Mittleider Garden Method: What Is Mittleider Gardening
By: Bonnie L. Grant, Certified Urban Agriculturist
Higher yields and less water usage all in a small space? This is the claim by Dr. Jacob Mittleider, a long time California nursery owner, whose prodigious plant skills brought him acclaim and instigated his gardening program. What is Mittleider gardening? The Mittleider garden method is widely used in over 26 countries and is a good all-purpose guide for any gardener.
What is Mittleider Gardening?
It’s a race to the finish among green thumbed vegetable gardeners. The horticulturist with the most tomatoes, biggest squash and bushels of beans will be crowned as the king/queen of the season. Most avid gardeners have tricks and tips to increase their garden bounty and grow the biggest, juiciest fruits. One such trick is the Mittleider garden method. His mode of gardening focused on vertical growth, low but focused watering, and high nutrient infusions.
Dr. Mittleider ran a nursery that grew wholesale bedding plants in California. He used a combination of growing techniques drawn from traditional soil substrate gardening and hydroponics. The idea was to utilize the nutrient delivery system of hydroponics which flushed food directly to plant roots. He felt this was a more efficient way to feed plants and combined it with a targeted watering program, which used less water but funneled it straight to plant roots for quick uptake.
Another of his recommendations was the use of a Mittleider grow box. The box is basically a raised contained bed with the bottom in contact with regular soil. The substrate used to fill the box is soilless, roughly one-third sand and two-thirds sawdust.
The Basics on the Using the Mittleider System
The highlights of Dr. Mittleider’s system begin with the idea that crops can be grown in any soil with the proper nutrients introduced and in a closely planted small space. He believed that even a 4-foot Mittleider grow box was sufficient to fulfill much of an individual’s produce needs.
The substrate can contain several different mediums but is generally a 50-75 percent sawdust or peat moss mixture with 50-25 percent sand, perlite or Styrofoam pellet addition. The first part has good water retention while the lesser part has very little. Seeds are closely sown and vertical gardening assistances are installed to enhance space and encourage upward growth.
Pruning becomes crucial for vertical gardening, to encourage shoots to twine upward.
Crucial Nutrients and Water Systems
One of the most important components to the Mittleider system is the nutrient solution. Mittleider found that plants required 16 elements to achieve maximum growth. Of these, three are found in the air: oxygen, carbon and hydrogen.
The remainder needed to be injected into the soil. Plants are fed with the nutrients every week rather than traditional methods which only fertilize a few times during the plant’s life span. The water system is another important aspect. Directly running lines to slowly water roots daily rather than soaking the area several times a week provides a more economical and beneficial uptake.
Formulating Your Own Mittleider Fertilizer
You can go to the Food for Everyone Foundation and order the packets of micronutrients, which are then mixed with 3 pounds of Epsom Salt and 20 pounds of 16-8-16, 20-10-20 or 16-16-16-16 NPK organic fertilizer. The micronutrients in the packet are calcium, magnesium, sulfur and 7 trace elements.
Many organic plant foods carry a balance of these micronutrients, which can be added to the NPK and Epsom salt mixture. Soil tests can help you determine if your medium is deficient in one or more of these micronutrients. Some organic gardeners argue that the micronutrient packet is not organic because it contains synthetic chemicals to simulate the minor nutrient needs.
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Making Your Own Mittleider Garden Fertilizer
If you are a vegetable gardener, you may be familiar with the Mittleider gardening method. Its unique approach to growing common plants allows gardeners to increase their yields without the use of harsh chemicals. Instead it utilizes elements already in the air and the soil to fertilize and increase growth.
The Mittleider method does take a bit of time to set up but once it is established users simply need to maintain a regular, weekly schedule of watering and fertilizing. The building of grow beds or boxes is the first step. These are then filled with a customized amount of saw dust and sand. They can be built in any type of soil which is one of the big advantages of this method.
After grow boxes are established the planting begins. The most common plants for Mittleider growing is vegetables such as tomatoes, green beans, or peas. Berries that have climbing vines are also commonly grown. After plants are established and watering has begun, plants also need to be fertilized on a weekly basis. The fertilizing compound and frequency are one of the things that make Mittleider gardening both unique but extremely effective.
Below we have outlined the basics for the two types of Mittleider garden fertilizer and how you can make it at home on your own.
