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heads in the cool, feet in the warm.

May 1, 2013 Gotalottie No Comments

In early March, I dug two big pits into the thick clay of our plot – 60cms deep 180cms wide, 180 cms long. On the next day I rested; thick stuff – the clay on our plot.

I lined the pits with lots of thick card and built 2 simple frames around them with some super long pallets.

Holes dug, frames created


5 weeks ago, I filled them up to the top with fresh manure – total depth 90cms - trampled it all down quite tight and added some additional frames across the top – with Perspex covers to let the light through and keep the cold out. Then I wee’d on them….

Don’t be shocked, urine is great for kick-starting off some heat into a pile of fresh horse manure.


adding the first top frames and a few seed trays


A week or so later, the heat was starting to build and we began to add trays of germinated seedlings to get some heat on the roots. When I say germinated seedlings, it’s an exaggeration, this should read ‘seeds just germinated’. A week after that, we started to raise the Perspex lids a little and left the tender wee things like that day and night - madness.

We don’t have a greenhouse and the window cills at home are half a seed tray wide, so with a desire to have a long growing season - we were adding seedlings almost daily. The seeds are laid in trays and modules at home and placed on the floor of the spare bedroom. As soon as they germinate, they’re whisked off to the plot, we don’t have any choice! A bit of warmth has been moving into the days and as a result, we’ve added 2 top frames to each hotbed allowing us to add even more seedlings. Only 50% of the covers have been left on at night. We watched for frost obviously but were convinced that this wasn’t coming and the seedlings have grown well, becoming hardened off to some extent also. We had 2 days with rain and the covers were put back on, but since the 24th April – the covers have been removed completely, night and day. The tomatoes in the photo below, stuck their heads out of the compost 3 weeks ago. They’re potted on now.

Top frames doubled and filled with even more seedlings


Many sowing have followed and many have now been potted on, some of the hardiest have even been planted out!

150 young beet added, some mangetout also


The different varieties of squash and courgettes are potted on and live to one side, sitting on a pile of fresh manure both day and night and protected from the wind. The growth is good in a night time temperature of approx. 9-12 degrees (allowing for warmth from the manure). The tomatoes will be joining them in a few days – 5 different varieties – heads in the cool, feet in the warm but they’ll be protected from any rain.

assorted squash/courgettes hardening off in safety


Some of our neighbours think that this is a bit radical. We’ve experienced similar comments on Twitter – that this might be a little early. We have a small safety stock of plants of course – in the unlikely event that we were to be nobbled by some frost.

This extends the growing season for us and gives us the best possibility of double harvests on our no-dig beds. The root is the heart of the plant and this has been protected, whilst the stems and leaves are growing strong in good light and there is no shortage of fresh air around them, therefore there are no problems with damping off.

lids off now, heads in the cool, feet in the warm


The top frames will be emptied out in the next 2 weeks and will be then refilled with 7-8cms of compost. That will be the nursery bed for another month and allow tender salad crops, cabbages, etc to get going well with no risk of slug attack.  When they start to get planted out, we’ll fill the spaces with squashes and some mini-cukes which will thrive on the richness and warmth underneath.


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