Fertilizing Small Containers – 5 gallons as Starting Point

Q. How much Pre-Plant and how much Weekly Feed should I add to each 5 gallon pail of custom soil?

We have various sizes containers (all over 8 inches deep) so I figure I can just fill the containers one at a time with the 5 gallon pails’ mixture.

A. We apply 2# of Pre-Plant to a soil-bed or Grow-Box that’s 18″ wide and 30′ long. That figures out to about 2 ounces per cubic foot of soil.

A 5 gallon bucket contains 2/3rds of a cubic foot, therefore you would mix 1 1/3rd ounce (8 teaspoons) of Pre-Plant Mix – and half that amount of Weekly Feed, or 2/3rds of an ounce (4 teaspoons).

It would be easier to mix 15 gallons at a time, which is 2 cubic feet and would require 4 ounces (1/2 cup) of Pre-Plant and 2 ounces (1/4 cup) of Weekly Feed.

Make Your Own Weekly Feed

Would you like to remove the guesswork from growing healthy plants, and know you’re feeding them just what they need? The Mittleider Magic fertilizer formulas provide all 13 natural mineral nutrients that vegetable plants need, and if you can’t find them pre-mixed locally, you can mix them yourself.

The Food For Everyone Foundation website Learn section at www.foodforeveryone.org/learn has Dr. Mittleider’s fertilizer formulas, which have been tested and proven in 34 countries all around the world. Look under Grow-Boxes at the lower left of the main screen, and then go to Fertilizers.

If you have a large garden or farm you’ll probably want to mix your fertilizers from “scratch”, using the formulas. However, if you have a typical family-sized garden, or even just some containers to grow in, you’ll most likely find it much easier, and probably less expensive, to get a couple of 10 ounce packets of Micro-Nutrients from the Foundation’s website at www.foodforeveryone.org/store and then only have to buy 4 of the main ingredients, N, P, K, and Epsom Salt (magnesium), which are almost always available locally, and fairly inexpensive as well.

It’s easy and hassle-free to mix a packet of micro-nutrients with 25#’s of 16-16-16 and 4# of Epsom Salt to obtain a good Weekly Feed. It’s also very inexpensive, when compared to anything else that’s even close to comparable, such as Miracle Gro.

For those of you who can’t find pre-mixed 16-16-16, 15-15-15, 13-13-13-, or 17-17-17, all of which are usable with the pre-packaged micro-nutrients, then check a farm-supply store for bags of each separately.

For example, you may be able to find 21-0-0 (ammonium sulfate), and 0-45-0 (triple super phosphate), and 0-0-50 (potassium sulfate). If so, mix 15# 21-0-0 with 4# 0-45-0, and 6# 0-0-50. That gives you 25# of a 110-60-110 mix, which is approximately the ratio in which your plants use the three Macro-Nutrients, and is even better than 16-16-16, etc.

Then add 4# of Epsom Salt from your pharmacy – mix it all together and you have the Weekly Feed mix. There are numerous other mixes of the “Big Three” nutrients – sometimes with two of them combined, such as 18-46-0 and 15-0-53. If you find that, just find some nitrogen and mix enough to get the 110-60-110 ratio, and you’re there.

Finding the Mittleider Magic Ingredients? We’ve Made It Easy!

Q. Does anyone else have a hard time finding the ingredients in the M method?

A. We struggled with this issue for many years until Dr. M and I:
(1) simplified the Pre-Plant formula and
(2) decided to buy, mix, package, and sell the Micro-Nutrients ourselves on the Foundation website.

Now for the Weekly Feed Mix all you have to do is:
(1) go to www.foodforeveryone.org, put your cursor on MATERIALS, click on Fertilizer, then order the Micro-Nutrients. One package costs $10.95 at the moment.
(2) Mix with 50# of NPK* and 8# of Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate) to give you
60# of Weekly Feed Mix.

*You can use any combination of N, P & K from 13-13-13 to 17-17-17 successfully.

For the Pre-Plant Mix just mix calcium, magnesium, and boron in the ratio of 80-4-1, with calcium being lime if you receive more than 20″ of annual rainfall and gypsum of you receive less than that.

The easiest source of magnesium is Epsom Salt, which is available at your pharmacy, and boron is available in most stores’ Detergent sections as 20 Mule Team Borax.

It is worth doing! The balanced natural mineral nutrients are SO much better than traditional methods you will be amazed at the difference in your plants’ growth, appearance, and taste.

