Saturday, April 01, 2006

Amazing example of how effective the Mittleider method is.

I'll describe growing in a 1-acre garden, using raised beds, or Grow-Boxes,
as Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider teaches. Now, please don't get all exercised at
the details and the cost of setting up this operation. Remember, it is "the
poor man's hydroponic system" and most of you would only want to do
something of 5-10% this scale.

Remember also, though, that just one acre of tomatoes grown successfully
using this method - and selling them for just $.50 per pound, would yield
$100,000 per year! Okay, ready for this? Here goes.

One acre (43,560 square feet) will accommodate 312 - 30' rows of tomatoes,
grown in 4' X 30' Grow-Boxes, with 3 1/2' side aisles, 5' end aisles, and 5'
aisles around the perimeter. Planted 9" apart, that's 12,792 tomato plants
(41 per bed).

Growing a large tomato that averages 8 ounces (some varieties actually
average 10-12 ounces), feeding and watering properly, and growing
vertically, each plant should produce 16# of fruit from July through October
in Utah. A good variety will produce a "hand" of 3-7 tomatoes every 5-7" up
a 7' stem in 4 months' production - 4 per hand X 12 hands = 48. 48 X 1/2# =
24. And I will reduce that by 33%, in order to be very conservative.

This amounts to 204,672 pounds of tomatoes - or $102,336 at $.50 per pound.
Who said you couldn't live off the land!

Now there certainly are costs - as there are to any business. 1) Creating
and filling the boxes, 2) making T-Frames, 3) wires or pipes - and baling
twine strings, and 4) automating the watering are the major costs, but these
are one-time capital expenditures, and will be more than recovered in the
first year.

Now, suppose you'd like to increase your yield (remember, I've said
hydroponic growers can grow 275 tons or 550,000# per year on one acre. Of
course, they have huge investments in year-round greenhouses, etc., etc.).
By simply putting an arched PVC roof over each pair of your Grow-Boxes, and
covering them with 6 mil greenhouse plastic, you can lengthen your growing
season by two months, or 50%! Now you're looking at over 300,000# of
tomatoes per acre, and more than half the yield of the expensive hydroponic
growers - but you're growing "in the dirt", because your boxes are open at
the bottom, so your plants get all the natural nutrients available to them
from the soil. And you don't need the greenhouse covering all the time, so
your plants can benefit from direct sunlight as well.

Do you still think these numbers are hard to believe? Just visit a
greenhouse tomato operation and see tomato plants that are 20' and 30'
long - still producing after more than a year!

Several of Dr. Mittleider's books teach tomato production, and I encourage
you to read them. Perhaps - if some are interested - I could provide
pictures of the 320 plants I'm growing on 1200 square feet adjacent to
Utah's Hogle Zoo, in Salt Lake City.



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