How to make a hotbed with your own hands

How to make a hotbed with your own hands
How to make a hotbed with your own hands

Gardeners are paying more and more attention to the construction of hotbeds for seedlings and vegetable plants in their garden plots. Experienced villagers have set certain rules for their quick installation and long-term use. Beginners in the gardening industry have certain difficulties in building and operating them. Some tips on how to make a hotbed with your own hands will hopefully help beginners.


What is the difference between a hotbed and a regular vegetable bed?

A hotbed is characterized by earlier warming of the soil in the root zone, which helps to get earlier vegetables and sprouts in the spring. It consists of several layers, where the lower layer acts as biofuel, and the heat from decomposing organic matter rises to the root layer, helping plants to start growing and fruiting earlier.

What is a hotbed?

Hotbeds can be divided into temporary beds and permanent beds. The permanent ones are divided into above-ground, fenced, and sunken beds.

Temporary beds are usually formed in the open and enclosed soil and are used to raise seedlings. After the seedlings are harvested, they are used as normal garden beds.

Permanent hotbeds are constructed in several ways. They are similar to and sometimes operate for long periods of time (5-8 years) as greenhouse-type greenhouses. They are used in the south and in areas with cold springs to get an early harvest and extend the vegetable season during the latter part of the summer and fall when the weather turns cooler.


  1. Hotbed allows the production of vegetables without applying mineral fertilizers, thus achieving environmentally friendly production.
  2. It is easier to take care of plants on dedicated beds, and the use of chemical means to protect plants from diseases and pests is minimal.
  3. All the waste from pruning vine bushes, berry crops, and weeds is used to create seedbeds. As they decompose, they add to the layer of soil containing humus, which decays and replenishes the humus needed by the plants.

The disadvantages of hotbeds are the extra physical labor required to build them and, in terms of agricultural techniques, the need for more frequent watering, especially for beds located above the soil level in boxes, stones, or other fences. Watering twice a week is necessary because the soil layer dries out more quickly when exposed to the sun, and the use of water by the crops grown increases. In addition, during the winter months, mice and other pests like to settle in them, and measures should be taken to prevent them from penetrating the inner layers of the bed.

DIY hotbed with your own hands
DIY hotbed with your own hands



It is more practical to form a hotbed in the fall. If it is too late, you can also make the bed (especially a temporary bed) in the spring.

Before you start making the bed, you should first do the following actions.

  1. Think about how many beds you should make (1-8).
  2. Choose a place to put the beds. Temporary beds can be placed directly in the garden. For permanent beds, you need as much light as possible, but not in the sun and not under constant ventilation.
  3. Prepare building materials for the fence (boards, bricks, slabs, etc.). Prepare several pieces of roofing felt to insulate the boards from decay during irrigation and netting to keep rodents away.
  4. Prepare biofuel (logs from pruned and cut trees, branches, weeds, garden residue, except potato and tomato stems).

Set up a temporary hotbed

More often than not, warm temporary beds are formed to nurture seedlings, especially in the south and other areas of the country where it is warm. These beds are called steam beds. They can be placed in any convenient place.

In the fall, the top 4inch (10cm) of soil is removed. The resulting trench is filled with about 6-8inch (15-20 cm) of fresh or semi-decomposed manure. A layer of leaves or weeds is placed on top. If organic material is not readily available, it can be filled with small pieces of twigs, weeds, garden waste, and other household waste that can be decomposed or composted under certain conditions. This layer of biofuel is slightly compacted, covered, and mulched with removed soil to form a 4-6inch (10-15 cm) layer. In this form, the bed goes into winter.

The bed can be sown with overwintering green manure. This bed should settle down during the winter. To start the warming process, you need to water the bed with hot (not boiling) water. If possible, water with a working solution of manure, chicken manure, mastic.
Cover with aluminum foil. The combustion process manifests itself as an increase in temperature. When the temperature reaches 50-57°F (10-14°C) (depending on the culture), start seeding seedlings. When seedlings begin to germinate, install arches over the seedlings and cover them with aluminum foil. Once the seedlings are selected, use the temporary seedbeds as a vegetable garden.

The arrangement of temporary beds in spring differs in the composition of biofuel. It is mainly prepared organic matter (manure, semi-skimmed manure, compost). Once a layer of biofuel has been formed, it is compacted, covered with a layer of soil, and soaked with a hot solution to warm it up. If the soil becomes very hot, the bed should be sprinkled with water, and another layer of soil should be poured on top.