Recently at the University Del Cauca a professor had his class conduct an experiment comparing the Mittleider fertilizers with other methods and the results were dramatic in favor of Mittleider Magic.

Pictures are in the Photos section of the free gardening group called the MittleiderMethodGardening@yahoogroups.com.

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 MittleiderMethodGardening@yahoogroups.com for pictures of an experiment conducted at the University Del Cauca that shows dramatic differences in crops grown with and without micro-nutrients.

Fertilizers to Use – Suggested Formula

Q. We are planning our fertilizer needs for next year. The cost of fertilizer has gone up over 60% this last year and they are telling me that it will go up another 50% by the spring so we are trying to get a head start on our garden.

I need to know what the list is for making up the Mittleider Magic fertilizer and where to get the micro-nutrients.

A. Some fertilizer compounds increased in price about 400% this year. And it is likely to continue. Buy all the fertilizers you can get NOW!

Following is a formula for making the Mittleider Magic Weekly Feed Mix:
Nitrogen Phosphorus Potassium

• (33.5-0-0)100 pounds 33 0 0
• (0-45-0) 40 pounds 0 18 0
• (0-0-60) 55 pounds 0 0 33
TOTALS 33 18 33

• Epsom Salt 35.0000#

* Zinc sulfate 2.625 #
* 20 Mule Team Borax 2.1875#
* Manganese sulfate 1.3125#
* Iron sulfate .3281#
* Copper sulfate .3281#
* Sodium molybdate .1640#

The above formula is about enough to supply a garden of 25 30′-long beds for a year, assuming a temperate climate.

This only requires a space 65′ X 70′- 4,550 square feet, or just over 1/10th of an acre. And by choosing the right vegetables and growing them using the Mittleider Method a family can LIVE out of that garden for many months.

Note that the NPK ratio is 110-60-110, and that we recommend ammonium nitrate.

You probably will not be able to get NH4 NO3 (34-0-0), and will therefore have to use urea (46-0-0) instead.

Even though the % nitrogen is higher with urea I recommend using the same amount of urea as you would have used if you were using NH4 NO3.

The reason is that urea is not readily available to your plants, but has to go through some chemical changes before it can be used. And in that process some of the nitrogen is volatilized into the air and lost.

Whenever you use urea be SURE to dig it into the soil surface. Do not leave it on top of the soil, for the reason just stated.

If your garden is small we recommend you buy your Micro-Nutrients already mixed from the FFE Foundation at www.foodforeveryone.org, since you will have a difficult time buying them individually in small quantities.

Opinions on whether or not the Mittleider Method is organic run the gamut,from some who poo-poo it as not being “pure” because something other than manure and compost are used, to many who consider it “the best of organic” BECAUSE it does NOT put animal excrement and ground-up body parts into the garden, but instead uses natural mineral nutrients – all of which are approved by the USDA for use in organic gardening – and applies just what the plants need throughout the growing cycle, instead of piling on the manure all at once at the beginning.

You choose. There are numerous posts in the archives of this group, and also several articles in the FAQ section of the Foundation website that discuss these issues in more detail.

Consider carefully, because I believe the day is fast approaching when you will NEED to live on what you can produce from your garden.

And I for one am getting NEXT YEAR’s fertilizer NOW.

Jim Kennard

Fertilizers Getting Wet & Sticky – What To Do?

Q. We have 3 Grow-Boxes that are 18″ x 30′ and 3 boxes 4′ x 30′.

A local company mixed the fertilizer to 16-16-16 and we used this to make up the  Weekly Feed, using that and Mittleider Magic Micro Mix we ordered from your website.

We used this, plus the Pre-Plant formula for the grow boxes. In the process, we noticed that the Weekly Feed was absorbing moisture. The next day the remaining mixture was extremely wet and congealing into a soupy mix. It will be very difficult to spread it evenly. We put it in our dehydrator overnight but it is not drying out, it’s still very sticky.

Would it be possible to dissolve the mixture and apply it as a liquid? Or do you have any other suggestions as to how to deal with it?

A. Epsom Salt has 7 parts water to 1 part MgSO4, which makes it very susceptible to turning wet. The materials used in making the 16-16-16 may have also had water in the compounds. Many compounds have hydrogen, and all have oxygen.