Helpful hints for constructing a versatile Mittleider garden
1 of 3 Top: Guide wires help vegetables grow vertically. Above: New Mittleider garden beds with T-posts. Show More Show Less
2 of 3 Guide wires help vegetables grow vertically. Show More Show Less
The Mittleider gardening method is an easy-to-use method that allows gardeners to raise an abundance of vegetables and other crops on almost any soil, in practically any season, in almost any climate, and virtually at any elevation. For more than 50 years Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider traveled to 27 countries teaching and helping gardeners develop successful gardens.
In 2013, the Montgomery County Master Gardeners constructed four beds at the AgriLife Extension demonstration gardens in Conroe following the Mittleider method. The gardeners wanted to demonstrate that sufficient vegetables to feed a family of four could be grown in a small space these gardens could be duplicated in any urban back yard.
Before building grow boxes it was necessary to develop a plan to help determine the types of plants to be used. The following questions helped with the decisions:
When should each variety be planted?
Should we plant seeds or seedlings?
If seedlings are best, when should seeds be started indoors?
How much space is needed between plants?
Can the plant be grown vertically?
The answers to these questions determined the number of beds that would need T-frame posts.
The next decision, should custom-made soil or native soil be used? We decided on a custom-made soil, explained below. In Missouri, home of the Food for Everyone Foundation, the Mittleider gardens are all planted in native soil. Homeowners can plant in either type of soil keeping in mind the five purposes of soil:
Anchor the plants — give them a firm foundation in which to grow and develop
Retain and release moisture — ideal garden soil should be about 25 percent water
Retain and release oxygen — ideal garden soil should be about 25 percent air
Retain and release nutrients
Mitigate for temperature fluctuations — keep plants cool in the summer and warm in the winter
Development of the Mittleider garden was guided by instructions in the Mittleider gardening course book and from You Tube videos (see 127 videos that explain various aspects of the Mittleider method.)
The procedure we used for the beds at the AgriLife Extension gardens was:
1) Leveled a 4-foot-by-16-foot area for each bed.
2) Constructed frames that were 4 by 16 feet and 8 inches high using pre-treated lumber or the cinder blocks already in place.
3) Sprinkled pre-plant fertilizer along the outer 18-inch edge of each side within the grow box. Used 1 ounce per linear foot. (See recipe below.)
4) Filled each grow box with a custom-made soil. (3 to 1 ratio of sawdust to sand. It’s important to use a coarse grade of clean sand such as concrete sand, sharp sand, torpedo sand or playground sand — NOT builder’s sand.)
5) Added three T-frames posts approximately 5 feet apart within two grow boxes (see photo).
6) Leveled the soil from side to side using a 1-inch-by-4-inch board that was wider than the grow box, to provide an even surface for watering.
7) Spread 1-ounce per linear foot of pre-plant fertilizer and ½-ounce per linear foot of weekly feed fertilizer along the outer edges within the grow box.
9) Mixed the fertilizers and the custom made soil using a Mantis tiller.
10) Dampened area as needed.
Pre-plant fertilizer recipe:
20 pounds garden lime (agricultural/dolomitic)
In a wheelbarrow or large container, add the garden lime, then the Epsom salt and then the borax. Mix thoroughly and store in airtight container such as a 5 gallon bucket with a tight fitting lid.
Weekly feed fertilizer recipe:
25 pounds of all-purpose fertilizer (13-13-13 up to 17-17-17 will work)
One (10-ounce) packet of Mittleider micronutrients (can be ordered on the Internet)
3 pounds garden lime/gypsum or ½ cup perlite to control moisture
Since some plants would be grown vertically, guide wires had to be installed.
By growing vertically, more plants can be grown in a smaller area. In addition it’s we learned of these benefits:
Plants are easier to feed, water, prune, and harvest.
The fruit does not get sunburned.
The vines and leaves are less likely to be damaged during harvesting.
The fruit does not touch the ground and, therefore, is less likely to rot, get stepped on, or eaten by bugs and animals.
The foliage gets better air circulation and exposure to sunlight.
The final items installed were the PVC pipes for the automatic watering system.
All instructions for building your own garden can be found on You Tube or in the Mittleider gardening course book. For questions or additional information on this or other gardening topics, call the Montgomery County Master Gardeners at 936-539-7824 or visit our website at www.mcmga.com
On May 9, join us for Open Garden Day at the AgriLife Extension Office, 9020 Airport Road in Conroe. You can visit all of the gardens and personally view the Mittleider demo garden.
