Hooters Hall

Posts Tagged ‘hot bed’

Polytunnel Pineapples, Tomatoes, Basil & Shallots

A few years ago while on holiday in Cornwall we visited the lost gardens of Heligan. It’s a beautiful garden and the background of how it was rescued from decay and ruin is an excellent read. If you search for lost gardens of heligan on Amazon you can find the book and DVDs. One of the most interesting things at Heligan is the Pineapple Pit. It is heated by horse manure and designed specifically for growing Pineapples, a prized rare plant in Victorian times. You can read more about the Heligan Pineapple Pit on their blog post The story of the £10,000 Pineapple

We don’t have a pineapple pit at Hooters Hall but we do have our hot beds now so I’ve decided to have a go propagating some pineapple tops. This is going to be a long term project. Once a Pineapple top has successfully rooted it will take 2 years before it flowers.

I bought my pineapples from the supermarket. There are lots of You Tube videos and written information online about propagating pineapples. Basically you need to slice off the top then strip the leaves off the bottom inch or so. As you strip the stalk you can see little brown tendrils which will become the roots.

Some of the information online advises rooting your pineapple stalk in water but I’ve planted mine in a pot with some free draining compost. I’ve buried the pots in the hot bed so now we just need to wait and see if they root. Here are some pictures of the process.

Less exotic than the pineapples I also got my tomato, basil and shallot seeds planted this weekend. I’ve got a few varieties of Tomato including a dwarf windowsill variety Tiny Tim, Brandywine, Black Russian and some early varieties from Europe.

The Basil I’m growing this year is a British variety which I haven’t tried before. It’s supposed to be better suited to our climate more tolerant of the British Summer weather. This year I am determined to do several sowings of Basil and get better at using it in preserving / making pesto . I did quite well with my tomatoes last year and we’re still enjoying dehydrated, frozen tomatoes and green tomato chutney.

The heated propagator is still full of my Sweet Peppers so I put the seed trays with the tomatoes and basil in the hot bed with the pineapples. I also planted some Shallot seeds. It’s the first time I’ve grown Shallots. I’ve got some in seed trays and a row of them in the raised bed in the polytunnel.

Here are all my seed trays tucked up, nice and cosy in the hot bed.


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.