Mixing gently and keeping cool and dry help avoid getting your Weekly Feed wet. Also, in the future, add 2% (by volume) of Perlite to your Weekly Feed Mix. Perlite absorbs something like 20 times its own weight in water, so it usually solves the problem.

As to how to best use your materials now that they are wet – my first choice is to continue using them in the same way – a 16 ounce can distributed evenly over a 30′-long row (2 in a 4′-wide bed).

You CAN dissolve the fertilizer in water and then apply it to the beds, but if you dissolve a week’s supply of fertilizer and then apply it all at once you are very likely to create a salinity problem and hurt your garden. And later waterings will likely leach it out, so it doesn’t last the week.

If you feel you must dissolve the materials I recommend you first dissolve 5 ounces WF in 5 gallons of water, apply that evenly the length of the bed, and then water normally, until water comes out the bottom of the beds. Repeat that process in two other waterings throughout the week.

And by the way, you need to dissolve the Weekly Feed fertilizer ahead of time, as it is not instantly water-soluble. The previous day is best. What a hassle, huh!. That’s why I prefer to apply the materials directly to the soil and then water them in, even when they’re wet and sticky.

Also, getting wet doesn’t affect the usefulness of the fertilizer – only the ease of use.

How Do I ind and Mix Fertilizers to Get The Mittleider Mix?


I’m not finding the nutrients we need as easily as I’d hoped. Does Mittleider sell these or can someone suggest the best way for me to find the components. The Boron (Borax) and Magnesium Sulfate (Epsom Salts) were easy, but not the others. Home Depot is trying to help us, but say that they will never be able to sell the Ammonium Nitrate because they don’t have a license.

Thanks, Linda


Linda & Group:

Yes, you can get part of the nutrients from the Foundation.  Micro-Nutrients are sold at www.growfood.com in the Store section.

For the Macro-Nutrients you can use any nutrients that you can find, so long as you are able to see the percentages on the bags.

What you want to end up with is 13-8-13, after you’ve added everything.  You could start with Ammonium Sulfate, which is 21-0-0, add some 18-46-0, and then some 0-0-60, and you could have just what you need.  I’ll give you an example of those three, plus Magnesium Sulfate, etc.

                                                            To Buy                        Nitrogen         Phosphorus     Potassium

21-0-0                                                 13#                                 2.8#                     0                     0

18-46-0                                                  4.5#                                .8#                     2.1#                0

0-0-60                                                    6#                                   0                        0                   3.6

TOTALS         23.5#                              3.6#                     2.1#              3.6#


Magnesium Sulfate                                   3#

Micro-Nutrients                                        .5#

TOTAL WEIGHT        27#                                  13%                         8%             13%

Any of you can do this for yourselves.  It’s not that tough, and I have more examples in a longer article in the FAQ section of the website at www.foodforeveryone.org.

Jim Kennard

Simple Answers to Complicated Fertilizer Questions

Q.  Several years ago I was able to buy fertilizer components from an agricultural fertilizer plant.  The man who ran the plant was very knowledgable and understood what I was trying to achieve with the Mittleider Grow Boxes.  He sold me all the components and I still have some of them.  One of the things I have is 50 lbs. of potassium chloride.  I neglected to write on it the NPK numbers.  My source died and the plant seems to have closed down since we lived in NM the last time.
So my first question is what is the ice melt (potassium cloride) NPK number?
Mr. Kennard told me that if I could get these items I’d have a great compound: 
34-0-0 use 10#
0-45-0 use 4#
0-0-60 use 6#
add 3# epsom salt
should I use 6# of the potassium cloride to finish this if I ever find a supplier again?
so here is what I was able to get
ammonium sulfate 21-0-0
triple super phosphate 18-46-0
potassium cloride
magnisium sulfate
The man from the local fertilizer plant said to use:
sulphur pellets instead of gypsum (in the Pre-Plant mix)
ammonium sulfate use 10#
magnesium sulfate use 6#
triple super phosphate use 1.25#
potassimum chloride use 6#
boron use 10 grams
What do you think of his recipe?  

Someone from the Scotts company told me something that doesn’t make sense.  I don’t think they understand what y’all are trying to do here.  This is part of her note.

“Ms. Friend, a 45-45-45 mix would become a 15-15-15 due to percentage of weight (45-45-45 is divided by 3) The analysis could be too much fertilizer for your vegetables in the boxes.  Are the nutrients you want to combine a slow-release or agricultural grade?  You may want to contact the manufacturer of the products you have to make sure they are safe for vegetable plantings.”

