Ideal Growing Temperatures

Ideal temperatures for growing tomatoes are above 70 degrees daytime and 55 degrees nighttime, and below 95 degrees daytime and 80 degrees nighttime.

A 15 degree differential between daytime and nighttime temperatures is best.

Temperatures outside the above ranges will substantially reduce or stop fruit-set and also contribute to other problems, such as cat-facing, blossom-end rot, etc.

What String Should I Use to Grow Plants Vertically?

Q. I’m using t-frames for my tomatoes,and the tomatoes are growing in to the string; should I loosen the string or cut it? I’m afraid the plants’ circulation will be cut off, as the plants continue to grow.

A. You should be using a very large string. We recommend the large nylon baling twine as being ideal. smaller string can indeed cut into the stems of your plants.

Also, you should not tie the string to the base of the plant stems, but instead attach it to a tie-wire that is run at ground level between and attached to the T-Frames.

The baling twine should have some slack in it, so that you can easily guide the plant stem around the twine without twisting, kinking, or breaking it. Don’t make it so loose that it sags, but rather leave extra string on the top (tied with a slip knot) and give more twine as needed so that it doesn’t get tight to the point that you can’t gently guide the plant stem around it.

Mixing Fertilizer In Small Batches

Many people only have small containers in which they are trying to grow vegetables, and they only need small amounts of Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed Mixes.

Here’s how to mix Weekly Feed using one tenth of a 10 ounce Micro-Nutrient packet:

Mix 2.5 pounds of 16-16-16 or similar NPK mix with
6 ounces of Epsom Salt, and
1 ounce of Mittleider Magic Micro-Mix

For similar amounts of the simple Pre-Plant Mix:

Mix 2.5 pounds of lime (gypsum for less than 20″ of annual rainfall)
2 ounces of Epsom Salt, and
1/2 ounce of 20 Mule Team Borax

Apply Pre-Plant 1 ounce per running foot and mix with the soil before planting.

Apply Weekly Feed 1/2 ounce per runnning foot and mix with the soil before planting. Thereafter, after plants are up, feed 1/2 ounce weekly until 3 weeks before maturity.

Do I need to prune peas?

Q. My question is about snap peas. I’m going to grow them vertically and I want to know if they should be pruned like other vining plants. I can find info on beans, tomatoes, cucumbers, etc… but not on snap peas.

A. Make sure you have POLE PEAS if you expect them to grow tall, and even then they will only reach about 5’+.

You do not do any pruning of peas. And you also do not need to guide them up the strings. You may need to move a few tendrils from one string to another, but that’s all – just like you have to do with pole beans.

Does the Mittleider Software Run on Vista?

Q. Why Can’t you make some software that runs on VISTA? All newer windows computers have vista on them – we really wanted to buy your software, but all our computers have vista on them. don’t you have an update or anything for VISTA? – HELP! Very Frustrated!

A. Sorry about that! you might suggest to Microsoft that they make their fancy expensive new operating system compatible with the millions of existing programs that are already on people’s computers.

We have no plans for a change. If anyone out there would care to donate their time and expertise to accomplishing that task we would be pleased to give him all the blessings (and accolades) that are attached.

When should I plant?

Q. When is a good time to plant a vegetable garden in Utah?

A. No matter where you live you need to time your planting according to two things:

1. You need to learn the Average Last Frost Date (ALFD) in the Spring for your growing area, and
2. You need to determine the frost tolerance (hardiness) of the plants you’re thinking of growing.

You then plant according to the following schedule (there’s an excellent schedule of vegetables with this and much more information all done for you at the FREE gardening group – in the Files section):

Hardy plants – – – – – – 3-4 weeks before the ALFD
Semi-hardy plants – – – 2 weeks + or – before the ALFD
Frost sensitive plants – On the ALFD
Frost intolerant plants -2 weeks AFTER the ALFD

Teaching Others to Grow Seedlings

Q.  I am starting a nursery with a group of individuals using the Mittleider method. I am following the Gardening Course book as closely as possible but I am still unclear on 1 crucial point:

WHEN do you transplant the young mass propagated tomato plants from the wooden flats to individual cells? Do the plants need to have their first true leaves before you pull them out of the ground to transplant them? Advice on this would be greatly appreciated.

