Tropical Garden & Orchard – Questions & Answers Similar to YOUR OWN LOCATION

Q.  1) In Dr Mittleider books I have found different sizes for the grow boxes, please tell me what is the best size and

2) what are the quantities of fertilizers that should be used (pre-plant and weekly feed).
3) Do you think it is good to feed sweet potatoes (or any vegetable) weekly?
4) Do you think it is wise to plant vegetables (sweet potatoes, yam, dachine) in the soil or should I always use grow boxes?
5) What is the best distance between sweet potato plants?
6) Do you think that all fruit trees should receive the same fertilizers or different fruit trees require different types of fertilizers?  What about the amount of fertilizers.  I have citrus trees (oranges, mandarines, tangerines, limons) mangoes, avocadoes, bread fruit , banana trees,  etc.
Some trees look very good, but others not too good.  The trees are not very old (about 10 years old)
7) What do you think should be the best fertilizer for sugar cane?
A.  1) For commercial production 4′-wide boxes are probably the best and most productive.  You can plant 2 rows of the climbing or tall plants in them and 4 rows of other large plants.  You can even plant more than four rows of small things like radishes, carrots, leaf lettuce, etc.
With most plants – climbing or large vegetables – you should plant at the edges and 12″ in, leaving a 2′ open area in the center of the bed.  This is essential for adequate light to get to all plants as they grow and mature.
2) Fertilizer should be applied at the rate of 1 ounce per running foot of row for Pre-PLant Mix, and 1/2 ounce per running foot of row for Weekly Feed.  Both are applied before planting, and mixed with the soil. 
3) This should be done for EVERY vegetable and fruit you grow.

Application of Weekly Feed should be once every week, until 3 weeks before harvest, for single-crop varieties.  It should be placed 4″ from the plant stems, down the length of the row, and the watering will – over the week – take it into the soil at the root zone of the plants.

4) Everything can be grown successfully in either soil or Grow-Boxes.  If your soil is particularly bad you may choose to grow in boxes.  This will often minimize problems with bugs and diseases, although those can migrate into the soil-less mixture over time, requiring that it be replaced after a few years, unless you cover your ground with something like roofing material first.

5) Planting can be closer than traditional methods.  It also depends on the size and variety.  We have planted sweet potatoes closer than 12″ and as far apart as 14″, and a 4″-wide bed will accommodate 4 rows.  An 18″ bed will allow 2 rows of all plants except climbing plants, which should have only one row.
6 & 7) I recommend you use the Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed, without any changes, on every plant you grow.  This includes trees, bushes, flowers, and even grass ( and sugar cane).  The amounts and frequency will vary greatly, depending on the size and growing habits.
Fertilizing trees should be done twice each year – once at budding time, and again when the fruit are forming.  Amounts to use depend on the size of the tree.  Look in the FAQ section of the website under Trees to find an article about feeding trees.
It’s true that some plants and trees use a little more of one element than another.  The Mittleider natural mineral nutrients are complete, balanced formulas that have enough of every required element that you will seldom see a deficiency.
Make sure you have the Mittleider Garden Doctor set on hand.  Then, if you do see a deficiency developing you can quickly identify it and apply the correct dosage of the needed mineral.  This is far better than trying to develop a separate fertilizer for each type of crop.
When you get to the point where you are growing many acres of a single crop, then you can get more sophisticated and custom mix your fertilizers for that crop.

Fall Lawn & Garden Preparation

Let’s talk about preparing your lawn, trees, shrubs, and garden for winter, and how best to improve your soil during this time of year.

Much of this Country seems to be clay soil, so first let’s find out how to improve problem clay soils. These procedures also apply to other types of soil, but may not be so important if you have loamy or sandy soil.

I don’t often dwell on amending your soil, because it is not essential for growing a good garden if you feed and water properly. However, it can be a good idea, so long as you use clean, weed, seed, bug, and disease-free materials.

Weed-free grass clippings are good soil amendments when they’re available, as are pine needles. And this time of the year you can also use your leaves. Mulch pine needles and leaves as fine as possible with a chipper/shredder or mulching mower, and then turn 3 or 4 inches of them into your soil-beds. Just don’t use walnut leaves, as the sap is very hard on some of your vegetables, especially tomatoes. This procedure will improve your soil tilth, and doing it in the fall gives the organic material plenty of time to de-compose before spring planting.

What else should you be doing now to get your yard ready for winter and give growing things a head start for spring? The Mittleider Method – as taught in his gardening books available at – teaches the importance of and best methods of weeding and feeding your garden. A final weeding is a very good idea for starters. Left alone, some weeds will over-winter and come back strong as soon as the snow leaves your ground and before you can get into the yard. That’s why farmers plant winter wheat, and gardeners plant things like garlic – so they have a head start in the spring. Don’t give your weeds that advantage!

The next thing to do is to clean up and remove all organic materials from the garden area! Clean, disease-free plant residue should be turned into the soil along with your leaves, and you should remove everything else, so as not to provide a place for bugs to winter-over.

