|Read on to find out what's going on here...|
For every year I am itching to start off my first seeds, as is every other keen gardener. But patience is required. For there's no point putting time and love into germinating trays of seedlings if there's nowhere for them to go. There's a good 10 weeks yet before we reach that all important frost-free date and we can't let ourselves get fooled by the absurdly mild winter we've had thus far. After all, it was only two years ago that we had a severe frost in early May which really did a lot of damage.
To some extent, I can bring this May date forward at least a month by using the polytunnel as an interim home for young plants. But if only I could find a way to bring it even further forward without going to the expense of heating a greenhouse or building a conservatory!
An extra three or four weeks would make such a massive difference to those exotic crops which normally grow in the tunnel, the peppers, tomatoes, aubergines and chillies. Germinating the seeds indoors is no real problem, but it's the next bit which is rife with difficulties, raising the seedlings. For, to be honest, there's not really anywhere in the house which is warm enough, light enough or airy enough for such delicate young plants. The polytunnel is tempting and will probably keep the frost at bay, especially if I watch the night-time temperatures carefully, armed with fleece and bubble wrap. But it won't give them the sort of temperature they really need, not for a good few weeks yet.
But I have a cunning plan! A HOTBED.
Free heat in the polytunnel, powered by bacteria, the sort which can raise the temperature of a compost heap to scalding. I don't know how well it will work, so my early sowings will have to act as guinea pigs for this year.
|It's amazing how the deep litter builds up.|
Clearing it out is quite a job.
An outdoor hotbed would be covered with lights (frames of glass or plastic) to limit the amount of air space which would need heating and to provide insulation to keep the heat in the soil.
My idea is to place those cheap plastic 'greenhouses' over the hotbed. It's a large airspace, but I'm hoping that inside the polytunnel this arrangement will do the trick.
If it works, I might finally get my aubergines to ripen properly, I might get ripe tomatoes when all the other salad crops are ready and my peppers might thrive rather than limping through the year.
The added benefit is that I should have a warm bed, full of nutrients to grow crops in once the seedlings have moved on. This will be my raised bed next year and the hotbed will be rebuilt on the other side of the polytunnel... if it works, that is!
|The first layer|
|Building up the hotbed|
|The soil goes back on top|
|I constructed this raised bed too. This will be next year's hotbed.|
|I still had too much straw from the goose stable, |
so I mulched this bed which I will use for pumpkins this year
|And the geese have a nice, clean stable.|