What is a hot bed?

A hot bed is basically a trench filled with organic materials and capped into a mound with top soil. This method was very popular with the Victorians and is one of the most economical and rewarding ways to produce a good crop. You should expect high fertility for at least 4 years or until the mound flattens. As the organic material in the mound breaks down, it will increase the temperature (hence the term ‘hot bed’). This will induce a fast-growing, early crop as well as a long-term improvement in general soil structure.

Preparing the ground

Dig a trench 12-14 inches deep. The trench can be as long as you wish, but ensure that you can easily reach all parts with having to walk and compress the soil.

Building the hot bed mound

  1. Fill the first 6-8 inches of the trench with hedge cuttings, twigs or wood chippings.
  2. Apply a further 6 inches of leaves and/or soft stems.
  3. Add 6 inches of fresh animal manure.
  4. Add 6 inches of rotted compost.
  5. Replace about half (6 inches) of top soil to cap off the mound.
Warming soil
Warming soil with a hotbed

Your hot bed is ready for planting. Good luck.

James Middleton

An obsessive gardener since 1982. Day-time job - web designer and developer and University lecturer.

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