Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘grow your own’

Hot Bed Update

A quick update on the hot bed we constructed last week. After we had finished construction the temperature of the bed was 10C. The following day saw a slight increase in temperature to 12C. At that point I was expecting a gradual increase of 2-3C each day. However, on day 2 the temperature shot up to 23C.

On day 3 there was a further increase to 30C. The temperature continued to rise on day 4 and 5 reaching a toasty 40C at the end of day 4. We then saw a slight fall in temperature and the bed now seems to be maintaining a steady 34C

I’m definitely going to try growing some pineapples in the bed and also use it for starting tender seeds and for growing on my sweet peppers.

As I mentioned in the last post we used an easy reach, raised bed kit from Solway recycling which gave us a height on 62cm for the bed which I think was instrumental in the success of the heat generation. The bed is 1220cm x 1220cm and I have another next to it that I will be filling up next weekend.

The bed was filled with a mix of pig muck, straw, chicken muck and wood chippings. We currently have our pigs indoors because the paddocks are so muddy which means we have plenty of pig muck and straw each week. Once the pigs are outside again I’ll be using horse manure to top up the beds.

Here’s a picture of the bed in construction again and the current temperature.

Seed sowing & making a hot bed

I spent today in the polytunnel getting ready for the 2017 growing season. This year I’m going to try growing a variety of sweet peppers. I grew some last year which were quite sucessful but I didn’t really have enough space for them and I didn’t start them early enough so we only had a small harvest.

I’ve bought 13 different varieties this year, all from the Real Seed company. Sweet peppers need to be planted in January / February so they have a long enough growing season but they also need a temperature of about 25 C to germinate. Fortunately I have a heated propagator which is very useful for getting everything germinating early.

Last year I grew my sweet peppers in the raised bed in the polytunnel. This year I’m going to grow them in pots in a hot bed. We’ve made our first hot bed using an easy reach raised bed kit from Solway recycling and a large amount of muck from mucking out the pigs & chickens together with some fresh horse muck from the field and chipped prunnings. The beds are 62cm high and 122cm square which should be big enough to generate a decent amount of heat.

When growing in hot beds you can simply put a shallow soil layer on top of all the muck but I want to experiment with putting pots in the bed so I can easily move plants and also top up the bed when I need to. Once the bed is full I’m going to cover the top with a weed suppressant membrane and then cut holes for the pots which will be embedded in the muck. I’ve got a soil thermometer so I can monitor how hot the bed gets.

The muck in the hot bed will rot down over the next few months but we’ll always have some to add and then at the end of the growimg season I’ll empty the hot beds onto the raised bed and soil beds in the polytunnel to continue improving the soil.

Here’s a picture of the sweet pepper seeds I’m growing, my Vitopod heated propagator and the hot beds in constructions.

The other task for today was potting up some Blueberry plants that I’ve bought. I have a couple of Blueberry Sunshine Blue.

Blueberries need acidic soil so I’m going to grow them in large pots in the polytunnel rather than in the ground. As well as the Sunshine Blue variety I’ve also got three Blueberry Top Hat which is a dwarf variety growing to a height of 50cm when mature. I’ll start the Top Hat blueberry bushes off in the polytunnel then move them to our front porch area in the Summer.

Polytunnel Plans 2017

I spent today tidying up the polytunnel ready for a new growing season. I can get to all my different sized pots and seed trays now.

In the background you can see my Tree Cabbages. I’m gradually adding perennial vegetables to the polytunnel. As well as the tree cabbages we also have some nine star perennial broccoli which we haven’t  tried yet.

Of course the fruit trees are still in place as is the raspberry bed, grape vine and willow patch.

I’ve got some spring onions and carrots in the raised bed already and the elephant garlic that I planted in November is just starting to appear.

I grew a lot of cabbage last year but with the tree cabbages doing so well I’m not doing any this year. I have now got all my seeds for the year.

The first seeds to get planted will be the sweet peppers. They need to in by the end of January to have any chance of a long enough & warm enough growing season. I’ve got a heated propagator so hopefully that will help getting them off to a good start. I’m going to try lots of different varieties and see which does the best.

The tomatoes were very sucessful last year so I’m going to try some different varieties including more heritage plants & some that have an early harvest. I’ve also got some small cherry tomato seeds which I’m planning to grow in our front porch,with basil, to take advantage of the south facing aspect and also so that it’s easy to grab some when cooking in the kitchen.

I’ll be doing another trough of cut & come again salad leaves. I much prefer freshly picked salad leaves rather than the bagged up stuff from the supermarket. Growing them in the trough means I can move then aroubd easily and have them near the kitchen or campfire cooking area for super fresh salads.

Another staple for us is spring onions which are particularly good in the straw bale garden. I did some sucesssional planting last year and we’re still harvesting now.

I haven’t grown carrots for a few years but as well as the early ones I’ve already got in I’ll be doing regular sowings throughout the growing season together with some shallots which I’m growing from seed rather than sets.

We’re still enjoying the basket of fire chillies that I grew and dehydrated in 2015  but I”m going to grow some jalapeños this year, hopefully to have fresh as well as to dehydrate and store.

Building on my sucessful with melons in 2016 I’m going to try growing a watermelon as well as the galia type that I’ve already grown.

In 2016 the polytunnel did turn into a bit of a squash forest towards the end of the summer. To try & avoid that I’m going to grow Butterbush butternut squash which has a more compact habit. I’m also going to grow spaghetti squash again because they were so delicious.

My new challenge for 2017 is going to be sweet potatoes. I’ve got slips suitable for growing in the UK ordered for June. Having enough heat seems to be one of the keys to success so I’ll start them off in my heated propagator and then use cloches.

Fingers crossed for sunshine, just the right amount of rain & a lack of pests.