At Schwieter Land and Livestock we are always looking for innovative ways to beautify the space while nurturing the landscape. Growing our own produce while incorporating salvaged materials made this project a “must try”.
Follow along as we answer the basic 5Ws and 1H of the hot bed process- from raw lumber to harvesting. All spanning less than a two month’s time, during the Missouri winter and early spring.
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Do you spend the winter months dreaming of spring and time in the garden? Would you love a greenhouse, but don’t have the space or budget? Does the price of lettuce and other vegetables frighten you? Do you live in a cold climate? Do you have idol space you’d like to utilize?…
If you answered yes to any of these questions, building your own hot bed might be a simple solution.
Also know as a hot bed garden or hot box, a hot bed, is an area used for growing plants. The windows and direct sunlight, along with the compost layer below, create a greenhouse environment. The deep soil, thick wood and well insulated windows keep the warm, damp air in and the cold out, despite being surrounded by possible freezing outdoor temperatures.
Using the measurements from the existing bed and border in combination with the window dimensions, a frame was built to accommodate. The second 2×10 was added and the sides were cut at an angle to create a slanted base for the windows. This angle lets more light into the space through the south-facing windows.
I created a bottom to the frame by lining the space with landscape fabric. This deters weed growth while also adding another layer of insulation and keeps the nutrient-rich soil from escaping.
The soil is comprised of horse manure, composed cow manure and hay and then topped with potting soil and top soil. As the organic material continues to break down, heat is generated and trapped within the walls and windows.
I chose a space on the south side of the garage for the box. This provides ample sunlight and a well insulated backdrop for the bed.
It is in close proximity to the kitchen which is nice for harvesting the lettuce right at dinner time. The existing bed was often dry due to the large soffit overhang. It was a difficult space to grow flowers and I was always chasing the dogs and chickens from the area.
This addition provides an opportunity to manage the soil and the moisture in the space. Moist, nutrient-rich soil replaced the dry, clay dirt.
Only natural sunlight and the natural compost process was used to warm the space- no additional heaters, blowers, or grow lights were used.
A variety of lettuce, peas and onions were planted in the space on February 19.
By March 4, sprouts of lettuce and peas were poking through the surface. On March 21 leaves and vines were starting to develop.
April 4 first photo, as it starts to fill in the space. April 7 first lettuce harvest.
April 20 it is overflowing.
One section of lettuce didn’t come up; the seed may have been old, causing it to not germinate properly. The onions didn’t sprout either.
I used the space to plant Lisianthus plugs I purchased from Crooked Creek Flower Co. This allowed me to get them into the ground sooner and not fear any damage or stunted growth due to a freeze.
Only salvaged material was used with the addition of some bagged potting soil. This soil was purchased at Shelby County Implement, (Pat Greenwell owner). If you’re local I’d highly recommend his products; if you’re not in the area, soil can be purchased at gardening and home goods stores or even on Amazon.
As the weather warms up I occasionally open the windows for part of the day. This will keep the space from getting too hot. As summer approaches I’ll remove the windows and use the space as a normal vegetable/flower bed.
I look forward to using this hot bed for many years to come and may even build more in the future.