The Walden Effect: Farming, simple living, permaculture, and invention.

Homemade hot frame

Homemade hot frame

Wendy Trehus wrote in last week to share her experiments with a hot frame created out of a 55-gallon drum combined with a water-bed heater.

She began by creating a wooden box out of 2x6s on the ground, within which she laid a sheet of foam insulation. Atop the insulation, she snaked a garden hose, then backfilled the bed with sand. Both ends of the hose were left outside the box.

Next, she filled the 55-gallon drum with water and taped the water-bed heater around it followed by a couple of heavy blankets for insulation.

After cutting a hole in top of the drum, she inserted a sump pump and attached it to the water hose to circulate beneath the sand bed. A timer turns the pump on and off every half hour.

Seed flats on top of the sand bed enjoy bottom heat (about 65 degrees Fahrenheit). Within an unheated cold frame in Texas, the bit of warmth is enough to get her seedlings off to an excellent start outdoors.

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About us: Anna Hess and Mark Hamilton spent over a decade living self-sufficiently in the mountains of Virginia before moving north to start over from scratch in the foothills of Ohio. They've experimented with permaculture, no-till gardening, trailersteading, home-based microbusinesses and much more, writing about their adventures in both blogs and books.

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I've seen setups where there are black 55 gallon plastic drums filled with water and the seedling trays are on top of them. I wonder 1) how well that works and 2) whether that's a more energy efficient setup than what is shown here. Any thoughts?
Comment by Nayan Tue Mar 14 09:38:38 2017
We actually have 3 unheated drums as well. They provide some passive heat but they don't get warm enough to spur germination. However after germination I have been moving the seedlings to the top of them to "harden off' a little bit and to slow down growth so they don't get too leggy. Even though their feet are warm daylight is still sketchy. I am growing primarily flowers and I want a lot of them. The problem I have always had in the past is that about the time the soil is warm enough to to germinate my seed the onslaught of Texas heat is here and the poor little beggars roast. That means I tend to buy ready annuals and that gets pricey. (Perennials are my thing but a few annuals are cheerful here and there. I used to be a perennial purist. I owed the t-shirt that said "Friends don't let friends buy annuals" but I have softened in my advanced age...)I can put about 12 flats in each hot bed so it probably will cost me about a dollar a flat over the three or four months I will be using it in this manner.
Comment by Wen Thu Mar 16 11:03:01 2017

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