The Mittleider Method of Garden -A Quick Review and a Give-Away

Give-away has ended. Congratulations  to Monica. Thanks to all who participated :)

This post is a long time coming. I find that there are two things that are difficult to do together – homesteading and blogging. I spend most of my time these days prepping and planning the garden, taking care of the farm critters, taking care of my family of course and unfortunately house cleaning and blogging are on the end of the list. I won’t ramble any longer about my busy life, instead I will get right into the Mittleider Method of gardening.

What is the Mittleider Method of Gardening?

I urge you to go to directly to the Food For Everyone website to read about Dr. Mittleider himself. Dr. Mittleider was passionate about teaching people how to grow their own food and had many accomplishments while he was still alive. The Mittleider Method of gardening is different in several ways from conventional garden but I want to share the top 5 differences that sparked my interest.

5 Mittleider Method Techniques That Changed The Way I Garden

  1. Feeding Plants- Dr. Mittleider found for plants to thrive they need 16 essential plant nutrients. By providing plants with the 16 nutrients plants are healthier and full of nutrients we can consume. The 16 nutrients include 3 airborne elements -Carbon, Hydrogen and Oxygen. The other 13 include nitrogen, phosphorus, potassium (NPK). The other ten include calcium, magnesium, sulfur and 7 trace elements. This plant formula is fed in small amounts to the plants on a weekly basis over a period of the growth of the plants.
  2. The Soil -The condition of the soil is not as vital when using the Mittleider Method. It is important to have well draining amended soil but you can still plant successfully in many different soil types. According to Dr. Mittleider and his method, plants can grow in virtually any soil as long as the plants are given the essential nutrients. It is however important to create soil beds or grow boxes that have the soil evenly distributed for proper water distribution.
  3. Plant Spacing – With the Mittleider Method seeds and seedlings can be spaced a lot closer together than traditional methods recommend. The reason for this is because many plants can be grown vertically. Tomatoes (indeterminate), cucumbers, melons and squash some of the plants that can be grown inches apart because of vertically growing.
  4. Watering – One of the mistakes I have been making with my garden over the past few years is the methods I use for watering. I usually use drip systems and/or a osculating sprinkler. Dr. Mittleider did not recommend these type of watering because it is wasteful and not as affective.  Watering with a PVC pipe with small holes drilled into them and place down the center of wide isles is the best way to water, according to Dr. Mittlleider.
  5. Pruning - Apparently there are many vegetable plants that can be pruned. I was familiar with pruning tomatoes but didn’t realize cucumber, squash and melon plants as well. Pruning these plants can be done because of the vertical growing method. Pruning is important because is allows the growth of large fruit instead of many small fruits. And because plant spacing is closer you can still get the same size harvest but with larger fruit.

Is the Mittleider Method of Gardening Organic?

Growing an organic garden is very important to me. If I am going to take the time to garden to feed my family, I want the produce to be most nutritious it can be. After researching the Mittleider Method and finding out that in order for plants to grow they need certain nutrients. I came to the realization that in order for my family to get the best possible food from my garden, my plants need to be as healthy as possible.

Many people, including myself see the plant formula and think, “those ingredients are in commercial non-organic fertilizers, they can’t be organic, can they?” Well, yes they can. If we understand the fact that everything is chemical at a molecular level. The “chemicals” or elements that are in the plant formula are in our soil and manure fertilizers already.

The reason elements such as nitrogen, phosphorus and potassium (aka NPK, found in bags of fertilizers, usually with numbers like 10-10-10) are in commercial fertilizers is because they do feed plants. There is however a problem with commercial fertilizers and that is the misuse of them. For instance, one of the things nitrogen does is causes rapid growth. An unbalanced amount of nitrogen will cause rapid growth but not healthy nutritious plants. Over use of certain elements can cause toxicity in the soil as well.