Making a permanent hotbed

Permanent hotbeds can be made in three ways as follows.

  1. on the ground (raised bed) in a box made of any construction material. This option can be used in areas where the soil is not suitable for growing vegetable crops.
  2. Trench-type hotbeds can serve for 7-10 years and can replace greenhouses to some extent.
  3. Combined variants are suitable for all areas but are mainly used in areas where full trenches are not possible.

Hotbed is a raised bed

A hotbed on the floor is called a raised bed because it is completely above the floor. Its height should be between 20-30inch (50-80cm). It is best to orient it from east to west.

If you put several seedbeds, you should leave a path of at least 35inch (90cm) between them. The seedbed should be 24-30inch (60-80cm) wide, which helps to take care of your plants and does not require digging in the seedbed in the fall.

Mark the length and width of the bed, which can be anything, but it is recommended to be no wider than 35-40inch (90-100cm) – sometimes 60inch (150cm) for easy care of the plants.

The top 4-6inch (10-15cm) of soil is dug out and piled to one side. Fill the trenches with a drainage layer using gravel and sand. In clay soil or water standing close to the surface, a drainage layer is necessary.

Make a box corresponding to the length and width of the future bed from thick planks of wood chosen by the owner, but not less than 30inch (80cm) high. The boards are treated with preservatives and wrapped with aluminum foil or insulated with roofing felt. A permanent box can be made of bricks or other materials instead of planks.

Place rough materials on the drainage layer: coarse logs, branches, roots, and finely shredded tree trunks up to 12inch (30cm) high. Cover the layer with soil and compact it. Place a 6-8inch (15-20 cm) layer of finer biological material – various vegetable and household waste, leaves, healthy garden plant remain (except potatoes and tomatoes), weeds – on top. Compact this layer and cover it with soil.

The next layer should be made of materials that can decompose within a season: grass, leaves, compost, humus, bird droppings. The top layer should be at least 8inch (20 cm) so that the decomposing organic material does not burn the roots. It is prepared from a mixture of soil, humus, and peat. Add 20 grams of calcium superphosphate, potassium sulfate, urea with added ash to each bucket. Mix well and pack into boxes.

Each layer was tamped down and covered with a layer of soil. On top, the beds are watered with warm water. Even better – a working solution of biological agents, etc., containing live microorganisms to accelerate the processing of small organic matter.

During the warm season, the beds are systematically watered so that the lower layer does not dry out but slowly decomposes. The beds should be covered before the onset of cold weather to avoid excessive water evaporation and wind-blown weed seeds. Rodents should also be prevented, which will make “winter shelter” in warm places.

During the winter, it is necessary to form several mounds on the bed surface to prevent the soil from expanding during the spring thaw. In spring, the bed surface layer is loosened and watered with warm water or manure solution to stimulate the warming process of heat release. During this period, the surface of the bed should also be covered with aluminum foil.

Trench-type hotbed

This type of seedbed is most often prepared in areas where the soil is slow to warm up after a cold winter. For a trench-type hotbed, dig a trench of the desired length and width to a depth of 15-18inch (40-45 cm). The bottom is covered with a layer of sand. Experienced gardeners recommend an ingenious method of using plastic bottles with lids to separate the hotbed from the deep cold. They are covered by a layer of sand or soil.

For the rest of the height of the trench, a layer of biofuel from logs, branches, roots, etc., is placed on top. Fill the space with finer debris: leaves, wood chips, paper, or even rags. Place a layer of sod on top, with the plant mulch down, lightly compacted, and watered. Place a 12-16inch (30-40 cm) high wooden box on top of this layer and place the last 2 layers inside. The bottom layer consists of manure, humus, small leaves, paper, grass, garden waste, ashes, and other rapidly decaying materials. The top 6-8inch (15-20 cm) layer should include good soil mixed with compost or a soil mix, such as a raised bed. Otherwise, there is no difference in care between raised beds and trench-type hotbeds.

Combination hotbed

Combination hotbeds are used in areas with high water tables. In this case, a shallower trench is dug. The box is installed so that part of it is underground, and 20-30inch (50-80 cm) of the enclosure is left above the soil surface. The layer of soil to be filled in is the same as that used for trench hotbeds. Care and use are the same as for the previous types of hotbeds.

All kinds of vegetables can be grown on hotbeds. They can be used both in the open air and in a greenhouse. The following materials are intended more for beginners in gardening. With time and experience, each owner will add his own variations in the arrangement of beds, enrichment of soil, types, and levels of biofuel.

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