Worldwide Need for These Proven Methods

Q. A Mittleider gardener recently brought the following article to my attention. It talks about the need to update the methods of growing food worldwide.

A. The article has some good points, especially the idea that the people of Great Britain (and everywhere else) should re-connect with their land. What they REALLY need to do is to adopt the Mittleider model as taught in this website!

Instead of doubling the world’s food output, we can increase food production as much as TEN TIMES over traditional methods.

And FAMILIES need to be taught how to do it THEMSELVES. That way control and responsibility, as well as the benefits, are all where they NEED and DESERVE to be – in the hands of the common people.

The problems of biodiversity, energy, water scarcity, and urbanization are best addressed and solved by FAMILIES taking control of their own food production needs. Let’s teach EVERYONE the system that saves more than 1/2 the normal water and is very efficient in space and energy conservation, while greatly increasing the quantity and QUALITY of their food.

The fact that the large majority of people live in urban environments only argues more strongly for the Mittleider growing system, because we teach people how to grow in the dirt OR containers ANYWHERE, and to grow VERTICALLY, to maximize the use of any available space.

A prime example of how this has worked in the recent past is the former USSR. I believe history will show that the Mittleider Method played an important role in saving the people of the Russian Commonwealth countries from returning to communism in the 90’s.

Those people were terrified of freedom and the responsibility it entailed when it was thrust upon them in the summer of 1991, but God sent Jacob Mittleider over there to establish his agriculture training program in a small college in 1989, and by the summer of ’91 there were a cadre of teachers available, plus books, videos, and other materials translated and distributed throughout the country.

These things provided hope and a highly successful model to follow, and I’m told the Mittleider Method is now the most productive and popular way of growing family gardens throughout many regions of those vast countries.

One of these days – hopefully soon – the “tipping point” will be reached here in America, and people will wake up to the importance of growing their own food in the most sustainable and productive way possible.

Congratulations on being a part of it!

Jim Kennard

Instructions for Creating & Planting a Garden #1

Preliminary Steps – Lesson I (Using Jim Kennard’s 2009 Alabama garden as a model)

1. Determine how much space you want, then how much you HAVE that
receives all-day sunshine. We wanted between 15 and 30 beds, but only have a 35′ X 65′ sunny space, so that is our limiting factor.

2. Measure and stake the outline of your garden, keeping in mind the space required for rows and aisles (18″ or 4′-wide beds & 3′ to 3 ½’ aisles). We chose 4′ beds with 39″ aisles, in order to get 18 beds in that space.

We have only 2 ½’ end aisles, but we have 30′ of grass beyond that on one end and sidewalk on the other. And outside aisles are nothing on the East (a wall), and a hillside on the West, which we will keep mowed short.

3. Clean the garden area and remove everything, down to the bare
ground. Two types of lawn covered our back yard, so we began by using an 8 HP Troybilt and tilling the top 2″ of soil thoroughly. We then raked up and removed all grass, including roots, rhizomes, and runners.

4. Level the garden area as much as possible. Remove hills and
valleys, and till high sections, using a long board to drag soil from high areas to lower areas.

Beyond general shaping, don’t worry too much about making the whole garden area level. It’s just the soil-beds themselves that must be level.

5. Measure, stake, and apply strings to soil-beds. Make sure you run your beds in the direction that is the most nearly level, and plan on having the water source on the high end of the beds.

Use 18″ 2 X 2 stakes and drive them at least 6″ into the ground. Use heavy nylon string, tying the ends before connecting to the posts.

Tie one end to the post and do not tie the opposite end, but rather pull it tight, loop it around once, then lift the string over itself. It will hold, and will be much quicker to remove when you need to till or weed, etc.

Instruction of creating a family garden

I will be creating a garden near Birmingham, Alabama over the next 3 months, and each step will be recorded in pictures, video, and with a written dialog.

For those of you who say you have no room for a garden, consider doing what we are doing. We are removing lawn to make room for something MUCH more important – FOOD.

The pictures will be posted to the Photos section of the website as Alabama Garden – 2009, beginning in the next day or two, and the Schedule of Vegetables is posted already to the Files section with the same name.

The size of my garden area is 35′ X 65′. I will have 18 soil-beds 30′ in length, or 2,275 square feet – 1/19th of an acre.

Do the math and you’ll wonder how I am putting 18 soil-beds in only 65′. Stay with us and find out!! A hint can be found by looking at Grow-Boxes. Let’s see if anyone can come up with the answer.

About 1/2 of the garden will be grown vertically using T-Frames, and if we are here all season I will plant multiple crops of single crop varieties.

We expect to produce between 4,000# and 8,000# of food, most of which will be given away.

I will begin immediately to describe the process of creating this
garden – hopefully beginning with my next Post to the Group.

You are invited to duplicate our efforts in your own yards and gardens.

Is the Mittleider Method Organic? You Decide.