So why won’t organic fertilizers such as manure be good enough? The problem with manure is that the nutrients plants need are not always in manure. They may have some of the nutrients but not in the right amounts. Manure often has a unhealthy amount of salt in it which can affect the proper growth of plants. If manure is not sterile it can also cause all kinds of weed problems for you. You can still use sterile manure in your garden but instead of thinking of manure as a fertilizer think of it as a soil amender. The Mittleider Method of gardening offers plant nutrients in the right amounts over the right amount of time. The soil does not get to any toxic level because they plants are using what they need when they need it.

There is a lot more to be said about the Mittleider Method of gardening but I will have to share that at a later time. This post launches the Healthy Homesteading’s very first giveaway. Jim Kennard, the president of the Food For Everyone Foundation, has agreed to give away The Mittleider Gardening Course book. This is the book I purchased when I went to the garden seminar taught by Jim Kennard. The book is easy to follow and full of a lot of great information on starting the Mittleider Method.

How to Enter the Healthy Homesteading Random Drawing Give-Away.

  • Visit Food For Everyone and browse around their store. Don’t forget to look at some of the free book chapters they offer in the left sidebar of the website. Come back here and share what books interest you.
  • You can enter again by sharing this give-away with your readers and friends by blogging, tweeting, or facebook. You must link back to Healthy Homesteading and don’t forget to let me know by commenting for each of the three methods of entering.

This give-away will end next Monday at 1pm PST.

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29 Responses to “The Mittleider Method of Garden -A Quick Review and a Give-Away”

  • This is awesome! We’re officially starting a garden this year, and don’t have any resources (other than the internet – heh). We have a big yard, but are starting off with three small raised beds. We’re thinking of implementing vertical gardening to make efficient use of the space. This will definitely be an experiment!

    The Garden Doctor looks like a great resource for any gardener; I’m bound to experience many pitfalls and it would be great to easily locate answers. Gardening by the Foot looks great, too! I’m all for making the most efficient use of a small space.

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  • Grow Bed Gardening sounds interesting. I like the idea of container gardening but a raised bed garden would be easier for me. Some days I have limited mobility, can’t bend and lift as I would like.

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  • Gardening by the Foot appeals to our family because this is how we currently grow. With our odd shaped yard it only allows us to have one small normal garden, so in order to grow all the food & varieties we wanted we had to break up everything else all over the yard. We are slightly successful so far this year, our first year in the real ground but my potted plants are doing much better than the beds, except a tomato plant i almost killed. The Mittleider Gardening Course also looks equally appealing as we really still don’t quite know what we are doing.

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  • I shared the link on facebook :)

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  • Tracy:

    Gardening by the Foot looks interesting. Our soil isn’t good here at all, and we are trying a few raised “lasagna” beds this year. So far, we’re doing better but I could always use more help. :0)

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  • The Food For Everyone sounds intriguing, but not sure I could digest a college level course right now. The book you’re giving away would be my choice. By the way, your presentation on this at the garden club was very interesting! I’d like to learn more.

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  • Monica:

    The Mittleider book would be my first choice. The chapter on the watering system caught my attention as it could be used for the gardens that we carry water to.

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  • CarolM:

    Grow bed gardening.
    I have had a garden for years, but I am interested in changing the way I garden. I have been thinking of changing everything to raised beds, my garden isn’t large, but large enough to feed us all summer and well into the fall.

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  • Mona:

    Great comments ladies! I can’t wait to see who the winner will be :)

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  • barbiec1953:

    Ohhh… choosing which books that interest me is hard because they all do ! I am a neophyte at all of this so I would have to say my first choice would be the Mittleider Gardening Course because my daughter , daughter-in-law and I want to close ranks and help each other !!!

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  • The Grow Box Gardens book looks really interesting for me, as I live in an urban setting in an apartment building. This looks like a potential method for balcony gardening.

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  • I just tweeted about this @jakedolson

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  • I also facebook linked to the article

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  • [...] Mona Last chance to enter in the random drawing to win a free Mittleider Gardening Course book. Give-away ends at 1pm (Pacific time) [...]