Published by Woodbridge Pr Pub (1986)
Used - Softcover
Spine creases, wear to binding and pages from reading. May contain limited notes, underlining or highlighting that does affect the text. Possible ex library copy, will have the markings and stickers associated from the library. Accessories such as CD, codes, toys, may not be included. Woodbridge Pr Pub, 1986. Paperback. Condition: GOOD.
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Tomatoes can definitely add some bright colors to any vegetable garden. With so many varieties to choose from you can grow tomatoes or any size, nearly any color, and with many differing flavors. From cherry tomatoes to grape tomatoes, beefsteak, slicing tomatoes, and heirlooms, tomatoes are grown for eating as a snack, adding to a salad or sandwich, or even frying. Tomatoes are also a popular vegetable to can or use in homemade sauces such as salsa, spaghetti sauce, and pizza sauce.
It is recommended to start growing sensitive tomato seedlings indoors before moving them to a permanent outdoor space. Another perfect Mittleider plant, tomatoes require a good amount of drainage and are easy to pick when placed in grow boxes. Some variations will require a trellis or wall to climb thus adding to the ease of picking them, especially smaller cherry types. With the right conditions, tomato plants can grow rapidly. They require some pruning in order to let light reach leaves properly and for picking ripened fruits.
- Popular Types: Beefsteak, Sweet 100, Early Girl, Tigerella, Sun Gold, Better Bear, Yellow Pear, Brandywine, etc
- Growing Zones: All zones
- When to plant: Late spring, temperatures over 60 degrees
- Amount of sun: Full sun
Tammy Curry greeted me with fresh homemade bread, slathered with butter, and a glass of cool sweet tea. It was in the high nineties outside at 4 pm, and I was grateful to postpone our garden walk for a while. I sat on one end of the couch in her small living-room, and she lounged at the other end with 20-month-old Morgan curled around her. Occasionally her husband Jay would try to wheedle “Monster Man” Morgan away so we women could talk, but Morgan was having none of it, and to his credit, stayed quiet throughout our conversation.
Occasionally too, seven-year-old Claire would breeze in, displaying her stick-on fingernails or offering to put the dog out. “She’s kind of full of herself today,” Tammy told me. “Her picture’s in the paper.” Claire’s color photo, outstretched arms in front of her 4-H garden plot, was just a sidebar that day, but the following day it would be the out-sized feature photo, highlighting an article about Tammy’s homestead in the Mt. Airy News.
Mt. Airy News is not exactly the big time, and Mt. Airy itself is strictly small time and proud of it it makes a living off being the fictional Andy Griffith/Taylor home of “Mayberry”. But one senses that Tammy Curry, organic gardener, is going places. Soon she may literally be going, as she and Jay hope to purchase a large farm near Pinnacle, about 15 miles down Highway 52. It was a working farm up until a few years ago, Tammy tells me, and includes an 80-year-old farmhouse. Tammy can envision life there already, commenting, “A certain dog will have more room to run.” Claire, who rejected home-schooling this year, will stay in her current elementary school after the move, with Tammy, who is a stay-at-home mother, providing transportation out of the district. Jay, who used to be a computer technician, will keep working when and where he can to provide a basic income. Right now he puts in shifts at the local candle factory. He’s no longer committed to a career, and the family looks forward to becoming full-time organic farmers.
As she said in the news article, “We do pretty well with the limited space we have and the Community Shared Agriculture and farmer’s market.” To me, Tammy acknowledges that her CSA income is a key factor. With several customers paying $300 per year, she can rely on “seed money”… literally. Tammy told the News interviewer, “CSA is a relatively new idea in the United States. The idea is that the producer and the customers share the risks and expenses of food production. It began in the 1960s in Japan, Germany, and Switzerland. The idea is to reduce financial risks and food losses for farmers.” The CSA movement and one of its more famous American proponents are depicted in colorful detail in “The Real Dirt on Farmer John,” a documentary film which was recently aired on PBS, and in an article about the film at Homestead.org.
Tammy is a sturdy woman with a clear gaze, a ready smile and a well-developed vision for her family. Daughter of a Marine father and a hippie mother, who put Tammy to baking bread as soon as she could reach up to the table, she is a domestic powerhouse who manages the homesteading side of the family income.