Q. “Is this method OMRI approved. I was told at Steve Regan it was not organic. Please enlighten me.” Patricia

A. I’ve written quite a few articles – in the archives of the Group and in the FAQ section of this website – on this subject, and I invite everyone interested in this subject to find out more by reading some of those articles. I will attempt to provide a brief answer here:

All of the natural mineral nutrients used in the Mittleider fertilizer formulas are approved by the USDA for use in organic gardening. And in my personal garden, which is seen by about 800,000 people each year, we use no pesticides, fungicides, or herbicides.

We are more concerned with producing healthy crops by feeding them exactly what they need, and in using the best cultural practices to avoid diseases, bugs, and weeds, than in using only manure, compost, bone meal, etc.

For the past 45 years Dr. Mittleider (37 years) and I (8+ years) have spent much of our time conducting Family Food Production training projects in 31 countries. In those countries as well as most others around the world people do the very best they can using only organic methods – and many of them are starving. And it’s not uncommon for families in developing countries to spend 70 to 80% of their time providing for their food.

Meanwhile their gardens are often filled with weeds, bugs, and diseases – often spread by the very organic materials they use to fertilize their gardens. Even in America a great many gardeners are arguably hurt more by the weeds, bugs, and diseases their unsterilized organic materials bring into their gardens than they are helped by their fertilizer content.

And many others here and abroad end up burning their sprouting seeds and tiny seedlings by applying too much fertilizer salts to their gardens at the beginning, and then having their plants stop producing in mid-season because they are starving for mineral nutrients.

We teach a better, safer, cleaner, and more productive way of growing food, part of which includes applying only very small amounts of balanced mineral nutrients several times to assure even healthy growth throughout the plants’ growth and production cycle.

We believe some of the most zealous organic gardeners are actually replicating the same primitive 18th and 19th century methods we encounter in the developing countries, while we are trying hard to help people everywhere learn some of the scientific principles and procedures that have allowed one American farmer to feed more than 100 of us, in a better and healthier way.

That may be why some people say the Mittleider Method is “the best of organic.” I just say that everyone can have “a great garden in any soil, in virtually any climate”, and I travel the world to demonstrate that reality to all who are interested in and willing to improve their food production methods and results.

Creating 18″-wide Level, Ridged Raised Soil-Beds

Q.  The stakes and the string when laying out the rows – are they for lining up the 4 inch ridges or a line for plant placement?  And do you leave them in or remove when the bed is finished??

A.  Stakes and string are used to define and outline the soil bed.  The soil is raked from the center of the aisles to the area under the string first.  Then it’s raked flat and immediately below the strings uniformly along its length, then leveled. 

Sometimes that leveling process requires moving soil from the high end of the bed to the low end, with a shovel.  Then the bed top is flattened again and the level re-checked.  Then soil is raked from the center of the bed to make 4”+ ridges immediately under the strings.

The flat level area that is left in the center is where the plants are planted.  That area should be 10”-12” wide.

Before you plant remember to apply and dig about 8″ (20 cm) into the soil the Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed natural mineral nutrients, at the rate of one ounce (PP) and ½ ounce (WF) per foot (100 grams and 50 grams per meter for those on the metric system).

Stakes stay in the ground permanently.  The strings stay until the plants grow big, so you can pull the ridges down when weeding and quickly rake them back in place again.

Starting a New Garden – Cool Weather Planting – Instructions for Success

Q.  I have a 1000 square foot veggie garden in Coastal Mississippi that I have been very unsuccessful with in the past 4 years. We have clay soil and Iam a lazy gardener. I don’t think about the garden much … until it is dried out and infested.  I plan on changing my ways!

I want to start a garden this weekend. My husband will till the ground and remove the grass (again).

My questions are: What seeds can I plant this month? I don’t want to buy plants. I would like to plant spinach, butternut squash, cauliflour and broccoli. Where do you get those seeds? My local big box retailers don’t have seeds anymore.

My husband wants to lay soaker hoses on the garden rows and cover the entire garden bed with black plastic. Is this a good idea?

A.   A 1,000 square foot garden can grow a tremendous amount of produce IF YOU DO IT RIGHT (how about 5,000# of tomatoes)!  If left alone, or done haphazardly, however, it will be a big disappointment, and you’ll grow weeds instead, so “changing your ways” is definitely important.

You can always buy seeds from Burpee, Park, Harris, Gurney, or one of the other seed companies on the internet.

Clay soil is NOT a problem if you will create slightly raised, level, ridged beds as described in the Mittleider gardening books and in the free e-book at in the Learn section.  And be sure to use the recommended natural mineral nutrients as instructed!

Lay out and stake your garden with 18″ soil-beds, and aisles at least 3′ wide.  Use 4 2″ X 2″ PAINTED stakes per soil-bed.  Depending on your dimensions you can have 11 – 20′-long beds with 3′-wide aisles.