  • Can I just say that every book on that page looks interesting! lol I’m very interested in square foot gardening, and watering methods that are going to keep my water bill manageable. (A 2-mo water bill around here is between $250-$275!) The Mittleider Method of gardening has me curious…I’d never heard of it before and not sure I understand it…yet. :)

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  • Sherrie:

    I think the Mittleider Gardening Course would help me alot. The watering system would help here in the south and Lord knows the soil is not good (clay)!

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  • karen b.:

    I liked all of them they all provide information anyone with a garden can use!I think I liked the garden doctor the best, just because it gives you insight on why your pants will sometimes not do well, and what you need to do to adjust your soil to amnd the problem. I hate wondering why a plant is turning yellow or the leaves are curling etc. and not know how to fix it!I’m sharing the link on facebook!

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  • karen b.:

    I liked them all, they all have info that anyone could use!I think I would pick the garden doctor though because anyone that gardens has had a plant or plants that dont do well and you wonder whats happening?I like that you can learn how to ammend the soil to “fix” the problem plants.Great give away Mona, I’m putting it on facebook!

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  • Debi:

    What a great gardening resource. My husband retired at the end of last year, and we are now full time gardeners; and want to learn as much as we possibly can about gardeing using the type of methods Mr. Mittleider espouses. I especially like his watering method using PCV pipe with tiny holes drilled in the pipe, because that was the method we were already going to use in our new raised bed garden boxes, and it’s reasurring to know that someone with his experience recommends that method. I loved the fact too, that his website sells a prepackaged nutrient blend that we can purchase online and mix to make our own fertilizer. I thank you for sending us to such a rich resource!

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  • I think the Mittleider would be my first choice.

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  • Posted to Facebook! This is such an interesting concept – should work in Florida great!

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  • G Ritchie:

    I dont tweet or facebook but I looked at ffef website to see what ia new the gallery of projects. I had one book it got lost but am trying MM this year anyway.

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  • Sandra Boyd:

    I aquired a book More Food from your Garden by J.R. Mittleider. My question is where do you find all the things he writes about in the book for fertilizer? People around here look at me like I want to make a bomb or something when I ask where I can find all the stuff to make the fretilizer. Any sugestions for this? Is there something I can buy out there today to subsitute? HELP! Want to put in more raised beds but can’t yet….

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    Mona Reply:

    Sandra,
    You can buy the mineral mix online here > http://www.growfood.com/shop/natural-mineral-fertilizers . The 2 pack will likely last you one year at least (depending on the size of your garden) The other ingredients you should be able to find at your local garden supply store. I found the 16-16-16 NPK at Walmart and Lowes. The boran you can buy at most department stores. It’s called 20 Mule Team Borax. The magnesium sulfate is just Epsom salt. Lime or gypsum can also be found at your garden supply store.

    This book is pretty good at giving instruction on the Mittleider method > http://www.growfood.com/shop/the-mittleider-gardening-course . It might be more helpful than the book you have. It has instruction for both raised beds and grow boxes. I hope that helps :)

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  • michele:

    Ummm, I don’t know how to begin, This is such a bad idea and it is founded on bad science. Plants depend on microbes in the soil to break the soil into component that the plants can eat. Chemical fertilizers wipe out soil microbes, so the grower is forced to constantly add outside inputs (chemical fertilizer) to feed the plants, instead of relying on a healthy soil-food web to do so. As we kill more and more of our soil, we rely increasingly on outside inputs instead of building a sustainable system, as with organic gaardening. Please google Elaine R. Ingham phd. and learn about soil biology before trying any non-organic system. Save the Soil! Grow Microbes!
    thanks, michele

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    Mona Reply:

    Hi Michele,
    Thanks for stopping by. It is true high amounts of chemical fertilizers can kill microbes but the small amounts do not harm them. Dr. Mittleider had a garden for many years (over 20 years) that had excellent soil microbes and earthworm activity. Chemical fertilizers are not the bad guy. It’s over use of them that is harmful to the soil and environment. The small amounts of chemical fertilizers administered throughout the growing season are for the purpose of feeding the plants. The Mittleider method is not against improving soil condition. Soil amendment is very important and is encouraged with this method. Amending the soil with compost or mulch will also add to the nutrients of the soil. The NPK used is not the only source of nutrients either. There are 13 other nutrients that are essential to plant growth as well.
    I would encourage you read one of Dr. Mittleider’s books before you decide his methods are “bad science”.
    I also thought you might find this quote from Organic Lifestyles about microbes and chemical fertilizers informative.

