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Lazy beds, near Shawbost, Isle of Lewis. Via Bluewave


Lazy beds are a method of arable cultivation. Rather like cord rig cultivation, parallel banks of ridge and furrow are dug by spade although lazy beds have banks that are bigger, with narrow drainage channels between them.

Although it is largely extinct, it is still to be found in parts of the Hebrides where lazybeds are known as feannagan in Scottish Gaelic. In these places, the method used is normally to lift up sods of peat and apply seaweed fertiliser to improve the ground. Potatoes were often grown in this way in these regions, until the potato blight Phytophthora infestans caused the potato famine in the Highlands and it was used in southern parts of Britain from the post-Roman period until the post-medieval period, and across much of Ireland and Scotland until the 19th century.

Lazy beds may be 3-5 feet wide, of varying lengths, and separated by trenches one foot wide and up to a foot and a half deep. They were re-made each year, sometimes at right angles to the previous beds or by switching the trenches and beds. The ground is rarely tilled, usually only smoothed with a rake. Stable manure, seaweed, or commercial fertilizer is spread in swaths where the beds will be raised. The seed is laid in close rows on this fertilizer, all of which is covered with loose soil spaded from the strips of ground between the beds, thus simultaneously forming the trenches and raising the beds.

Lazy beds are well suited to locales lacking warmth, deep soil, and drainage giving the advantage of raised beds that are drier and therefore warmer than the moist flat ground around them. The beds warm up more quickly in the morning and retain heat longer. At night they protect crops from frost by draining the denser cold air into the ditches and compared to flat fields, according to both researchers and farmers, the lazy beds yield more per acre with greater consistency. Lazy beds reduce labor time and raise the yield per acre.

Long grown over, you can still see evidence for their use throughout the islands.