. It’s perfect for night, and if I needed to I could always throw a sheet on top of the shower curtain. But during the days here it has been getting pretty warm, and it hit 100 in there earlier and I had to open it all up. Hopefully I didn’t bake my seeds. I only have peas and the peppers in there right now. The peas already sprouted and look fine, the peppers have yet to germinate. I’ve had to do some babysitting with these temperature swings! But if the weather was consistent, even consistently cold, it would be a dream. I can’t believe this works!

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    Just an update- the pile cooled off enough that I have to bring the seedlings in if it gets cold now. Just not generating enough heat for the last week or two. That being said, I think it’s still a great method with many useful applications. Next time I might make it bigger for one thing. Also I’ll wait to make the next one closer to our last frost date so I can use it as insurance against a late frost.

  • Megan Venturella
    Megan Venturella Posts: 678 ✭✭✭✭

    So, I just wanted to add for posterity- and in case I forget before next year- that I decided to open up the hot bed and found, to my horror, that it had completely dried out! No wonder it cooled off! We’ve had plenty of rain, but because I covered the bed to keep my peppers warm with a shower curtain, not a drop of rainwater made it into the bed.

    I bought the bundle that was recently advertised here and it came with Charles Dowding’s Skill for Growing course. In it he mentions not only that it needs to be watered, but that he tops it off every month with fresh horse manure and straw. After he tops it off he also vents it for a few days because the fumes (ammonia gases) can burn the leaves of seedlings.