 Thanks for your help.  I’m confident you can help me understand how to get this stuff mixed up.  We had over 1000 tomatoes from 5 plants the last time we did this with plenty of sunshine.  We look forward to landscaping our new yard with vegetable beds, fruit trees, and berry bushes.


 A.  First, your potassium chloride is 0-0-60, so it is good for what you are trying to do.  And yes, if you were using the other ingredients 6# of this would be right.

The fellow from the local fertilizer plant does not know fertilizing plants as well as Dr. Jacob Mittleider, but that’s to be expected, because NO-ONE does.  He is out on several points, but he got two out of five right.  By the way diammonium phosphate is the name of 18-46-0.  It’s known all around the world as DAP.

What you are after is a mix with a ratio of 110-60-110.  So, using the materials you say you can get here’s what you should use:

(I invite you serious gardeners to do the calculations to prove this. You will forever after be able to mix the correct fertilizer mix, no matter what your source material is)

21-0-0                 13.5#

18-46-0               4.5#

0-0-60          6.0#

Mag Sulfate 3.3#

To this you should add one 8 ½ ounce package of the Mittleider Micro-Mix.

Do not use sulfur pellets INSTEAD of gypsum.  Gypsum is the source for essential calcium in high pH soils.  If you have extremely high pH you might need some sulfur, but never instead of your calcium.  Also, gypsum has sulfur in it, so you usually don’t need added sulfur.

The Scotts woman was trying to tell you that if you combine (as a hypothetical example) 100# of Urea, which is actually 46-0-0, 100# of triple super phosphate, which is 0-45-0, and 100# of potassium sulfate, which in some places might be as low as 0-0-45, you would have the following:

Fertilizer Analysis           Weight purchased   # of N       # of P       # of K   # of Inert Matls

45-0-0                                        100#              45            0             0               55

0-45-0                                        100#               0            45            0               55

0-0-45                                        100#               0             0            45              55

                                                 300#              45           45            45            165

You would still only have 45# of each of the three mineral nutrients, but you would have 300# of total fertilizer.  45 as a percentage of 300 is only 15% – the rest being inert materials.  You see then that you end up with a mix of 15-15-15.    

The 15-15-15 is most assuredly safe for use on your vegetable garden.  And it is typically agricultural grade, rather than slow release.  We therefore use a very small amount and apply it each week – until 3 weeks before the havest for single crop plants, and until 8 weeks before the END of the harvest for ever-bearing crops.       

Fertilizer Questions & Answers

Reading back messages you said there might be a close product called  ProPax 14-7-14 with Iron from Martin Resources. this was in ’03 and I’m wondering if its in NV now. Anyway this is a close one right and then you add Triple 16, right????

(I can’t answer as to whether or not it’s available in a particular location, but Fall is the time of year that I have personally seen it.  Yes, this is a fairly close match to the 13-8-13 ratio we use in the pre-packaged fertilizers and NO you don’t add triple 16 to it.  It’s either/or, and you mix it with magnesium and the Micro-Mix – JK)

How do you apply the weekly feedings. We have a drip irrigation. My husband drilled holes every foot. Do I put it where the water hits??

Sounds like a lot of work to put on each plant. I hope I’m seeing the picture. You don’t want to get this on the leaves right??

(Three #57 holes should be drilled every 4”, at 45 degree angles, so that 3 holes make 90 degrees in the circumference of the pipe. – JK)

I ordered the manuels and pretty much know all that, but wanted to find out the fertilzer and how you do the T-Frames.

(Look in Chapter 15 of the Mittleider Gardening Course book for building T-Frames.  And Chapter 16 is automating your watering – JK)

Our tomatoes always get so unruly.

(You really need to begin removing sucker stems by the time your plants are 12” tall, and not stop until the end of the harvest – JK)

Do you do the weekly feed just for 2 or 3 weeks?

(Weekly Feed is applied weekly.  For single-crop plants you apply it until 3 weeks before harvest.  For some plants you can tell when this is by the following:  Corn, when the silk appears, potatoes and bush beans, when blossoms are on.  For ever-bearing plants you apply it until 8 weeks before the END of harvest.  If you expect frost on October 10 you don’t need to feed beyond about the 15th of August – JK)

I ordered the starter from the site, but wondering how you put it out there.