But how does she balance all this—two kids, meat ‘n’ pet bunnies, chickens for eggs and baked bread and veggies for customers whose boxes must be restocked weekly—on a postage stamp of rented land?
The Challenges of Urban Homesteading
Urban homesteading carries its blessings and its challenges. An academic treatise, Agropolis (The Social, Political and Environmental Dimensions of Urban Agriculture) (Earthscan, 2005), is a collection worth reading. It’s full of research papers on how small-scale city gardeners cope throughout the world. In England, for example, the allotment system has been a part of urban culture for “donkey’s years,” a curious expression meaning a long, long time. I heard it only in England, sometimes shortened to “yonks.” People who live in a certain area or on a certain “estate” (what we would call a housing development or an apartment complex) have the right to rent, if available, a small plot forming part of a large garden space. There they may garden at will – orchards, greenhouses, apiaries, topiaries, whatever strikes the fancy of the lessee. Most allotment gardeners are retired, though younger folks occasionally take up the activity, often seeing it as a Cause. Some use their plots to grow vegetables and fruits for home consumption and some make small money off selling their produce at farmer’s markets. The plots are generally within a few blocks of home and provide, among other benefits, recreation and exercise. Very often, the allotment “quilt” provides a green swath in the midst of urban blight and therefore serves the purpose of natural beautification. It is rare to see an unused allotment plot or a neglected one. If you get one, you tend to hold on to it for yonks.
In Cuba, another hot grow-spot included in Agropolis, urban gardening has taken on guerilla status. Cubans, like their Iberian forebears, have always been inclined to grow flowers on their patios and hang cages with canaries and budgerigars in their cool window casements. A full-scale nutrition gardening movement burst forth in reaction to food shortages in 1989. Despite government embarrassment, the home-growers of Havana would not be suppressed. They put containers of veggies and boxes of rabbits and chickens on their roofs and patios. “They creatively used objects like tires as planters for vegetables and constructed small, manageable warrens for raising animals for food. They struggled with issues such as obtaining animal feed and official objections…the authors imply that because Cuba once again considers itself food self-sufficient, there will be a more stringent attitude on the part of authorities toward this urban guerilla effort to keep families fed and operate micro-business.” (Counterpoise Magazine, Volume 10, Winter/Spring 2006, review by Barbara Bamberger Scott).
These examples dovetail with Tammy’s assertion that “anybody can be an urban gardener, even if they don’t call themselves that.” Maybe you have a few containers of tomatoes on the deck or an avocado plant growing in the kitchen window. You would be, by Tammy’s definition, an urban gardener. Tammy is an idealist.
One of the Curry family’s recent challenges occurred when they had to go out of town for two weeks. When they got back the garden was a jungle. Following fast on the heels of this emergency (recalling that weekly orders had to be filled for CSA consumers) was an attack by a roving dog or perhaps a wild animal (foxes abound in the peri-urban southland), which wiped out numerous bunnies and hens. This resulted in a move indoors. The bunnies now reside in cages as before, but their mobile homes have been transported to the house’s climate controlled basement. Luckily, many critters are content in cooler conditions and this uprooting has not ruffled any feathers or stirred any fur. The day I visited, I “captured” the bunnies quite contentedly living the basement life, and caught a snap of two hens and two adolescent guineas almost, as it were, frozen in place next to the HVAC generator, soaking up some serious breeze.
Tammy’s mobile life began in Spotsylvania County, Virginia, an area once rural and now taken over by urban DC sprawl to the point where, to Tammy, it’s become unrecognizable. From there she edged on down to Blacksburg, Va, to attend Virginia Tech. After she’d been there for a while she was followed by her parents when her father “just happened” to get a job in the Roanoke area. “We’re a close family,” Tammy smiles. Tammy and Jay then migrated to Floyd, Virginia where she began to exchange emails and then real-life visits with Dori Fritzinger whom she “met” on an organic farming website. Dori, who farms near Mt. Airy, is the subject of another article at Homestead.org – How Does a House Become a Homestead. Floyd, for those who’ve never been there, and that will be most of you, is located in a county with only one “red light,” as the locals call it. It’s an indigenous farming locale that’s been invaded by hipsters of various stripes and is noted for its enclave of excellent old-time musicians, making it a stop on Virginia’s “Crooked Road Heritage Music Trail.”
