Allotment Hotbed – Filling and Planting

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Today’s video shows the process of emptying last years hot bed and then filling it again and also filling the new hotbed.

The process is fairly simple to describe:

First I fill the empty hotbed with 18″ of compressed horse bedding (manure). Depending on the proportion of droppings I also add chicken manure pellets, which add additional nitrogen to the mix, which is essential with the woody bedding that gets delivered to our site.

The manure needs to be well compressed, which I do by stamping on it, and watered. Since I will be using this manure next year as compost I also add rock dust to it.

Finally I use the growing medium from last year, which is mixed with the well rotted manure layer, as the growing medium for this year. This has been enriched in August with additional high quality compost. The growing medium forms a 6″ layer on top of the 18″ of manure and I tamp it down with the back of a rake.

Once the manure has warmed up I plant into the growing medium. This year I’ve planted carrots and radishes in one bed, lettuces in another, leaving me two beds to fill later in the month once they’ve warmed up. I will probably plant more carrots, spring onions and golden beetroot – but I’m always changing my mind.

Debbie and I filled the hotbeds a bit earlier than we did last year because we had the manure ready to go and it was already heat to the forsty outside air, so we thought we might as well get started, a forecast of good weather also helped us make the decision. Had we been in control of the manure delivery date, we would have started mid January and planted towards the end of January.

If you are considering growing more veg all year round I recommend starting with just a cold frame, then a hoop tunnel and finally a hotbed, ie in order of cost effectiveness. I’d only start with a hot bed like this one if you have a cheap source of wood, would benefit from extra composting space and like winter exercise. You can achieve quite a few benefits of a hotbed, just by over-wintering young salads in a hoop tunnel.

You can see me building my second hot bed carcass in this video

You can see my first hotbed in action in last years March tour video. This video also shows clearly what can be achieved without a hotbed.

If you are new to my allotment videos you might find a bit of context useful. We have three allotments in my family, mine (Steve), my wife’s (Debbie) and one of our daughter’s (Jennie). We also have a small kitchen garden at home. They are all managed in an integrated fashion, so don’t expect to see the usual mix of veg on each plot.

On Jennie’s plot for example we focus on potatoes, squash, alliums and brassicas. This video provides an overview. I do a monthly tour of each allotment, roughly one a week, you can find the tours here.

Our approach to allotment life is to: grow as much as we possibly can, to be self sufficient in veg all year round and in fruit in summer, to give away our huge surplus to friends and family, and to have as much fun as possible.

My wife and I spend about 4 hours a day, 4 days a week on the plots (on average) and we keep nudging that down as we eliminate non-productive work: like grass cutting, weeding and watering as much as practical. We are both newbie gardeners, only starting the allotments in 2016.

I’m a bit obsessive about the nutrient density of the veg that we grow and making the plots easy to work because it’s through this allotment lifestyle and food that I’ve overcome a debilitating auto-immune disease. I’m always aware though that it might not last so I make sure that I don’t work too hard, eat the most organic fruit and veg I can and design the plots so that I can still work them if I flare up again.


Steve Richards

I'm retired from work as a business and IT strategist. now I'm travelling, hiking, cycling, swimming, reading, gardening, learning, writing this blog and generally enjoying good times with friends and family

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