How to make a hot bed for plants

Written by anna-karin smith
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Hotbeds have been in use for hundreds of years, starting with Arabs living during the Dark Ages of Europe in what is now called Spain and Portugal. The Moors, as they were called at the time, used donkey and horse dung in the construction of their hotbeds to create sufficient heat to start plant seedlings growing in the winter. Though many gardeners today use electric heating for their hotbeds, others prefer to stick with good, old-fashioned manure.

Skill level:

Things you need

  • Four wooden posts, each 6 feet in length
  • Wooden boards
  • Hammer
  • Nails
  • Composting manure
  • Glass or hard clear plastic, framed by wood, large enough to cover the top of the hotbed
  • Screwdriver
  • Two sturdy hinges
  • Screws

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  1. 1

    Decide on a proper location for the hotbed. The hotbed should have good sun exposure to the south and have good protection from northern and western winds. Good drainage is a must, so a slight slope is a good idea.

  2. 2

    Once the location is chosen, set the dimensions. Dig the four posts into the corners of the area selected a foot into the ground, and pack the soil back in tightly around the posts. Make sure the posts extend 5 feet above the ground.

  3. 3

    Use a hammer to nail the boards to the four posts to make walls extending from the ground to the tops of the posts.

  4. 4

    Fill the hotbed with enough manure to build it up to a yard high.

  5. 5

    Add a foot high of planting soil on top of the yard of manure.

  6. 6

    With screws and a screwdriver, attach the two hinges to the uphill wall of the hotbed and one side of the wooden frame around the glass or plastic so that the glass or plastic frame can lie flat as the lid of the hotbed. This will retain the heat for the hotbed, and the hinges allow you to open the frame to plant your seeds and tend to your plants as they grow.

Tips and warnings

  • Straw can be mixed into the manure and is also very useful in loosely covering the topsoil, as it will give added protection to the seedlings as they grow.

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