Friday, March 07, 2008

Do Your Fertilizers Pollute the Ground Water?

Hello Jim and Group. I've managed to get into a bit of a debate on
using fertilizer in my garden, such as the mittlieder method. As
opposed to doing purely organic gardening. THe claim is something
about fertilizer destroying the soil and not allowing all these
little micro-critters to live or something. Personally I see nothing
wrong with applying some fertilizer and enjoying a bountiful
harvest.. but I wish to respond... with something other (than)
something I'm making up. Is there some kind of documentation I can
reference on this subject? I would just like to get the facts and set
the record straight.

James & Group:

Following are some things I wrote some time ago in response to the
above kinds of questions:

Do Your Fertilizers Pollute the Ground Water?
Author: Jim Kennard
Q. I have one concern about the Mittleider Method. Since you use
mineral nutrients from commercial sources, do those - or could they -
cause a toxic build-up in the soil, and might they leach into the
groundwater, eventually adding to the problems we have in our
streams, rivers, and oceans? Hopefully you have a good answer,
because I love everything else I am seeing with this method of

A. We do indeed have an answer. In 1998 Dr. Mittleider and I hired
two highly respected soil labs to perform extensive tests for us
regarding this very question. The two labs were Stukenholtz Labs, in
Twin Falls, Idaho, and the Brighham Young University Soil Testing
Lab, in Provo, Utah.

I don't remember the number of test holes drilled, but I think it was
45. Three gardens were tested for build-up of fertilizer salts.
Test cores were used at 1', 2', and 3' depths in each hole.

One garden was Dr. Mittleider's own backyard garden, which had been
used for 21 years at that time; the second location was my garden at
Utah's Hogle Zoo, which had been used for 9 years; and the third
garden was a very visible large garden 20 miles South of Salt Lake
City at a place called Thanksgiving Point, which had been in use for
4 years.
There was NO toxic build-up of salts in ANY of the test sites. There
was NO indication of ANY fertilizer being flushed into waste-water
systems. And some of the test holes even had LOWER salt levels than
the controls, which were taken from non-fertilized aisles and garden

This did not surprise us (although it surely did surprise a few folks
who had been accusing us of polluting the ground water), because we
use very little mineral salts, and we spread their application over
the growing season.

We only apply 7+ ounces of fertilizer salts to about 3,300# of soil,
and do it every 7 days, but for most crops we only apply it about 5
times. Everbearing crops might get8 to 12 applications, spread over
several months.

Compare this to the many POUNDS of fertilizer salts organic growers
apply to their gardens ALL AT ONCE before planting. That
concentrated one-time application is much more likely to cause run-
off or seepage into the groundwater than the small amounts the
Mittleider gardener applies.

Our vegetables are healthier, because they receive their nutrition
throughout the season, as they need it. And being very healthy, they
have high brix values, and are less susceptible to diseases and
pests, as well.

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