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!