    Frequently we see statements in the lay literature about chemical fertilizers killing soil microbes or, worse yet, statements indicating these management inputs “sterilize” the soil. Statements such as these should be viewed with much skepticism! ….Short of incineration its hard to imagine a stress in a soil that would lead to complete extermination of the microbial populations…..

    Organic fertilizers circumvent the criticisms leveled at “synthetic” fertilizers but it should not be forgotten that plants take up nitrogen in the form of ammonium (NH4+) or nitrate (NO3-) ions regardless of whether it was mineralized from an organic source or applied as in inorganic fertilizer like ammonium nitrate. An advantage of using organics, where practical, is that nutrients are liberated slowly as the microbes mineralize the organic materials.

    The use of organic fertilizers often times do not offer the exact nutrients available to plants. For this reason, small amounts NPK and minerals are given over a portion of the growing period. There is never a time of overuse of fertilizer to kill microbes.

    Thanks again for stopping by! :)

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  • Richard Primbs:

    I am a little bit of a cynic. I learned organic gardening back in the early seventies and I never had any great trouble gardening. It seems that the Mittleider Method assumes that gardening is much more difficult than it really is. I agree that proper fertilization is important, but it is really not that hard to grow healthy plants if you work manure, manure tea, worm castings, and compost into your garden and test once a year to see if there are any deficiencies. If nothing else it is much cheaper and it is actually easier than fertilizing every week.

    People need to remember that if the fertilizer is 15-15-15, than the nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium only make up to 45 percent of the mixture. What is the other 55 percent? Is it all filler? What were the sources of nitrogen, phosphorus, and potassium? Does the 55 percent contain other impurities and perhaps industrial contamination? Especially if the N-P-K sources were industrial. I can think of at least a few popular fertilizers that contain industrial waste (I am talking about treated sewage) Yes I use them on my landscaping, but I would be hesitant to use them regularly in my vegetable garden.

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    Mona Reply:

    I apologize for taking so long to respond. You are absolutely right Richard about gardening not being all that difficult. The Mittleider Method is not suggesting it is difficult to grow food. Dr. Mittleider (and other horticulturists) discovered that plants need specific nutrients to grow to their fullest potential. In order for fruit and veggies to have the highest nutrients for our consumption, they need to be feed their required nutrients. The wonderful thing about growing food is that it can still be done without a proper balance of nutrients. But what ends up happening when plants are deficient in nutrients is they are more vulerable to disease and parisites. Just like humans, plans need balanced nutrition.
    I have gardened without the nutrients as well as with natural composts and manures. So far, the year I used the minerals and NPK the plants were so much more healthy and the fruti was larger. I seemed like I had less parisite that year too. I’ve only used the mineral mix one year. I had planned on using it this year but lost the minerals and just never ordered.
    All that being said, I have had issue with the NPK and the mysterious 55%. I wish there was a way to get higher amounts of NPK in natural “organic” forms so I could say I knew exactly where it comes from. I have settled on this. The amount of NPK give in a year is very minimal. Most plants only need this mix only 5-7 it’s entire growth period. And the dosage amount for each row is very little. I used less and still had great results. And as far as long term use of this mix, Mittleider had his own 20 + personal garden tested and found that his soil was rich in microrganisims and beneficial worms and such. I would think if the NPK was all that harmful, a 20 year old garden would show the effects of it. That’s just my opinion.
    I plan to continue my education on feeding my garden with more sustainable fertilzers but until I am unable to purchase the Mittleider mix for one reason or antoher, I will be using it in my garden because I had such great results the year I used it. Thanks for stopping by! I hope you come back :)

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