Hot Beds


With winter closing in I’ve recently been talking a lot about getting your crops covered up to extend your growing season.  But in some of the colder zones retaining what little heat is in your garden might not be enough, or you might not have the resources available to build a greenhouse or hoop house.  So instead of concentrating on insulating the heat in, you might want to focus on increasing the amount of heat in your soil to begin with.  This is usually referred to as a “hot bed”.  Here are some tips on how to increase heat in your soil and extend your growing season.



Hot beds are just that, beds, not rows, so this isn’t going to work without frames of some sort to contain your material.  So first off, you will need to construct frames for your beds.  These frames will need to deeper than your normal raised bed frames.  Preferably 2 feet or higher.


The key ingredient to any hot bed is manure.  The animal source is not as important as the age of the manure.  Unlike manure that would be added as a top dressing, the manure you want for your hot bed needs to be as fresh as you can get it.  Preferably less than one month old.

Fill it Up

You will want to spread out your manure in your hot bed frame.  The depth of the manure is the primary determination of the heat it will give off.  So if you are in a colder zone, or have less insulation you are going to want manure as deep as 18 inches, less if you are in a warmer zone or have multiple layers of cover.  Then press down the manure to get rid of air pockets that will make the heat less evenly distributed.

Add Soil

Next, add the soil that you will be growing in.  You want this to be able to accommodate the whole root structure since you don’t want your plants to have to have their roots in manure that is going to be over 100 degrees.


Water your bed thoroughly, add urine if you feel comfortable doing so.  This will help to activate the bacteria that will break down the manure, this is the source of heat.


All that is left is to plant it out.  Remember, you will still want to select seasonal crops since they are more suited to shorter days.  If your bed is getting too cold, try adding more water, if your bed is dry the bacteria will not be thriving and this is what you need to produce heat.  Don’t let dropping temperatures put an end to your gardening season, fight back with hot beds.

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