A. The Mittleider Training “Videos” contain good material to SHOW you how to grow seedlings. They include 70 lessons contained on 2 CDs, and are the backbone for the intensive 3-month training program we conduct. The cost is $97 + $5 – from me directly.

Meanwhile, here’s a short explanation: The first transplant – from a flat or tray with hundreds of tiny seedlings to either another flat or individual 2″ cells – needs to be done after the seedlings have their first “true leaves”.

1) If using another tray be sure to mark it first.

2) Water the first tray before transplanting;

3) do not “pull” the seedlings out of the ground, but use a dibble (a 1/2″ doweling rod 6″ long, sharpened on one end), to carefully remove the seedlings;

4) keep as much soil mixture on the roots as possible;

5) remove the “seed leaves”.

6) Make a hole at each mark large and deep enough to accommodate the root ball and allow the seedling to be planted deep, with just the leaves above ground.

7) Water (always with the Constant Feed solution – 1 ounce of Weekly Feed to 3 gallons of water) immediately after transplanting, and be sure to leave the flat in full sun all day.

Making My Own Weekly Feed Mix Using Micro-Nutrients Purchased from the Foundation Website

Q. I need some help on NPK ratios used with the Micro Mix. The Micro Mix sheet suggested using a 16-16-16 ratio (I can get 17-17-17, will it work?), but the “how to mix your own fertilizer” file and spreadsheet talks about a target 110-60-110
ratio. Which one is best? What is the necessary degree of
exactness/accuracy needed to “feed” successfully (how far can I
diverge from the “ideal’ and still have success?).

A. 17-17-17 will work fine for mixing with the Micro-Nutrient mix you purchased from the Foundation, as will 15-15-15.

Ideally your garden only needs the 110-60-110 ratio of N, P, & K, but the extra phosphate will not hurt your plants. And the pre-mixed Weekly Feed sold throughout Utah and Southern Idaho is 13-8-13, so even 13-13-13 works fine.

We don’t get excited about 10-10-10, because it’s a bit low in N & K, but people use it successfully. It just might require an extra feeding or two during the season.

The 20-20-20 that’s sold in some places is usually quite expensive. This is because the fertilizer is 100% water-soluble, so it can be used in hydroponic operations. That mix can also be used, if you can’t find anything less costly.

I can’t recommend other changes. Certainly the micro-nutrients have proven to be very valuable in growing greatly increased quantities of healthy vegetables.

Look in the Photos section at for pictures of an experiment conducted at the University Del Cauca that shows dramatic differences in crops grown with and without micro-nutrients.

Putting Cardboard, Linoleum, or Carpeting under the Box – What Height? – Filling with Dirt & Manure?

Q. I was thinking of using brown cardboard from fridge and stove boxes as a mulching in the bottoms of the raised beds to prevent weeds coming up into the beds, so I don’t have to dig, rake and work that soil so much prior to installing the soils the beds. Is there any reason not to do this?

I’m digging a foundation for another building and have that dirt to move, I thought it would be good in the raised beds with some additives, like peat moss, sand and manure and straw in the lower layers. etc..

How about some used linoleum, or carpeting on the bottom side of the beds? I’m making the beds 16 inches deep (so I don’t have to bend down so much as I get older.)

A. One important factor to consider in choosing whether or NOT to put ANYTHING under your Grow-Boxes is the drainage implications. If the material stops or even slows the natural drainage you may substantially hurt your crop and even kill it with a build-up of water and/or salts.

Another factor to consider before putting anything under your Grow-Boxes is that plant roots will – if the soil is available to them – travel down into the natural soil and pick up additional plant nutrients and minerals that may be valuable for humans and animals that may not be essential for healthy plant growth.

Container height only needs to be 8″. Anything more than that 1) increases the cost of building the container, 2) increases the cost of filling the container, 3) increases the cost of watering, and 4) may reduce the effectiveness of the fertilizer somewhat.

We recommend placing the boxes directly on clean soil that has been leveled. Then apply the Pre-Plant Mix, and then fill with clean inert “soil mix” materials, as well as the Weekly Feed and Pre-Plant Mixes.

The soil mix materials should NOT include dirt or manure – for several reasons:

1) Dirt is HEAVY and can push out the sides of the box.

2) Dirt often does not drain vell,

3) Dirt becomes hard and difficult to work with,

4) Dirt and manure very often contain millions of weed seeds,

5) Dirt and manure often include unwelcome bugs and/or diseases.

Jim Kennard