Friday, November 07, 2008

Mittleider Organic or not?

Thank you for some wonderful advice! Just wanted to clarify some things you wrote in this email.

My garden has become a focal point for the Master Gardeners in this area and I will be demonstrating the Mittleider Method to all of them next spring.

I am still a bit confused about:
1. What is the difference between the fertilizers we use
a. the 13 trace mineral packet mixed with
b. Triple 16
and "organic fertilizer"?

2. Do you not recommend building our own compost piles?


The fertilizers we use and recommend are natural mineral nutrients - ground-up rocks, some of which have gone through a simple cleaning and concentration process to assure we get exactly what we bargained for, which is "the most for our money".

Every one of the fertilizers used in mixing Mittleider Magic Weekly Feed and Pre-Plant mixes have been approved by the USDA for use in an organic gardening operation.

Some folks have gone so far with the "organic fertilizer" thing that they won't use anything but manures, compost, egg shells, blood & bone meal, etc. They believe that anything other than those constitutes a "chemical" and is somehow harmful.

The truth is that - as Organic Gardening magazine's J. I. Rodale said - "We've gone too far. . . a plant can't tell the difference between nitrogen from a leaf and that from a fertilizer bag."

Furthermore, everything in this world is a chemical. All the elements in manure and compost are chemicals. So how did we get into this mess?

Years ago people were hearing that things like DDT were dangerous to fish, birds, animals, etc. and the movement to ban those powerful substances gained momentum until many useful chemicals were totally banned worldwide. And today millions of African children die of malaria when they could be saved simply by using DDT to eradicate the mosquitoes.

We humans often allow the pendulum to swing too far, and I believe it has swung too far in the organic gardening movement, when people refuse to use ground-up rocks that contain exactly what their plants need to thrive, and instead limit themselves to the use of materials the exclusive use of which kept 20-25%% of our ancestors on the farm in order to feed the rest of us (today I believe it's less than 1%).

I've also seen the pictorial proof Dr. Mittleider accumulated worldwide of the problems unsterilized manure and compost cause in gardens, with crop destroying diseases, bugs, and weed seeds.

So, if organic materials are CLEAN I say it's fine to till them into the garden. But how many of us KNOW our compost and manure are clean?

Unless they are composted aerobically at sustained temperatures over 140 degrees Fahrenheit whatever was in them - and whatever else may invite itself into the pile in the composting process - will end up alive and well in your garden.

So, to answer your second question, If you will compost your materials at a constant temperature of 140+ - the way the "Zoo-Doo Man" did (see article in Files section) - you can probably use them in the garden without worry of bringing bad things into your garden.

But that still doesn't answer the question about WHAT GOOD your compost is doing. Does ANYONE know which nutrients, or how much of each is contained in the compost or manure they are putting on their gardens? I would guess there's not one in 100 people who submit their compost or manure to an accurate soil test before applying it to their garden. And so they are guessing on what they are giving their plants.

In order to make "sure" they have enough, and to avoid the trouble of multiple applications, manure and compost gardeners apply the amount they hope will feed the whole crop ALL AT ONCE at the beginning.

This creates three problems: First, germinating seeds and small seedlings are often burned and killed by too much salinity; second, excess fertilizer salts are sometimes leached into the ground water; and third, the nutrition from the manure gives out after a few weeks, and the crop stops producing just when it should be at its strongest.

I believe the points I've covered above explain to some degree why the Mittleider Method is referred to by many of its adherents as "the best of organic".



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