But that was not a sufficient draw for Tammy. After Jay was laid off from work, more than once the victim of downsizing or corporate sang froid, she realized she’d been spending nearly every weekend visiting Dori. “So I decided, why drive 45 minutes each way when I can move down there and see her whenever I like?” That’s how she ended up in Mt. Airy.
It was a meeting of great female minds. Dori and Tammy created a monthly publication, Country Family Magazine, aimed at working farm moms like themselves (soon to be reborn as a quarterly newsletter since
they realized how much work went into producing an issue monthly). The two went to small livestock sales and “when we came home we’d just divide up whatever we bought.” Mostly bunnies. Tammy can’t raise goats now, though her landlord has given her permission – just not enough space. Tammy’s desire for goats will have to wait for the move to Pinnacle. Both Dori and Tammy sew and Tammy has made children’s dresses a feature of her many enterprises, as the entity Menagerie Farm Dress Shop. Until the big move, she sells mainly through the website http://menageriefarm2.tripod.com. Claire’s dresses were the inspiration for this wing of Tammy’s business.
One notable difference between the two women is that while Dori is careful to proclaim that everything that leaves her charge is “on the hoof, on the hop, or on the wing,” her comrade Tammy will eat her rabbits once production is up, and can sell them butchered. “I grew up on a farm. We kids used help with butchering and packaging for the family freezer.” Tammy is tough.
What has Tammy turned on right now is the Mittleider Method.
She tells me her plans as we take the garden walk and gander at her small but thriving veggie plot and the smaller but thriving better plot belonging to Claire. “Claire’s is doing better because she waters it more. Once she starts something, she’s very focused,” Tammy tells me with maternal pride. “She waters for maybe 45 minutes every morning and every evening.” Claire isn’t old enough yet to compete for a 4-H prize, so she’ll be getting a ribbon in the mail Claire is already planning her garden for next year.
Tammy’s plan for the fall growing season (Tammy, like Claire, is a planner), is to prepare one traditional bed grown with bunny manure and bedding for compost, and the other “strictly Mittleider”. Tammy tells me
this experimentation will be precise, scientific, and suggests I come back in a month or so and see how the two beds are coming along.
Jacob R Mittleider (1918-2006) is noted for developing a “grow-box” system of agriculture, a distant cousin to hydroponics, that method much touted in sci-fi space exploration movies but not greatly embraced by the farming mainstream. His method is sometimes referred to as “poor man’s hydroponics”.
Jacob R. Mittleider is sometimes called Dr. Mittleider, though evidence for his having a doctorate that is other than honorary is unavailable through my many web searches. I did learn that he sojourned in post-Communist Russia helping to establish an agricultural program at a college founded by the Seventh Day Adventist Church. Mittleider was a devout member of the church and he and his wife reportedly spent years in foreign climes setting up experimental stations in self-sacrificing efforts to test and promote their agricultural methodology. It was not an overtly evangelistic mission, but church members were proud of the Mittleider’s presence overseas and felt it had a positive impact on the religion. Whilst at the college in Russia, Mittleider was referred to in the prospectus as simply Jacob R. Mittleider. Had he had advanced degrees one assumes they would have been underscored. Later, it seems, “during the time he was teaching in the developing countries, Dr. Mittleider was honored with two Doctorate degrees—one from Florida Beacon College, and the other from Timorazi University in Moscow, Russia (reputedly the most prestigious school in the Russian Commonwealth).” This quote comes from a biographical sketch at Amazon.com, from an uncredited source.
Mittleider was born in Idaho and later went to live in California. The one biographical blurb I was able to find, partially quoted above, states that in California, Mittleider “concentrated on a scientific and practical study of agriculture, which he mastered.” I am reserving my judgment about the extent of this accomplishment, assuming that the hubris implied was contributed not by Mittleider himself, who seems to have been a modest person, but by his enthusiastic acolytes.
The best-known Mittleider booster is Jim Kennard, a Mormon who heads an organization called Food for Everyone (his baby, not Mittleider’s). Before he became a Mittleider gardener, Kennard was a businessman and CPA. Kennard was given rights to many of the books of Mittleider, whom he met in Russia and who later became his gardening guru in the U.S. Kennard is now referred to as a “master gardener.” Mittleider’s books include The Mittleider Gardening Course, Mittleider Grow-Box Gardening, and Gardening by the Foot. These three and others are published by Food for Everyone. Jim just returned from a gardening visit to Armenia. According to Tammy, he pays for most of his travels out of his own pocket.
