Traditional Vegetable Gardening Compared to The Mittleider Method

We have wonderful neighbors in Getk, Armenia, and one of them, Arras, is an excellent gardener! Their traditions, along with other factors, however, limit their productivity severely.

Arras told us the other night that during Soviet times coal cost them $15 per ton, and families used coal to heat their homes during the winter. After the ’91 breakup and subsequent Armenian independence coal costs went up to $150 per ton. Armenian families now dry their manure and use it to heat their homes, instead of using coal, which is beyond their ability to pay.

This means that farmers rarely use manure on their crops, and nitrogen or “cilitra” is the only thing they add to their ground.

Tradition says that they can only grow a few vegetable types, and methods, planting times, weeding methods, and even when and how often to water are all dictated as well. For example, they plant whole potatoes about 6″ deep in the soil, then they don’t water them at all, other than the chance and usually infrequent rains, until the plants flower.

They never use transplanted seedlings of corn, beans, squash, and melons in the belief that these plants can’t be transplanted, and the transplants they do use are bare-root, suffering severely from transplant shock, since no fertilizers are used at all. Their corn seedlings are often plucked out of the ground by crows as they first germinate, and the crows enjoy a feast of “sprouts”, so corn is not grown much.

Meanwhile, we are using natural mineral fertilizers; we transplant almost everything, and our plants hardly know they’ve been moved, since we are careful to keep the rootball intact, and we feed them immediately after transplanting.

Neighbors are just now transplanting cabbage, and we’ve already harvested spinach, lettuce, broccoli, and are just starting to harvest cabbage. Some neighbors are venturing to grow tomatoes, peppers, and eggplant at our urging using our seedlings, but they are about 1 month behind our garden already. We will be eating tomatoes in about 2 weeks.

We are really starting to draw attention and interest, as the differences between our crops and their traditional ones becomes very apparent.

We installed T-Frames in 13 beds, and I (almost) wish we could be here in August and September, when our garden becomes a forest of vegetables and fruit, most of which will be growing over the heads of visitors.

Pictures will be posted on the MittleiderGardeningGroup site on Yahoo Groups in the Pictures section.

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