I hope you all had a fabulous Thanksgiving holiday! We enjoyed ours and know that we have much to be thankful for.
Many of you probably also ‘celebrated’ Black Friday by standing in
unbelievably long lines early in the cold morning to get great deals on
Christmas gifts. Although I did do some shopping online, I didn’t dare
venture out into the mob of wild shoppers. Instead of heading toward the
retail district, we headed the other direction into the country to take
advantage of an awesome (FREE!) deal: Horse manure! That’s right – on
Black Friday we went out to a local farm and picked up some ‘black
To be honest, we didn’t really get ‘black gold.’ Black Gold
is a term used to describe compost because of its extreme value in
creating healthy gardens. Composted (aged) manure contains lots of
nutrients and is a great addition to any garden! This manure is far from
composted but it will bring value to our garden by warming our hotbeds as
it decomposes. And as the gardening season progresses next spring and
summer, it will indeed become ‘black gold.’ Even if this hotbed
experiment doesn’t work, I’m excited that in the spring I’ll have raised
beds that are essentially 3 feet deep and full of very rich soil!
My original plan for winter growing was
to convert six of our4’ (wide) x 12’ (long) x 1’ (deep) raised beds
into hotbeds. The conversion process involves removing the 12 inches of
garden soil, digging a pit in the bottom of the bed that is 1.5 to 2
feet deep, filling the pit with manure (horse and goat so far) and
hay/leaves/grass clippings, adding 6 inches of soil back on top and then
topping the bed with a plastic row cover on PVC hoops. Here’s a quick
update on the process.
Bed #1 was converted to a hotbed a month or longer
now. It has peas and lettuce (transplanted from the greenhouse last
week) growing in it and they’re coming along beautifully!
#1 with peas and lettuce growing in it. At the time I took this picture
it was 85* inside the row cover and about 35* outside.
Peas growing in Hotbed #1.
Lettuce seedling in Hotbed #1
Bed #2 was converted to a hotbed last week except
that it still needs a plastic row cover. I’m hoping to cut plastic for
this today (I have a roll of plastic in the garage… somewhere…). The bed
currently has kale growing the middle; that portion of the bed has not
been converted because I transferred the kale there this fall from other
parts of the garden. The hotbed ends are ready for cabbage and
cauliflower transplants. The cabbage and cauliflower seedlings are in
the greenhouse right now and should be ready within a week to be
is growing in the center portion of this bed. The ends have been
converted for hotbeds (there’s horse manure underneath). All we need now
is a row cover!
Bed #3 was converted to a hotbed this past weekend.
All it needs is a plastic row cover. Unfortunately I don’t think the
plastic I have in the garage will be large enough for more than one
cover so I need to buy more ASAP. (It currently has a “roof” of plastic
sheeting that isn’t quite big enough to cover the whole thing.) The
middle of the bed is occupied by carrots that I transplanted from
another bed. (Yes, I transplanted carrots. I’ve done it before
and they’ll be fine.) Next week the ends of the bed will be receiving
leeks which are currently in the greenhouse.
Remember that these beds start with 10-12 inches of garden soil in
them but I’m only returning 6 inches of soil back. That’s because I
discovered last month that the manure can heat 6 inches of soil but 12
inches is too much. So where do the other six inches go? I’ve been
topping off other beds in the garden that have lost soil or compacted
slightly. In fact as I went to fill this bed back in, I was running low
on garden soil and decided to add compost from our summer compost pile.
It’s hard to believe that the rich, dark dirt I shoveled in was carrot
peels, onion tops and grass clippings just a couple of months ago.
This is hotbed #3. Soon it will have a row cover that also covers the ends.
These are the carrots I transplanted last weekend. They look pretty sad right now, but they’ll perk up soon.
Bed #4 currently has turnips growing in one third of
it (on the end). I have to say that they are holding on just fine but
are showing no progress in their growth. I left them undisturbed while I
dug up the remaining 2/3 of the bed. Currently there’s a 2 foot hole
there waiting for manure. There wasn’t enough horse manure to fill all
the beds so I’m hoping to get enough goat manure this week to fill at
least this bed. I’ll also need to get plastic for a row cover. Once its
complete, I’ll be transplanting lettuce and broccoli into it from the
is hotbed #4. There are currently turnip and lettuce seedlings growing
here. I’ll be converted the other side into a hotbed this week.
Bed #5 is all tucked in for the winter. Because it
was around 70% full of existing, frost-tolerant plants (chard, beets,
radishes) I decided not to convert it to a hotbed. Instead I planted
spinach in the remaining 30% of the bed and gave it a row cover. So far
the established plants look great in there but the spinach is taking its
sweet time germinating. It will be interesting to see how this bed
fares during the winter compared to its hotbed counterparts.
bed already had many frost-tolerant plants growing in it so I decided
not to convert it to a hotbed. Instead, I planted some spinach in the
remaining space (which doesn’t seem to be germinating). We’ll see how
this bed fares through the winter without any manure beneath it.
Radishes, Beets and Chard
Bed #6 had carrots still growing in it until this
weekend when I transplanted them into Bed #3. Why did I transplant them?
For several reasons. One is that I needed to move some plants around to
stage the garden for my new crop rotation plan. (What I grow in each
bed this winter will impact what I can grow there this coming spring and
summer.) Also, the carrots were spread throughout the entire bed
(carrots that were too small to harvest during our CSA season but have
grown since then). I decided to put them all in one concentrated place
to make better use of the bed. At any rate, this bed still needs a lot
of work. I need to remove all of the garden soil, dig the 2 foot pit
(before the ground freezes!) and then fill it up with compost. I’m
starting to think I won’t have enough manure to fill both this bed and
bed #4, so I’m going to experiment by using non-manure compost here.
I’ll be using table scraps, lots of leaves, and if I can manage to mow
the lawn one last time before sticking snow, grass clippings. Once this
bed is converted, it will be home to lettuce (in the greenhouse). I was
also hoping to direct seed radishes into this bed… but I thought I would
be doing that several weeks ago. We’ll see if the bed gets/stays warm
enough for the seeds to germinate.
This raised bed has a long way to go to become a hotbed! It will feature plant-based compost instead of manure.
Other garden areas are mostly being ‘winterized’.
I’m halfway through the process of mulching the Fenceline Garden with
leaves. Three of the beds in the Main Garden have received seeds that
will overwinter and grow in the spring. Crops include scallions (no
growth seen), parsnips (growth observed), carrots (germination observed)
and asparagus (no growth seen). These beds will be mulched with
shredded leaves this week. Dormant beds will be mulched with either
leaves (likely un-shredded because of time constraints) or maple wood
chips. And last but not least, one of the small beds at the front of the
Main Garden was supposed to overwinter spinach, but the seedlings are
coming along so well that I think we’ll be eating from it this winter
instead of harvesting from it in the spring! That will mess up my crop
rotation a little bit, but my excitement over hopefully having fresh
spinach in January is overshadowing that conundrum for now.
garden bed is half as wide as the others and is NOT a hotbed (no manure
below). Spinach is growing inside… we’ll see how long it lasts!
So that’s what’s happening around here regarding winter growing. We
have some exciting developments happening regarding expansion of the
garden for next season, and I can’t wait to share that with you next
week. Stay tuned!
Posted by Katie
@ 04:38 PM EST