Try as I did, I could find almost no references to Mittleider which did not loop back to Kennard and Food for Everyone.
It should be noted that the Mittleider devotees don’t try to sell you grow-boxes or specially-charged water molecules. FFE is not apparently selling much except books (though mind you, there is good money to be made in the perennial sales of glossy gardening books). They do market nutritional soil supplements for a modest cost on the FFE website, ostensibly to save you a lot of trouble mixing them yourself. The main goal is to make you a happy super-productive gardener. And to spread the gospel of good growth to the entire world.
Here’s Kennard’s spiel on tomato production by the Mittleider principles, often reproduced on websites that tout the Mittleider Method:
“Just a quarter-acre of tomatoes grown properly, and selling for only $.50 per pound, would yield $25,000 per year! Have I got your attention? Let’s see how it’s done.
“A quarter-acre, or 10,390 square feet, will accommodate 78 30-foot rows of plants, grown in 4′ X 30′ Grow-Boxes, with 3 1/2′ side aisles, and 5′ end aisles. Planting 9″ apart gives you 41 plants per bed or 3,198 total. Of course, this requires growing vertically with T-Frames, and pruning your plants. By growing a tomato that averages 8 ounces (some varieties are even bigger), and growing vertically, each plant should produce 16# of fruit from July through October. How? Good varieties produce a cluster of 3-7 tomatoes every 5-7” up a 7′ stem in 4 months of production. Using 4 per cluster and 12 clusters gives 48 tomatoes, and at 8 ounces each, your yield would be 24# per plant. Let’s reduce that by one third, to be conservative.
“This amounts to 51,168 pounds of tomatoes (16# X 41 X 78) – or $25,584 at $.50 per pound. Who said you couldn’t live out of your garden!”
Because this reads like an ad, I kept looking for the hook, the sales gimmick, but found none. Yet still, it reminds me of the old blurbs you used to see on the inside flap of matchbooks: “Learn to play the piano in 10 easy lessons!” “Grow mushrooms in your basement for fun and profit!” “Don’t be a ninety-pound weakling!” “Learn to draw and make millions!” One wonders if the good Doctor Mittleider would have agreed wholeheartedly to the marketing of his books, had he known they would include catch-phrases like “mini grow-boxes for maxi yield.”
I am accustomed to a softer sell. In general, I’ve observed that most organic food growers live in a magic circle of anti-commercialism, their toil in itself comprising a religion. Tammy professes no special religious belief, is not a Mormon or a Seventh Day Adventist, but acknowledges that as a child of flower children she grew up under the cozy multi-colored umbrella of Organic. Organic is about respect for the planet, a natural path to health, a love of heritage, and sense of sharing well-being with our earth neighbors.
So I am leery on her behalf. Because Kennard’s presentation is so slick I have to keep looking and looking and looking for the angle.
But why shouldn’t it be true, all true, and why shouldn’t I want it to be? What if there was a simple, cheap way to save the planet by supplying us all with the easy wherewithal to produce our own edibles? Tammy says that Kennard emphasizes tomatoes because that’s what most people want to grow. Yet if spreading a happy message about the method is all that FFE is about, why does Kennard feel a need to grab our attention by appealing to the greed side, the profit angle, from the get-go?
How many tomatoes can one family eat, can, sell or give away?
Answer: in my case, not too many. The year my husband and I decided to go heavily into tomato growing, using little more than stakes and cages and haphazard weeding, we were bombarded with tomatoes, had far too many tomatoes to eat or can or give away, and most fell neglected to the ground to be consumed by birds, beetles, and slugs.
Jim Kennard and Tammy Curry are in communication and she has volunteered for a place on his marketing board to help “promote Food for Everyone and the Mittleider Method.” Again, I suspect a hook but none gleams bright enough for documentation. Tammy believes she can improve his website presentation. Tammy is loyal.
I want Tammy to be able to grow 51,168 pounds of tomatoes in heavy clay soil in her backyard in Surry County if that is her dream. I want all to be well, and very well.