A slow-release fertilizer is also a good thing to put down in the fall. This way, it is available to lawn, plants, and trees as they first stir in late winter and early spring. This is also an excellent time to apply calcium, which is “the foundation of a good feeding program,” and an essential nutrient almost as important as nitrogen. How is this best done? Calcium does not move very far in the soil, so it’s best to work it into the plants’ root zone in the soil. However, what about the majority of your yard, that doesn’t get turned over every fall?

With lawn, trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials such as raspberries and asparagus, it is usually impractical to dig things up every year like a vegetable garden. Therefore, sometimes the question is asked “Would it be advantageous to aerate first, or use a root feeder or something similar to get Pre-Plant minerals more into the root zone?”

Many people feel this is important, and there may be some advantage to aerating your lawn or around your shrubs and trees before applying your fall slow-release fertilizer and calcium.  However Dr. Mittleider says it is not necessary and doesn’t do it, and we have never aerated our yard and get along just fine.  Therefore, I recommend you spread the materials evenly on the soil surface, scratch them in with a rake or hoe, and either water them in thoroughly or, if you have already turned off your outside water for the winter, let the melting snow take them down into the root zone of your plants.

Do these things now and your garden can be a thing of beauty even in the winter! © James B. Kennard, 2006

Jim Kennard, President of Food For Everyone Foundation, has a wealth of teaching and gardening training and experience upon which to draw in helping the Foundation “Teach the world to grow food one family at a time.” Jim has been a Mittleider gardener for the past twenty nine years; he is a Master Mittleider Gardening Instructor, and has taught classes and worked one-on-one with Dr. Jacob Mittleider on several humanitarian gardening training projects in the USA and abroad. He has conducted projects in Armenia, America, Madagascar, and Turkey by himself. He assists gardeners all over the world from the website FAQ pages and free Gardening Group, and grows a large demonstration garden at Utah’s Hogle Zoo in his spare time.

Gardening Books, CDs and Software are available at

Planning Nex Year’s Garden – What Could You Produce?

Many people arrive at the end of the gardening season and wish they had planned their garden better. Often there is wasted space, and sometimes we have grown things that were not used, and perhaps couldn’t even be given away.

Now is a good time to begin planning for next year’s garden – to make sure you realize the greatest benefit from your valuable time and available space, and that you make the most of those precious 6 months of growing which nature provides us.

First you should decide what your garden is used for. Is it for casual use, with just a few things grown for fun, or do you depend on it as a major source of your family’s food? Next, decide what kinds of things are best to grow – juicy tomatoes, or that new triple-sweet corn. And then plan for how much of each thing you will grow.

How your garden is used depends on 1) whether or not you’re able or willing to devote serious effort to your garden, 2) whether you expect to feed your family just during the growing season or for the entire year, 3) what things your family likes to eat, 4) will there be supplementation from other sources, or will you be depending on your garden completely, and 5) do you want or expect to earn money from the sale of your produce.

An excellent and inexpensive database of commonly grown vegetables, with when, where, and how they can be grown, as well as how much they will produce, is contained on the Garden Wizard and Garden Master CD’s. These are wonderful resources for the serious family gardener, and can be found at under Software.

I recommend growing high-value and ever-bearing crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, pole beans, zucchini, etc., to maximize your yield in the minimum space, for the least cost and effort.

Let’s assume you have a large family you want to feed from your garden, and that you have 1/8th of an acre that can be used for this purpose. I’ll give examples of what can be grown in 30′-long soil-beds.

On 1/8th of an acre you should be able to grow thirty two 30’-long soil-beds that are 18” wide, with 3 ½’ interior aisles and 5’ end aisles.

Using vertical growing with the Mittleider Method (which includes organic gardening, container gardening, hydroponic gardening, and soil gardening), your garden should produce the following amounts of fresh, healthy vegetables:

Five beds of indeterminate tomatoes – 2,000-4,000# of tomatoes from July through October. Two beds of sweet peppers – 500-1,000 peppers. Two beds of eggplant – 500-1,000 eggplant. Two beds of cucumber – 750-1,500 cucumbers. Three beds of pole beans – 400-800# of beans. Two beds of zucchini – 500-1,000# of zucchini.

So far we’ve only used 1/2 of the garden, and you have more than enough vegetables to feed the family during the growing season, with excess to sell or give away. Doubling the space of these 6 crops could provide income to buy other food staples, and/or provide sufficient to dry or bottle food for the winter months.

Growing easily-stored food in the other half of your garden, such as potatoes, cabbage, beets, onions, turnips and carrots can provide the family fresh food during the winter. You should be able to produce the following amounts, and if you will provide proper cold storage these can be usable for up to 6 months.

Two beds of carrots – 200-400# of carrots. Two beds of cabbage – 200-400# of cabbage. One bed of beets – 100-200# of beets. Two beds of onions – 200-400# of onions. Five beds of potatoes – 500-1,000# of potatoes.

The carrots, cabbage and beet crops can often be doubled by growing an early and late crop in the same space, which make these varieties more valuable for the serious grower.