I would only plant 1/2 bed of cauliflower and 1/2 bed of broccoli, for the following reason.  Single-crop plants mature all at once.  This means that even with only 10′ rows of each you will have 20 heads of cauliflower and 20 heads of brocolli all mature at virtually the same time, and THEY’LL ALL NEED TO BE PICKED AT THE SAME TIME.  Otherwise they get bad, and they attract both bugs and diseases.

Whenever you plant a single-crop vegetable, plant only what you can use, give away, sell, or store in the 1-2 week ideal harvesting window.  If you want them all season you MUST do several small plantings – spaced at 2-week intervals.

It’s for this reason, as well as to get the most from your gardening efforts and limited space, that I recommend growing EVERBEARING crops like tomatoes, cucumbers, pole beans, peppers, eggplant, melons and squash.  And I recommend you grow everything vertically using T-Framse or stakes!

Be CERTAIN that your garden is totally weed free, including a 4-5′ periphery, at the time of planting.  And use a 2-way hoe to quickly and easily weed again about 10 days after planting, or as soon as the weeds begin to show their faces.  NEVER WAIT for the weeds to grow bigger!  They’re most vulnerable when they are tiny, and they are very easy to eliminate.  You might have to do this two or three times, but then you will have a healthy, weed-free garden all season long.  It will also reduce your problems with bugs and diseases!

Growing seedlings in a mixture of sawdust and sand in a 2 to 1 ratio, using plastic trays, is the best way to start the plants you are describing, with the possible exception of the spinach.  They will grow faster and will be healthier than what you grow in the ground from seed.  The seedlings must have constant sunlight to thrive, just as when they were in the garden.  Growing seedlings is very rewarding, and is a simple process, but you MUST follow the steps accurately and consistently.

You can learn to become very competent at growing your own seedlings by reading Chapter 22 of The Mittleider Gardening Course – available in the Store section at

If you decide to grow from seeds in the ground, make sure your seed-bed is soft and smooth.  Scratch a SHALLOW furrow on both sides of the bed near the ridges the full length of the bed (or as far as you are planting that vegetable).  For very small seeds mix seeds with sand in a 1 to 100 ratio, and sprinkle carefully the length of the row, as evenly as possible.  Then cover the seeds WITH SAND rather than the clay soil. Meanwhile, remember that only ONE OUNCE of small seeds like tomato seeds includes TEN THOUSAND SEEDS, so don’t plant too many!

Which crops you should plant depends on the temperatures in your growing area.  Most places cannot grow warm-weather crops like tomatoes, peppers, beans, melons, and squash in the winter months.  I suspect Mississippi is no exception.  Wait to transplant those into the garden until daytime temperatures are 65-70 and night-time temperatures are 50 or above.

Cool-weather crops like cauliflower and brocolli, and even spinach, beets, and the like, can be planted when it’s colder, but don’t plant if you have frosts at night, and remember that even these hardy plants need daytime temperatures above 50 degrees fahrenheit to grow.

Using black plastic is generally NOT a good idea when planting seeds.  The open space needed for seeds to emerge and grow successfully leaves room for weeds to grow as well.  And weeds from all around the opening will find it and choke out your tiny vegetable seedlings as they emerge.  Meanwhile, the plastic makes it very difficult to weed thoroughly and successfully.

Black plastic can be used successfully when growing seedlings, but it is not a cure-all, and I believe is less desireable than leaving the ground bare and weeding properly.

Using soaker hoses for watering is much less than ideal for several reasons:  The holes are easily plugged; weeding around the hose is difficult; the hose is easily cut when attempting to weed around it; water quantity is uncertain and often inadequate.

The best and easiest watering method I know is the semi-automated method taught in chapter 16 of the Mittleider Gardening Course.  This uses 3/4″ Schedule 200 PVC pipe drilled with 3 #57 holes every 4″ running down the center of the soil-bed, and lifted off the soil about 2″ by small 2 X 4″ wooden blocks.  Water is controlled by an inexpensive ball valve placed at the head of each row, and the whole garden is plumbed together for fast and accurate watering.

If you can’t or don’t want to automate your watering, simply wrap a large rag around the end of your garden hose, then place the hose in the soil-bed.  If your beds are level the entire soil-bed will quickly receive the needed 1″ of water.  And whichever method you use, remember to water daily – especially in warm weather – unless it rains.

Successful Gardening!


Feeding My Lawn – Does Mittleider Magic Work?

Q.   I’m interested in improving my lawn.  How should I adjust your formulas (I’ve purchased some of your mineral packages) and feeding schedule for a Bermuda grass lawn?

A.  The Mittleider fertilizers work wonderfully well for lawns, as well as everything else in your yard and garden.  If you want your lawn to produce a large and constant crop of grass, just feed it regularly.

On the other hand, if you want it just to maintain a nice green color and not grow very fast, I recommend you use something else – AFTER you get the lawn thick, green, and growing properly. 

To improve a poor lawn feed first with the Pre-Plant Mix of 80 parts lime or gypsum, 4 parts magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salt) and 1 part boron (20 Mule Team Borax).

Then feed two or three times – every ten days to two weeks – with Weekly Feed.