I believe Tammy Curry has her head on straight, and will not pursue an empty endeavor. She can turn a negative situation around. If Mittleider grow-boxes are The Way she will follow if not, she will move on. She has much at stake: the mortgage on the new farm, the money for gas to get Claire to her chosen school, her seed capital, and start-ups for the “old-fashioned farm events and celebrations” she hopes to offer once the farm is up and running. Tammy is a realist. She’s also a visionary. She wants a business that brings in money to support her and Jay and Morgan and Claire, gives inner satisfaction, makes a contribution to the life of the community, and will be sustainable for yonks.
I am hoping to visit Tammy next summer, perhaps at her new farm near Pinnacle, and with her, complete a satisfying sequel. Will Claire win the 4-H prize and get her picture in the paper again? Will the old dog get to run free in the shadow of Pilot Mountain? Will there be celebrations in the old farmhouse at the Autumnal Equinox? Will there be cider, music, and plenty of tomatoes? Stay tuned.
Chickens & Guineas on the HVAC
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
What kind of plants grow best using this method?
This method is best suited to vegetables and berries commonly grown by home gardeners. Examples include tomatoes, carrots, onions, peppers, peas, beans, kale, lettuce, cabbage, broccoli, corn, cucumbers, melons, blackberries, strawberries, and raspberries. Some of the techniques can be adapted for other plants, such as flowers, fruit trees, and perennials.
What do I need for the Mittleider gardening fertilizer?
There are two fertilizer mixes used in Mittleider gardening. The pre-plant mix and the weekly mix. Both are easily mixed at home, and most of the ingredients are easily available from local garden centers or hardware stores.
The most important part of the Mittleider gardening method is the blend of micronutrients that is added to a commercial balanced (13-13-13 up to 17-17-17) N,P,K fertilizer. While it is possible to mix these micronutrients oneself, that would be costly and time-consuming. The mixture is available online from the Food for Everyone Foundation for around $14.00 a package, which is enough to make 30 pounds of weekly feed mix. This should be plenty for most home gardeners for an entire season.
Do I need to test my soil?
With the Mittleider gardening method, there is no need to test the soil. The pre-plant mixture and weekly feed will provide all the nutrients your plants need, regardless of the nutrient value of the soil they are growing in.
Because the plants are being fed all they need, deficiencies should be non-existent, and disease, which is often a result of nutrient deficiencies, is greatly reduced.
Should I be worried about putting chemicals on my garden?
The popularity of organic gardening methods has caused some people to worry about putting chemicals on their gardens. There is nothing dangerous about the conventional PKN fertilizer or the Mittleider micro-nutrient mix. You can think of them as the plant equivalent of a multi-vitamin. There is no evidence that a plant can tell the difference between the nitrogen it gets from manure and the nitrogen in a PKN fertilizer.
The ingredients in Mittleider fertilizer are not at all toxic if handled correctly. They are safe to store and use, and can be purchased at local garden supply or hardware stores.
The Mittleider method tends to cut down on pests and disease, so there is little need for pesticides, which are the really toxic substances.
What about fertilizer runoff or buildup of salts in the soil?
Fertilizer runoff from large commercial agriculture operations can be a big problem, largely because the fertilizer is applied infrequently and in large amounts. The Mittleider method involves frequent, targeted fertilizing with a small amount of fertilizer. Even in gardens that have been using the method for 20 years, there is no evidence that the fertilizer has contaminated the groundwater.
Claims have been made that using conventional fertilizer leads to the buildup of toxic salts in the soil over time. Soil testing has been done on gardens that have used the Mittleider method for 20 years, and no buildup of toxic salts has been found in the soil.
Are vegetables grown with the Mittleider gardening method as nutritious as those grown organically?
Because the Mittleider gardening method provides such precise nutrition for the plants, the vegetables are guaranteed to have the optimal mix of nutrients in them.
Where Can I Find Out More About the Mittleider Gardening Method
The main source of information about the Mittleider Gardening Method is the Food For Everyone Foundation, whose website at GrowFood.com offers a huge amount of information, and offers for sale books and DVDs that completely explain all the details of the method. They also sell Mittleider’s special micronutrient mix.
There are also numerous websites and YouTube channels devoted to Mittleider gardening, and a Yahoo! group called “Vegetable Gardening – Mittleider Method”, where you can connect with others who are interested in the method.
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