(Don’t use the micro-nutrients by themselves.  Mix them with NPK and magnesium per the instructions.  Then apply weekly at the rate of ½ ounce per foot or 50 grams per meter – JK)

Sources of Nitrogen – and of Potassium – -What’s Best

Q.   I understand that urea is not Ammonium nitrate as required in the pre-plant fertilizer and the weekly feed. I would like to know what is Ammonium Nitrate?  Can you tell by the formulation?  Here in Trinidad, West Indies an agronomist at an agricultural supplies store has been selling me urea for Ammonium Nitrate.

Well I have been ‘happily’ using same and recently thought that my patchoi
(bokchoy) and lettuce needed more nitrogen, since they did not look green enough.  So, Mr. Agronomist recommended 30:10:10, which worked fine, though I was  bothered.  I knew it was not the Mittleider way.

 Also what is the difference between Ammonium Nitrate and Ammonium Sulphate?  I thought previously it was just the % nitrogen in each (i.e. 46% and 21%).

Another agronomist at the farmer’s market has advised me to use the Sulphate of Potash instead of the Muriate of Potash, as it was less acidic.  Again what is the difference between the above two and Potassium Chloride?  Well you may have guessed, Mr. Agronomist at the agricultural supplies store sold me Red Potash for Potassium Chloride.

This I know, that no one needs to guess that the labelling on fertilizers and
lack of respect by some for the Mittleider Method of Grow Box Production is causing failures untold by Grow Box Farmers here in Trinidad.

Your kind assistance is sought please.

A.  These questions are IMPORTANT to understand, so please pay close attention to my answers, and I’ll try to remove the mysteries.

Ammonium Nitrate is NH4 NO3.  It has an ammonia (with hydrogen) form of nitrogen and an “ate” or oxide form of nitrogen.  the nitrate is immediately available to plants, while the NH4 requires a step before it’s available.  That step happens quickly in warm weather, but in cold weather your plants will suffer if all they have is the NH4 type.

Ammonium Sulfate is NH4 SO4.  So it has ONLY the ammonia form of nitrogen, with the minor problems as discussed above.  It also has sulfur in the “ate” or oxide form.  The sulfur is readily available, and is an essential plant nutrient, so that’s good.  However, sulfur also LOWERS soil pH.  So, if you receive more than 20 inches of rainfall per year your pH is already BELOW 7 (neutral). Therefore it’s acid, and you probably don’t want any extra sulfur.

Urea is CH4N2O, or CO(NH2)2.  The nitrogen is bound up with both carbon and hydrogen, and it takes several chemical changes for the nitrogen to become available for plant use.  While those chemical changes take place the nitrogen is constantly tempted to volitalize and go back into the air, where it came from. 

Very often when urea is used the plants end up getting much LESS than the 46% nitrogen the fertilizer started with.  A not-too-funny sidenote:  Urea is the only form of the above three that is considered “organic”.  Urine is high in urea.

Find out what the chemical formula is for the 30-10-10.  And then get more phosphate and potash, so you end up with something close to 13-8-13.

The answer to your next question – about your potassium source – is also
important for everyone to understand.  Muriate of Potash is potassium chloride. 

Both potassium and chloride are essential plant nutrients.  According to one encyclopedia, 95% of all potash fertilizer used in the world is muriate of potash.

Potassium sulfate also contains two essential plant nutrients.  However, the
sulfur lowers soil pH, so UNLESS YOU RECEIVE LESS THAN 20″ of rainfall per year, you probably should be using potassium chloride.  You CERTAINLY get more than 20″ of rain per year in Trinidad, so you already have acidic soil, and the potassium sulfate makes it MORE acidic.  Go tell the guy he’s got it backwards.  Isn’t it interesting that anyone can call themselves an agronomist!

As to whether you should use the red potash instead of white potash, let’s
consider the differences.  Red potash contains a small percentage of iron ( an
essential plant nutrient) so might be considered better.  However, it also
contains about 4% sodium chloride, or table salt, whereas white potash only
contains about 1% table salt.  In my experience, I’ve found white potash to be a little higher grade, and therefore a better product.

Good luck with your red potash.  If you see any evidence of salinity (growth
stops, unnatural wilting), flood your beds with clean water three times to wash
out the salts.

Spread the word to those who are not yet converted to the Mittleider Method in Trinidad!  You all might as well be exporting to those countries in South
America that are so close to you.