Saturday, April 15, 2006

Organic or Chemical Feeding of Plants

Organic or Chemical Feeding of Plants

A fundamental question in vegetable gardening is - what is the proper use of organic and/or chemical materials? Let’s determine the truth of the matter, with four basic principles and a few brief examples from Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider’s worldwide experience.

I. First, let's consider what plants need, and where and how they get it. Plants require 16 elements for healthy growth, and 95% of the plant is the result of photosynthesis using just 3 elements - carbon, oxygen, and hydrogen - all of which it gets from the air without man’s intervention. The other 13 elements come from the soil and make up only 5% of the plant, but are nonetheless very important, for without them the plant will fail. Most importantly, the plant can only access these 13 nutrients as water-soluble minerals through its root system.

II. The next important principle to understand is that everything in this world is a chemical. Every element that makes up a plant, as well as everything in our bodies, and everything in the soil in which we grow is chemical. Therefore, we must not get carried away in refusing to use chemicals in the garden in favor of something else, because there is no something else!

III. Most soils contain all 13 nutrients, but due to thousands of years of leaching and crop removal, the water-soluble compounds are mostly gone, and what is left in the soil is not readily available.

This is not a big problem for trees and shrubs - they grow slowly enough that they can wait for the natural chemical processes constantly going on in the soil to make small amounts of nutrients water soluble. However, this is not the case with vegetables. They grow very quickly, multiplying their size many times in a few weeks, and many complete their life cycle, including flowers, fruit, and seeds, in only 60-90 days! This is why they often need assistance.

IV. Organic materials can improve soil structure, provide food for beneficial soil bacteria, and add mineral nutrients. Before using them, however, they should be clean - weed, insect and disease-free. And beyond that, there are still three problems with depending exclusively on organic materials.
1. You never know which nutrients and what amounts were in the previous plant.
2. Much of the plant was eaten and became part of the man or animal.
3. The nutrients are not usable until the old plant has decomposed and they have reverted once again to water-soluble minerals. This takes time and fast-growing vegetable plants can’t wait. Plus, even more nutrients are lost or become unavailable in the decomposition process.

Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider has worked and taught in many countries for 39 years, and he always found the people were growing organically - doing their best with compost and manure - as they have been doing for thousands of years, and yet they were starving! So, with his 20 years of background in the Nursery/Bedding Plant business, he experimented with small amounts of natural mineral nutrients to supplement the organic materials being used - always using the best amounts and ratios he knew. By doing this he increased peoples’ yields of healthy vegetables everywhere he went by as much as 10 to 1. And over time, he improved his nutrient mix to the point that today, using the Mittleider Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed mixes properly, anyone can grow healthy trees, shrubs, and virtually any variety of plants successfully in almost any soil or climate. That’s why they are sometimes called “The poor man’s hydroponic mix,” but we recommend growing in the soil so the plants can get the best possible natural nutrition.

We apply less than ½ pound of a balanced mix of the 13 mineral elements to the 3500 pounds of minerals already in a 30’ Soil-Bed - and do this only 4 or 5 times for most vegetables. This does not injure the plants or cause a toxic buildup in the soil. In fact, extensive tests by both the Brigham Young University and Stukenholtz Soil Labs found no toxicity in any Mittleider gardens, including his personal garden that was in use for over 20 years.

On the other hand, misuse and over-application of mineral salts can cause problems. This has been the case in Russia for many years. When Dr. Mittleider began teaching and growing there in 1989, the USSR’s Agriculture Agents actually stole plants from his garden, looking for nitrate toxicity in “those dark green, beautiful plants,” hoping to expose him and force him to leave the country. But there was no toxicity! And before long the Agriculture Minister went on their National TV to proclaim “The only food grown in Russia that’s fit to eat is grown in a Mittleider Garden.” They went on to make him the featured speaker at the Yalta Conference of Agriculture Ministers, and they gave him an honorary Ph.D. from Timirjazjiv Academy, the most prestigious Agriculture school in the Country. For several years they even gave Timirjazjiv Certificates to graduates of Mittleider’s three-month Agriculture School at Zaokski!

Therefore, in using mineral nutrients, always consider the content, purpose, and amount carefully before applying them to your soil. They are salts, and even table salt, while good for us in small amounts, can cause health problems if over-used - and large amounts are toxic and can even kill us. It’s the same with all of these materials - whether they are good or bad depends on the amounts and how they are used.

In summary, Dr. Mittleider puts all available clean, healthy organic residues into the ground immediately, for the maximum benefit to soil and plants, and then uses small amounts of God-given natural mineral nutrients to assure that his plants have complete and balanced nutrition. I recommend you use the knowledge Dr. Jacob R Mittleider has gained from his extensive education, training, and practical experience to assure the greatest success in your vegetable garden.

Jim Kennard, President
Food For Everyone Foundation

Copyright Jim Kennard. All Rights Reserved.

Food for Everyone
A Charitable Foundation dedicated to helping people throughout the world achieve individual and family self-sufficiency by using the best possible vegetable gardening methods and materials, consistent with a healthy ecology and environment. For more information, please visit their website at

Friday, April 14, 2006

Update on Jim's progress

Jim is currently in Armenia, I am trying to get another press release from him to post here and distribute.

Currently we are contacting the top five seed companies in the United States to see if they will donate seeds for the next mission.

