Posted: 02/01/2013 at 15:34
Artjak, my Fathers one interest apart from his business was gardening, he had grown up in that walled garden and smallholding which had to feed extended family in need well before my time, he knew every trick of the trade.
Each Autumn he would assemble wood panels as if for a raised bed in a sheltered spot next to a south facing wall so they got the most of any winter sun.
Next went in bales of straw, we had plenty from the farm and I do mean bales not a covering. On top of that went raw manure out of the midden a plentiful covering on top of the straw. More straw went on the manure a good covering then soil on top of that again a good covering and it was left to heat up naturally, if it was wet weather he had glazed panels to cover it. When it was up to heat Dad put boxes of seed on the soil and planted some straight into the pile, he would cover the pile at night and lift the glass during the day.
His motto was if you cannot eat or sell it then it is a waste of space, we had fresh spring cabbage beans and peas long before anyone else, he grew melons, marrows (we ate a lot of them) and some soft fruit, but he also brought on his Chrysathemum roots to take the cuttings, he loved them and showed them at the local shows.
When the pile had run its course we dismantled it and all the content went into the midden for next years compost.
Unless you had access to raw manure it was not viable so fell out of fashion as tractors do not produce the raw material.
I watched a program last night that said the calorific content of fruit and veg had fallen drastically as modern techniques put in the minimum feed needed to produce the crop. Us "auld lads" brought up in times of good gardening with "olde" fashioned ways of doing things have said that for years, nothing tastes as it once did.
In these modern times I have a sand box in the greenhouse with heating wires in the sand and a thermostat, it does the same job only on a lesser scale. That apart from a frost guard fan heater is all the heat I use.