Winter Hot Box with Horse Manure

(Wow, three entries in one day!)

I have lights specially fitted to the bed up front, so it can easily be converted to a cold frame. I’ve successfully grown lettuce in it in April. Now I was thinking of growing something there  from November to March, the coldest months.

The hotbed, finally!

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A, the owner of the horse stable, uses our property to get to conservation land where she can ride. In return I can go and get as much manure as I want. The stable is about a quarter mile away, and I do the entire trip in twenty minutes, if I’m not held up chatting with A or the neighbors. Fortunately it’s downhill from my house, so I get there real fast. Unfortunately it’s also (go figure) uphill to my house, and that makes for a great work out.

the manure, the bed, the lights

I sort of, to the best of my abilities,  followed these instructions.

The bed is 3.5 – 7 feet, but I started with a little less than half of it, as I had only the one 6 cu.f. wheelbarrow of manure. The instructions call for a drainage pit with gravel or cinders, but by the time I dug 14″ deep (from the soil line), I hit rock bottom. There I used my fork to open up the stony soil a bit.

Then I added 10″ of horse manure.  It turned out to be exactly the entire wheelbarrow, though I’m sure it’s going to compact quite a bit, that stuff is so fluffy with all the woodshavings, hay and straw in it.  I made it all sopping wet.

(Sorry, DH, I promise I’ll clean it off)

Then I added 4″ of the original soil and put on the lights.


Now I need to monitor the temperature of the manure. At the moment it is 70 F (by comparison, the soil in my   hoop house beds is at 76 F). I expect it will start heating up soon. As soon as it drops back down to 75 degrees, and stays there, I can put in the spinach and lettuce seedlings.

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I’m going to get a lot more of that manure. Perhaps I’ll convert the entire bed to a hot box. But I definitely want to  use it to dress the other beds that I won’t use over the winter, then to tuck them all in with blankets of cardboard and straw. I like the synergistic straw culture that Emilia Hazelip promotes in the video I posted earlier.  Not to touch the soil at all, just to keep adding, adding… I’d like to play around with that in my own setting.

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4 Comments

  1. Wow, as I’m reading it’s occurring to me that I can do this too, with llama manure! DH and I have talked about making cold frames for the spring, but winter hot boxes would be even better.

  2. how long will the hot boxes warm the soil will it last 2 or 3 months. Or will it last all winter? Can you build a box where you can replenish the manure and make the tempeture last all winter

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