Chelsea Green Publishing

Chelsea Green Blog

Heat up Your Garden Bed: Simple Tips for an Early Harvest

As March rolls in like a lion, we’re entering what some gardeners and farmers call “the hungry gap.” This is the time when the ground is starting to thaw, but it’s still too cold and dark to plant new seedlings. Meanwhile your root cellar is running low, and you’ve long since devoured all those dilly beans and tomatoes you preserved at the height of summer. Maybe you have a few parsnips left (in which case you should try this recipe for tea cake), but that’s about it until your garden starts filling your larder once more.

Do you want next March to be different?  Using a simple method called a hot bed, which uses the heat from decaying compost to warm up a basic coldframe, you could be harvesting radishes and salad greens by now, and potatoes as early as April. That’s right. I said potatoes in April.

Hot beds are nothing new—they were even used by the Romans. Hot Beds, a new title from Green Books in the UK, shows you how to build these compost-heated coldframes, manage their warmth, and grow a variety of crops that will feed you through the early spring. By reviving and modernizing this ancient vegetable-growing method, author Jack First produces healthy plants that are ready at least two months earlier than conventionally grown vegetables, even in his native Yorkshire, England.

This practical, illustrated guide has everything you need to understand about how to utilize this highly productive, low-cost, year-round, eco-friendly gardening technique. Straightforward explanations, diagrams, and examples show how the natural process of decay can be harnessed to enable out-of-season growing without burning fossil fuels or elaborate equipment.

Below is a free sample of the book, including a diagram that shows you the basic structure of a hot bed. So get growing!

Hot Beds: How to Grow Early Crops Using an Age-Old Technique by Chelsea Green Publishing


“If we work hard, we sleep well.” Independent Farmstead Q&A (part 2)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food.Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive pasture […] Read More

The Miracle of Farming: Toward a Bio-Abundant Future

Charles and Perrine Hervé-Gruyer’s Le Ferme du Bec Hellouin is a celebrated model of innovative, ecological agriculture in Europe, connected to national and international organizations addressing food security, heralded by celebrity chefs as well as the Slow Food movement, and featured in the inspiring César and COLCOA award-winning documentary film, Demain (Tomorrow).In this excerpt from their […] Read More

Sow Seeds: Stop Walking Around Doing Nothing

“In the last one hundred years, 94 percent of seed varieties available at the turn of the century in America and considered a part of the human commons have been lost.”That’s one of the key takeaways in award-winning author and activist Janisse Ray’s book, The Seed Underground: A Growing Revolution to Save Food. In her book, Ray […] Read More

True or false? Figs contain dead wasps

They are trees of life and trees of knowledge. They are wish-fulfillers … rainforest royalty … more precious than gold. They are the fig trees, and they have affected humanity in profound but little-known ways. Gods, Wasps and Stranglers tells their amazing story.Fig trees fed our pre-human ancestors, influenced diverse cultures and played key roles […] Read More

Imagination, Purpose & Flexibility: Creating an Independent Farmstead – Q&A (part 1)

Twenty years ago, the land that authors Shawn and Beth Dougherty purchased and have come to name the Sow’s Ear was deemed “not suitable for agriculture” by the state of Ohio. Today, their family raises and grows 90% of their own food.Such self-sufficiency is largely the result of basing their farming practices around intensive pasture […] Read More
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