Saturday, March 08, 2008

Garden layout and composition


I have a plot of land beside my house that would measure 40x10 when the
walking areas surrounding it are taken into consideration. It runs
east to west length wise, and north to south width wise. My plan is to
run T-trellis' in this area. Would you suggest running a trellis on
the Northern side going east to west, or 10ft trellis' going north to
south similar to the California garden in the pictures section?

Also this soil is composed mostly of red clay with almost no topsoil
with poor drainage. Would grow-beds still be advisable or would grow-
boxes be in order?


Robert & Group:

I would probably build the T-Frames on the North side, running East & West.

How much rainfall do you get in a year, on average? If you have high rainfall you will want to have your soil-beds a bit higher than they can be in low rainfall areas. You'll also need to use gypsum in low rainfall areas and dolomite or agricultureal lime in higher rainfall areas (20" per year is the dividing line).

If you have standing water in your garden, then you might also need to improve your drainage by installing drain pipes or ditches, etc.

Other than that your soil should be fine. If you want to grow in containers that is a wonderful alternative, and once the initial cost and work are done it is a great pleasure to grow in Grow-Boxes.

Jim Kennard

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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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Sunday, March 02, 2008

Pruning tomaotes correctly

Jim - I watched this video about pruning the tomato plant. Is this what the plant will eventually look like when done by the Mittleider Method? There are very few leaves on this plant when he finished.

Sheila (Virginia)

Sheila & Group:

Do NOT prune tomatoes - or any other plant like what is shown in this video!

Plants need their leaves for photosynthesis. Therefore, unless you are expert at pruning, restrict your pruning to removing sucker stems, removing leaves that touch the ground or are crowding other plants, and old leaves that are no longer useful.

Make sure to remove all sucker stems - all season long, otherwise you'll have a mass of branches and little fruit.

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