Hot Bed Course

Where There’s Muck There’s Magic

WYOG and Transition Keighley got the chance this February to be introduced to the wonders of growing vegetables in hot beds.  They’re a big feature of Jack First’s allotment and when we visited he was already tending seedling leeks, radishes, lettuces, carrots and spinach.  Most of us  hadn’t even opened our seed packets by then!  And Jack will be harvesting new potatoes at the beginning of April when most of us have barely got our seed potatoes in the ground.

Jack’s plot isn’t in some special sheltered corner of Keighley.  His cauliflowers, planted in ordinary open ground, got frosted and rotted this winter, just like everyone else’s.  And he doesn’t get his early harvests by paying a hefty electricity bill, either, because it’s all powered by decay.  His starting material is lots of freshly mucked-out horse bedding containing plenty of urine-soaked straw.  He heaps it up and crowns it with a cold-frame; and no, we didn’t need to wear pegs on our noses!  The pile rots slowly over many weeks and it’s the rotting process that produces the heat his seeds need when growing so early in the year.  Jack had sown his first seeds in January when much of Keighley was still frozen.  We got hands-on under Jack’s guidance and were even more impressed when we could wash our hands in hot water.  The water is heated using the same rotting power that warms the plants, and it wasn’t just lukewarm; it was steaming!

Our visit was a great introduction to a very effective alternative energy source, and Jack is keen to demonstrate the technique and explain the reasoning behind it to more people.  However, he can only manage to do so if he charges for sessions, which is not permitted on his own site.  Is there anyone out there interested in providing him with an opportunity elsewhere?  It’s great fun.

Jack First building a hot bedFirst seedlings in a hot bed