Gilbert White is known to have used hotbeds to grow Melons and Cucumbers and to extend the growing season of various other plants. We have just constructed our second hotbed this season. Take a look at our video of its construction:
How to build a Hotbed:
Our hotbed is constructed directly on the ground. Layers of horse manure mixed with straw are added (Gilbert White also used tanners bark) these are surrounded by straw or hay for insulation. The manure/straw mix is compressed to remove oxygen so that it will ferment. It is this fermentation process which creates the heat.
The fermenting manure/straw mix is covered by soil. Hills of soil are then created for the plants. Wooden frames are constructed on top of the hotbed. We cover our frames with glass or canvas, however, Gilbert White often used frames covered by oiled paper.
Made a second Hot-bed : sowed within the frame, common Cucumbers, Horn D-, Squashes, Melons, Balsams, French Marygolds, purslain : without the frame ; Common Celeri, Celeriac or turnip-rooted Celeri, Nasturtium, Sun-flowers, & purslain. Made a cover of oiled paper for the first bed.
Garden-Kalendar April 13 1751