Gardening Vivian | 08 May 2011 01:13 am

Extend Your Growing Season With a Manure Hot Bed

French gardeners who practiced intensive gardening over 300 years ago used fresh manure to create hot beds.
?br>These intensive gardeners in 17th and 18th century Paris collected manure on the streets from the thousands of horses there. They buried large amounts of it beneath their garden beds and the manure heated up the ground as it decomposed. Because of this, they were able to grow crops long past their normal growing season. By placing a cold frame over the hot bed, they were able to extend the season even longer.
?br>You can use a hot bed to extend your gardening season. Here’s how:

  1. Begin preparing for your hot bed in late August and aim to have it planted with transplants and seeds no later than the first week of September.
  2. Mark out an area of your garden bed. Make it the same size as your cold frame, if you have one.
  3. Remove all of the soil to a uniform depth of at least 18 inches. Put it in a pile near the bed.
  4. After you remove all the soil to a depth of 18 inches, add 6 inches of fresh horse or cow manure to the bottom of the dug-out bed. Do not use the feces of domestic cats or dogs or any other meat eaters. You can use less manure but the bed will cool down considerably faster when cold weather arrives.
  5. Replace the soil on top of the manure. You will end up with a slightly raised bed. Pile the soil up towards the center of the bed so the sides gently slope away down towards the edges of the bed. Give the hot bed a few days to start to “cook” and reach its hottest temperatures.
  6. Plant transplants of warm weather crops such as tomatoes and peppers. Include some cole crops like broccoli and cabbage. Direct seed cool weather crops such as lettuce, salad greens and radishes.
  7. The decaying manure will put out enough heat to keep your garden bed warmer than the surrounding soil well into winter. Place a cold frame over the hot bed when temperatures dip to and hover near freezing. It will contain some of the heat from the soil and create a warmer environment for the plants.
  8. As the days get shorter the warm weather crops like tomatoes and peppers will stop producing and eventually stop growing. Remove them and plant seeds of fast-maturing radishes in their place. Cut broccoli heads as they form to give the plants a chance to put out side shoots. By late fall the direct-seeded cool weather crops, such as lettuce and other salad greens, will be maturing and ready to harvest.

The following year the site of the hot bed will be one of the most fertile areas in your vegetable garden and a perfect place to plant a crop that likes rich soil, like melons or pumpkins. Using a hot bed in conjunction with a cold frame is a very effective way to extend your growing season into the fall and winter months.
?br>Copyright Sharon Sweeny, 2009. All rights reserved.

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