I am trying to fund a mission to upstate NY for next year I am thinking about putting a donate button on this blog but want to check with Jim first.

The affiliate program will launch this August after Jim returns from the current mission.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

Do you have to ammend a clay soil or any other type of soil with the Mittleider method? NOT as much as you think and here is why

As planting time arrives people often hear that it's necessary to
amend their soil before they can plant, if they expect to have a
successful crop.

We promise that you can have a great garden in any soil – without
soil amendments!

Manure and/or compost introduce unknowns into your garden, including
not knowing what nutrients you are getting, if any, and all too often
other unknowns soon identify themselves as weed seeds, bugs, or

Mulching, or putting a layer of organic (or other) materials on the
surface of your soil to help with moisture, heat, weeds, etc.,
actually makes weeding very difficult and very often provides a safe
haven for pests also. We recommend your soil surface be bare.

How about adding sand to heavy clay soil – isn't that important?
We've heard and seen it written many times that heavy clay
soil "must" be amended with 25% sand, or even more. It's true that
sand can improve the properties of your clay soil, such as drainage,
aeration, hardness, etc. However, a single 30'-long soil-bed of
heavy clay soil contains about 3,500# of dirt in the top twelve
inches! People rarely are prepared to expend the time, effort and
cost to purchase, haul, apply, and mix 1,200# of sand into every one
of their soil-beds.

Happily that is not necessary. You can improve your crop in clay
soil by using sand, but it only takes a few pounds, not tons. Here's
how. When planting seed, instead of planting directly from seed
packet into the soil and then covering with clay soil, mix your seeds
with sand in a ratio of 1 part seed to 100 parts sand. This works
out to one teaspoon seed to 16 ounces of sand (actually 1 to 96, but
that'll do). This helps you spread the seed more uniformly in the

Next, cover the seed/sand mix with sand, instead of the clay soil.
For tiny seeds you'll only need 1/16th to 1/8th inch of sand, and for
larger seeds between 1/8th and 1/4th is better. This makes it so
much easier for your seeds to germinate, grow, and reach the light of
day, without having to struggle against the hard, heavy clay that's
native to the garden, and only requires a gallon or two of sand per

The third way to use sand in your clay soil-beds again only takes a
few pounds per soil-bed, and can help your growing plants a lot. A
day or two after watering, the clay soil will begin to shrink and
crack. This is a real problem for your young plants, because their
tiny roots will often be both broken and exposed to drying air. As
this begins to happen, apply sand to the areas where cracks are
beginning to appear. Water the sand into the cracks, and after doing
this a couple of times, the cracking will no longer be a problem.

Happy and productive growing,


Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Last 3 blog post from Mr. Jim Kennard

Way to go Jim :):):)

Improving Growing in Early Spring
3 days ago

The Shirak Region of Armenia is much like parts of the Northern United States in that frost-free growing days come late in the spring and end fairly early in the fall. And since many people depend on their gardens for their primary food supply it becomes very important for them to maximize their yields. Purchased seedlings are too expensive for most people to be able to use, and the only thing they can buy is sold bare-root with very little root system anyway, so growing their own seedlings is very important. We are trying to teach and demonstrate the best ways to do this - first with a proper seedling greenhouse, and then recognizing that most people can't even hope for a greenhouse we are building and growing in a "tunnel"-type coldframe/hotbed. Several village families in Getk have these, and depend on them for their seedlings. However, they have no heat source, use no fertilizers (even manure), and grow in the native dirt, ending up with bare-root seedlings - again with little root systems. In the next few days we will publish pictures of villagers' coldframes as well as our own, with the differences. We will use horse manure as the heat source, will plant in a sand/sawdust/dirt mixture, and will fertilize with the Mittleider Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed formulas. More later

In-The-Ground Tunnel or Cold-Frame/Hotbed
4 days ago

Most family gardeners in Armenia (and other places as well) just plant seeds and hope for the best, thinning the excess plants when they come in too thickly, and replanting when they die from the harsh conditions most places experience during early spring. A few are able to buy seedlings, but most seedlings for sale in this country are leggy and have very little root systems, having been ripped out of the ground and sold bare-root. We are demonstrating a better solution, which I hope to show in the Photos section of the Mittleider Method Gardening Group on Yahoo Groups in the next few days. We dig a hole 24" - 30" deep about 5' wide and 15' long. We fill the space 18"-24" with manure - horse preferred - then put in a sawdust/sand mixture. If sawdust isn't available clean straw, sand and a little clean dirt isn't too bad. We cover with bent steel poles and plastic that's secured and covered with dirt all around. I'll describe the planting process in another blog. Cold weather gardeners should consider this for producing healthy seedlings 4-6 weeks earlier in the spring!

Greenhouse Construction - Pictures
4 days ago

I have been able to download some digital pictures of the 20' X 40' greenhouse we have built and put into production in the village of Getk, in the Shirak Region of Armenia. When we arrived in the country the property was under more than a foot of snow, but luckily we had most of the welding done last November. Meanwhile, we began a couple of flats of seedlings indoors in a warm place. When they germinated and emerged we put them in a South-facing window and put them under 4'-long fluorescent lights as well. The pictures show healthy plants by the time we finally were able to transplant them in the greenhouse. To see the pictures, join the free gardening group - the invitation for which is on every page of this website. After joining, go to the Photos section and look for the folder called Armenia 2006. Enjoy!