Saturday, October 10, 2009

Materials to use in Grow-Boxes and Seedling Trays

Here's the basic information you need to acquire and mix your organic soil mix for use in Grow-Boxes or seedling trays.

1) Soil mix percentages are figured by volume, and sand should be between 25% and 35%. The other ingredients, both type and amount, are your choice from the list below, based on cost and availability.

2) Extremely fine sand isn't the best, but you don't want anything too coarse either. It should be clean (no seeds, bugs, diseases, or dirt). In the USA we request "concrete sand".

3) The best soil mix alternatives are generally whichever are the least expensive among the following. Sawdust lasts longer than peat-moss, and perlite lasts longer than vermiculite, but sawdust takes some nitrogen while it is fresh (rarely enough to be a problem, if you are feeding properly), and vermiculite is
preferred by some growers over perlite because of the smaller particles.

4) Other materials to consider, in the order of our preference, include pine needles, coconut husks, rice hulls, coffee hulls, Bagass (sugar cane refuse), and the last choice would be leaves (but avoid scrub oak below 5,000 feet elevation and black walnuts).

These may be available free or at very low cost in many places. You should find a hammer mill or good chipper/shredder to chop the materials finely, and any of the above will work for you.

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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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Monday, October 05, 2009

PVC pipe hole size how big is needed?

Irrigation System

I am in the process of beginning to start work on the irrigation part
of my conversion to the MittleiderMethodGardening. I would like to ask
if the small #57 holes in the pvc pipes present any special trouble
with stopping up?


A #57 hole in a Schedule 200 PVC pipe will not plug up much at all, if you are
using water from a well or from the city system, etc. If you use irrigation
water from a canal or stream you may have some sediment that can clog the holes.

I water from a mountain stream that is sometimes quite dirty - especially in the
spring and after a hard rain. If I experience any clogging of the holes in my
pipes I just carry a hoe with me and hit the pipe with the hoe HANDLE a few
times. This will dislodge the tiny pieces of pebble, or whatever it is.
Immediately after doing this to a pipe I will unscrew the far end-cap and let
the water run through for a few seconds, flushing any loose residue out the end
of the pipe.

If any of you are tempted to use Schedule 40 PVC pipe, because "its stronger and
will last longer", etc., I don't recommend it. It's usually more than double
the cost, heavier, much harder to drill the holes (breaking drill bits),
more inclined to plug up, harder to break loose the blockage with the
hose-handle, and even the Schedule 200 will last more than 20 years with any
kind of care, so who needs it to last longer.

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Sunday, October 04, 2009

Sustainable organic gardening the easy way.

The Best Gardening Method on the Planet

My name is Jim Kennard, and as President of the Food For Everyone Foundation I am excited to help in fulfilling the foundation's mission of "teaching the world to grow food one family at a time."

We do this by providing a wealth of free vegetable gardening information, training, tips, and advice on the internet at People from all over the world come here to receive free training and advice, as well as to obtain the great gardening books, CDs and software written by Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider.

The Mittleider Gardening Basics Course ebook is free on the website. The book-length FAQ section also has 365 short gardening articles, which answer people's questions and give advice on many vegetable gardening subjects.

In addition we have free greenhouse plans and free plans for automating your garden watering system, as well as a free gardening group where you can share knowledge and experience with thousands of successful vegetable gardeners.

I'll briefly introduce you to the Foundation's gardening methods by describing a few things about the Mittleider Method that are important, and which distinguish it from other gardening methods.

Most of the time our gardens are grown right in the native soil, with no amendments. We promise you "a great garden in any soil, in almost any climate". From straight sand to the worst clay, we'll show you how to have success growing healthy, delicious vegetables the first time and every time.

Grow-Boxes, or containers are sometimes needed for people living in apartments, and for disabled people. Container gardening can be just as effective as growing in the soil, and 2 ½ of Dr. Mittleider's 10 books are dedicated to the unique features of the container gardening process.

The Mittleider Method is sometimes called "the poor man's hydroponic system", because we use some of the principles and procedures of greenhouse growers, such as vertical growing, feeding the plants accurately throughout their growing cycle with natural mineral nutrients, and sometimes extending the growing season in both the spring and fall.

The Second major element in the Foundation's mission is teaching, training, and assisting people directly. One way we do this in America is by conducting free ½-day group gardening seminars. These can be arranged by contacting me by email at jim@....

We also conduct humanitarian projects in many countries throughout the world. In 2006 I went to Armenia with my wife Araksya and spent 5 months - from February to mid July. We created a gardening training center in the village of Getk, with housing, classroom, greenhouse, and 3/4 acre garden. We taught students, who became the gardening experts in their own villages, and we assisted them in working with about 200 families in those villages. We left the training center and garden in the able hands of an Armenian couple, and expect the work will continue there, with our occasional visits.

In Armenia, as in other places we've worked, we grew many kinds of vegetables the locals thought couldn't possibly be grown in "their region", and often had many non-participating village families coming to our garden for advice, coaching, and free produce.

Another way in which we extend our reach is to train others who are becoming missionaries for their churches. One example is Howard and Glenice Morgan, from Southern California, who just returned from a 2-year mission to Zimbabwe. They were sent to teach Mittleider gardening to their church members throughout the country, and they did a FABULOUS job.

They prepared by studying the Mittleider gardening books. Then, after some training in my garden at Utah's Hogle Zoo, and using only the simple 6 Steps to Successful Gardening, the Morgans created 84 large gardens and taught over 10,500 people to feed themselves by growing their own healthy vegetables.

And Howard and Glenice thanked me for helping them have the time of their lives! Howard was a retired dentist, by the way, with very little previous experience in gardening.

So, whatever level you are currently on, you too can experience this kind of success – whether it's in your own home garden, a community effort, or as a humanitarian missionary in some distant country.

Join us as a Mittleider Method gardener, for the best gardens of your life.

Jim Kennard

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