The Country Life: Beating the Winter Cold

Although the Penn family did not reside at Pennsbury in the dead of winter, the estate was certainly not dead; the staff worked to ensure the smooth running of Penn’s summer home in all seasons. Colonial gardeners were no exception, cultivating techniques to battle the cold and prepare for spring. As colonials tired of pickled and salted foods during the winter months, they longed for fresh produce. The hot bed, an important part of the colonial kitchen garden, allowed colonists to begin growing vegetables before spring thawed the ground.

 

16th-century engraving of a gardener working on his raised garden beds (“The Gardener’s Labyrinth,” Thomas Hill).  Raised bed allowed gardeners to adjust the composition of the soil, adding or lessening acidity depending on the plant being cultivated.  Hot beds were a variation on the standard raised bed frame.

 

In Pennsbury’s garden, the hotbed is located opposite the riverside next to the cold frames. A brick and wood structure, the hotbed protects seedlings from the bitter cold and provides the perfect environment for out-of-season growth. Colonial gardeners would have layered soil over fresh manure from the barn to create the heat source. Once the manure cooled to about seventy degrees Fahrenheit, the bed was ready for seeds. Straw placed on top provided additional protection from the elements. If prepared properly, the hotbed could retain its heat for several weeks.

Although its main purpose was to jumpstart vegetables in the cold weather, colonial gardeners would have used the hotbed year round to grow a variety of plants. We still use the hotbed for this purpose at Pennsbury (see below). For example, last summer, the gardeners used the hotbed to provide a space for growing flax. The hotbed gave us the perfect place to monitor the young flax plants and ensure they would be mature enough for the fall harvest.

 

A hotbed at Pennsbury Manor, 2011

 

Colonists were not able to simply walk into the supermarket and pick up fruits and vegetables during the winter like we can, but they were not completely helpless. They wasted no resources, and that includes time. While they could not beat Mother Nature’s icy grip on their gardens, they could manipulate the temperature of their own growing environment, the hotbed.

 

**Come to Pennsbury Manor’s Gardening Sunday on May 27 and see what’s starting to sprout in the Kitchen Garden!**

 

Written by Danielle Lehr, 2011 Intern

Edited by Hannah Howard

Advertisements

2 comments on “The Country Life: Beating the Winter Cold

  1. Earline Szweda says:

    Bed frames that are made from aluminum or bronze are also great since they have that elegant finish. I always use them at home. ‘.,:’

    Yours trully
    http://www.healthmedicinelab.com/upper-stomach-pain/

  2. Erin Renosky says:

    Iron beds are beds in which the headboard and footboard are made of iron; the frame rails are usually made of steel. Iron beds were developed in 17th century Italy to address concerns about infestation by bed bugs and moths. An iron cradle (with dangerously pointed corner posts) has been dated to 1620-1640.[4] From the start of their production in the 1850s until World War I, iron beds were handmade. The manufacturing process included hand pouring and polishing intricately detailed casting and hand applying finishes. In the many small foundries of the time that employed only a handful of employees, it could take days to produce a single bed. –

    Freshest brief article on our internet page
    <'http://www.beautyfashiondigest.com/best-facial-hair-removal-for-women/

Please leave a comment

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s