In this scenario you have four beds left to plant. Crops like corn, large squash, and watermelon should only be grown if you have ample EXTRA space, because they take much space for the yield they produce. For example one bed of corn should produce about 90-100 ears of corn – all within about 2 weeks, whereas a bed of tomatoes should produce 400-800 POUNDS of tomatoes, spaced over 4 months.

Take the time now for this important planning exercise. Have your family decide what they want to eat, calculate the amounts of each vegetable needed, and then plan your space so you can grow at least that much in your garden.

Good Growing!


Jim Kennard, President of Food For Everyone Foundation, has a wealth of teaching and gardening training and experience upon which to draw in helping the Foundation’s mission of “Teaching the world to grow food one family at a time.” Jim has been a Mittleider gardener for the past twenty nine years; he is a Master Mittleider Gardening Instructor, and has taught classes and worked one-on-one with Dr. Jacob Mittleider on several humanitarian gardening training projects in the USA and abroad. He has conducted projects in Armenia, America, Madagascar, and Turkey by himself. He assists gardeners all over the world from the website FAQ pages and free Gardening Group, and grows a large demonstration garden at Utah’s Hogle Zoo in his spare time.

Gardening Books, CDs and Software are available at

Keeping Deer From My Garden

Q.  I would like to know if there is any way to keep the deer from getting in my garden without hurting them?

A.  Tall fences – above 6′ – work well. 

Some folks believe mountain lion or tiger feces will also repel them.  I’m not sure about this because my garden is only 100 yeards from the Big Cat House at utah’s Hogle Zoo, and I’ve had 7 and 8 deer in my garden at one time.

A Border Collie, or other trainable dog can also probably discourage them, if the dog will be willing to stand guard all night.

Where to Plant – On the Ridges (traditional) or At the Base of the Ridges?

Q.  In the photo albums (, I see pictures of Jim Kennard’s Hogle Zoo gardens.  It appears that he plants his crops in the rows instead of on top of the mounded part of the row.  Is this due to the automated watering process or is there a secret I’m not aware of?    My grannie traught me to mound the row, plant on the top of it and water in the ditch between the rows.  Have I got it all wrong?

A.  Planting on the ridges has its origins in farmers’ attempts to keep plants from drowning.  In high-rainfall areas – especially in clay soil, because it is very slow to drain – unless you raise the level of the soil where the plant sits, the roots will suffocate for lack of oxygen after hard or long rains.  This continues to be the preferred method of planting “field” crops to this day, and is probably the most practical way to do it with mechanized equipment. 

Problems associated with planting on the ridges include: 1) the difficulty of getting and keeping fertilizers near the plant roots, 2) fertilizing the entire garden, instead of just the vegetable plants, 3) losing much of the fertilizers due to the runoff and leaching of excess water 4) watering the plant adequately if there is no rain, 5) weeding every inch of the garden, because the weeds get watered and fertilized right along with the vegetables, and 6) avoiding losing the ridges (and the crop) to heavy rains when the plants are small.

If your plants are on the top of ridges, watering requires much more water even than if everything were flat, because you have to provide sufficient water, deep enough, to thoroughly soak the entire ridge.  Flood irrigating in this way is not at all conserving of a precious water resource.

The benefits from planting in level ridged beds, and putting the plants at the base of the ridges instead of at the top include:
1)  Using less than 1/2 the water, since you only water 18″ not 5′.
2)  Using less than 1/2 the fertilizer, by not fertilizing the aisles.
3)  Less weeding, since aisles are neither watered nor fed, and so are dry and inhospitable to weeds’ growth.  Also, close-planted plants shade weeds out in the beds.
4)  Planting 2 rows of most crops close together allows bush beans, peas, etc., to support themselves by leaning on their neighbors.
5)  Allows for easy automation of watering, to greatly reduce labor and increase watering efficiency.
6)  Ease of caring for and harvesting your crops, with wide, dry aisles.

In high-rainfall areas you do need to remember to open the ends of your beds during heavy rains, so the water drains out.  Othwise your plants may drown.

What about crop rotation – is it important?

There are three reasons for crop rotation:
1. Some crops utilize more of a specific nutrient than others, and by rotating crops soil fertility can be better equalized.

2. Some crops attract specific insects. By rotating the crops the cycle of insect build-up is minimized.

3. If a crop becomes diseased, rotating to a crop that is not susceptible to that disease can break the cycle of the disease pathogen.

All of these conditions are of only minor importance, however. When plant nutrition is really understood, fertility can be maintained easily. And by keeping a weed-free, clean garden and uniform, healthy, fast-maturing crops, insect and disease build-up are seldom experienced.

Where can I find Advanced topics covered?

When you get ready to think of maximizing your production by growing your own seedlings, using a cold frame/hot house or building your own greenhouse, or growing plants vertically (as I do to achieve over 10,000 pounds of tomatoes on 1/22nd of an acre), consider the Mittleider Gardening Course, which includes what you see on the internet and about a dozen “advanced” topics, and is the student manual for any classes taught by the Food For Everyone Foundation.