Victorian gardeners seem to have coped very well with the winter conditions and were able to get seeds off to an early start. The climate was not too different 150 years ago to that which we endure today so how did Victorians cope. Seed was often sown earlier than we do now and the varieties of seed were no different except for some of our softer hybrids. ‘The answer lies in the soil’ and copious amounts of compost.
Great quantities of manure, ashes, soot and household waste were added to the soil. This made the soil blacker and prone to absorb what heat there was making it warmer.
Ground was deep dug in a methodical and extensive manner and potentially this broke down the frozen soil quicker than on our compacted soils.
Bell cloches walled areas and other protective measures were taken. We could make more use of the cheap cloches now available to us, using lights and cold frames is more in tune with Victorian methods..
Some beds were dressed with straw that heats as it rots away making a fermenting hot bed to get seeds started.
The sweat of the gardeners brow also contributes to a warm garden, the more effort the more you are likely to succeed.
Building a hotbed structure to protect delicate plants involves a lot of fresh manure, details of one method are found on Gardeners Calender