Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Organic gardening Comparing the Mittleider Method with Commercial Growers

Q. How "Organic" or Natural is The Mittleider Method - Really!
My question is, how organic are the pre-plant and weekly feeder mixes? With today's current market trends and people's general desire to move away from commercialized food sources, the main question I have been asked when speaking with others about the Mittleider Method, is how organic or natural is it really? (Tammy Curry)

A. That is a fair question - one that is fairly often asked - and it deserves a complete answer.

The USDA lists all of the minerals we use in the fertilizers we pre-package and sell as being approved for use in organic gardening.

I believe it deserves the descriptions some people use, such as "better than organic" and "best of organic", and that so long as you don't use commercial pesticides and herbicides, you are fully justified in calling your garden produce "organic" if you want to.

For those of you who have concerns about this issue I strongly recommend you visit the FFEF website at and study the 8 short articles I have written in response to the question "Organic or Chemical?"

I've also reproduced here an article I wrote about my personal experience using what I believe was just about the world's best compost. This article is in the Files section of this group, if anyone wants to reproduce it.

The Zoo-Doo Man

For 15 years I have owned a 3/4 acre parcel adjacent to Utah's Hogle Zoo, where I have grown a vegetable garden using The Mittleider Method as taught in many of the developing countries around the world by Jacob R. Mittleider. During that time I've been privileged to help him on a few projects, and recently, with his blessing, conducted some myself. The garden is always extremely productive, rather nice to look at, and a very popular unofficial "exhibit" with the 850,000 annual visitors to the zoo.

Many people asked, as they visited over the fence, if I used the zoo animals' manure, and I always told them "no", but one day a lady piqued my interest when she said the Seattle Zoo sells their composted animal manure to the public as "Zoo Doo." I decided to check this out, so I talked to them and found they pile the manure in win-rows, and after about a year, dry, bag, and sell it.

I decided I could make a lot better compost than what Seattle got by leaving it out in the rain for a year. So I first bought a Compost Tumbler and learned the best procedures and mixes as I tested small batches. Very soon I had constant 140+ degree heat for 3 weeks, and beautiful, black, sweet-smelling compost.

I then acquired a 10-yard cement truck and began doing large batches. With loads this size, they maintained temperatures over 140 degrees for 3 weeks, and then cooled down for one week. And You've never seen such beautiful material - I really felt like I had made the world's best compost!

I obtained the right to use the Zoo-Doo name, bought bags, T-shirts, banners, cart, etc. and began selling at the Zoo gift shop and in the local nurseries. I ended up on TV and in the newspapers, and became known as "The Zoo-Doo Man."

Whenever I had more than I could sell, I would drive the cement truck down to my garden and off-load the batch over the wall. I then put it into several soil-beds and grew vegetables with it – to compare which was better – compost or the Mittleider natural mineral nutrients, which I’d been using all along. And I grew good stuff with my Zoo-Doo.

However, the most important thing I learned in that two-year experiment was not how to make and sell Zoo-Doo. I learned for myself that I could grow better vegetables more consistently, and with a lot less time, cost, and effort, with a few pounds of inexpensive natural mineral nutrients than I could with truckloads of “the world’s best compost.”

I therefore continue to use good, clean organic materials when they are available, but I know that highly productive vegetable gardens are not dependent on improving the soil with organic material.

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