Is This Gardening Method Organic?

Q. Where can I get information that tells how the Mittleider Method is considered organic?

A. Opinions on whether or not the Mittleider Method is organic run the gamut. Some organic enthusiasts poo-poo it (Pun intended) as not being “pure” because something other than manure and compost are used.

While many people 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.

In addition to the manure user not knowing what nutrition his plants are getting, applying everything before planting often burns germinating seeds and tiny seedlings, and within 6-8 weeks the garden is starving.

The reason the garden is often hungry in a manured garden is that rain and irrigation leach out the heavily applied fertilizer salts from the garden soil. And they take them to the downstream water supply, often causing a toxic buildup of nitrogen and other chemical salts.

You are invited to compare a Mittleider garden with a garden that uses manure exclusively, and choose. We happily promise the world “a great garden in any soil, with NO soil amendments.”

There are several articles in the FAQ section of this 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

Small-Plot Intensive gardening – First Look

Q.  I am looking at several options in gardening and hope you can clarify something – I am mainly looking at the Mittleider and the SPIN Farming processes.  The two do not appear to be exclusive of each other but I know no nothing of ether program (material ordered) so I am hoping you can provide any comparison/contrast if there is any and confirm if the two can be used in a single gardening system?


A. I didn’t have much time to check it out, but I will do more later if possible before leaving for Armenia and the Republic of Georgia.

It appears from the first glance that there are many areas of compatibility, and that you can learn much about marketing your crops from this website.
Two things I noted include
1)  they use beds that are 2′ wide with 2′ aisles.  This is not as efficient as using narrower beds and wider aisles.  Beds of 18″ – tip of ridge to tip of ridge – which gives a 12″-wide planting area, are ideal for plant spacing, feeding, weeding, and watering.  Wider aisles are also better.  If you are growing smaller plants exclusively you can use 2′ – or even narrower – aisles, but when you plant large plants, such as zucchini, and climbing plants, you need wider aisles to provide adequate space and light for the plants as they reach maturity.  I suspect our plant spacing may be different (closer) than theirs also.
2)  They also use only organic materials to feed their plants.  This certainly can work, but has drawbacks and hazards.  Most manure and compost has not been sterilized, and therefore can have diseases, bugs, and weed seeds in it, which will flourish in your garden and substantially reduce your yield.  Unless the organic material HAS been composted very efficiently in an aerobic process, which requires sustained temperatures of 140+ for several weeks, you get the aforementioned problems, plus you get much lower nutritional value.
And of course you do not know what or how much you are feeding your plants, since every batch of manure/compost is different, and because none of them have been analyzed to determine their nutrient content.  You can expect the manure to have much LESS nutrition than the original plant contained because of going through the cow, then sitting in a compost pile for months in the rain and snow.
Another problem with using organic materials – typically done one time before planting – is that several inches of manure/compost often contain much MORE mineral salts than are good for tiny young plants, and sometimes germination and growth are inhibited or the plants even killed with too much of a good thing.  Then, in a couple of months, when large and ever-bearing plants need constant nutrition for producing several months of fruit harvest, the nutrition from the one-time-applied organic material is pretty much used up, and your plants stop producing – right when they should be really getting into it!
If you can learn and apply the growing procedures as demonstrated to be extremely successful in 32 countries around the world over the past 45 years, and use the marketing and other skills taught by these folks, you can have the best of both.

WARNING! Antibiotics Fed to Animals Are Absorbed by Plants Fed With Manure!

The following just came to my attention, and makes me glad we don’t promote the use of animal manure to feed our healthy vegetables!

12 July 2007
Antibiotics Absorbed By Vegetables

Evaluating the impact of livestock antibiotics on the environment, University
of Minnesota researchers have found that many vegetables uptake the antibiotics. The study, in the Journal of Environmental Quality, shows that food crops can readily accumulate antibiotics from soils spread with cattle manure.

The findings were based on a greenhouse study involving three food crops: corn, lettuce, and potatoes. The plants were grown in soil modified with liquid hog manure containing sulfamethazine, a commonly used veterinary antibiotic. The researchers found that the antibiotic was taken up by all three crops.

The antibiotic was found in the plant leaves and concentrations in the plant
tissue increased as the amount of antibiotic present in the manure increased.
Worryingly, it also diffused into potato tubers, which suggests that other root
crops – such as carrots and radishes – may be particularly vulnerable to
antibiotic contamination.

Researcher Satish Gupta said that contaminated plants had the potential to cause allergic reactions in people with antibiotic sensitivity. He also noted that
contamination is likely to foster antimicrobial resistance, which can render
antibiotics ineffective. And co-researcher Holly Dolliver warned that antibiotic
contaminated plants may be of particular concern to the organic farming
industry, where manure is often the main source of crop nutrients.

While the USDA stipulates that organic producers must manage animal materials in a manner that does not contribute to contamination of crops by residues of prohibited substances, manures containing antibiotics are not formally banned or prohibited. Dolliver concluded that further research is needed to investigate how different plants absorb different antibiotic compounds.

Related articles:
Prevalence Of Antibiotic Resistance Surprises
Prof Ponders Bacterial Benefits
Down On The Farm: Yields, Nutrients And Soil Quality
Increasing Soil Erosion Threatens World’s Food Supply

Source: Soil Science Society of America

Do Your Fertilizers Pollute the Ground Water?

Q.  I have one concern about the Mittleider Method.  Since you use mineral nutrients from commercial sources, do those – or could they – cause a toxic build-up in the soil, and might they leach into the groundwater, eventually adding to the problems we have in our streams, rivers, and oceans?  Hopefully you have a good answer, because I love everything else I am seeing with this method of growing!
A.  We do indeed have an answer.  In 1998 Dr. Mittleider and I hired two highly respected soil labs to perform extensive tests for us regarding this very question.  The two labs were Stukenholtz Labs, in Twin Falls, Idaho, and the Brighham Young University Soil Testing Lab, in Provo, Utah.
I don’t remember the number of test holes drilled, but I think it was 45.  Three gardens were tested for build-up of fertilizer salts.  Test cores were used at 1′, 2′, and 3′ depths in each hole.
One garden was Dr. Mittleider’s own backyard garden, which had been used  for 21 years at that time; the second location was my garden at Utah’s Hogle Zoo, which had been used for 9 years;  and the third garden was a very visible large garden 20 miles South of Salt Lake City at a place called Thanksgiving Point, which had been in use for 4 years.
There was NO toxic build-up of salts in ANY of the test sites.  There was NO indication of ANY fertilizer being flushed into waste-water systems.  And some of the test holes even had LOWER salt levels than the controls, which were taken from non-fertilized aisles and garden periphery.
This did not surprise us (although it surely did surprise a few folks who had been accusing us of polluting the ground water), because we use very little mineral salts, and we spread their application over the growing season.
We only apply 7+ ounces of fertilizer salts to about 3,300# of soil, and do it every 7 days, but for most crops we only apply it about 5 times.  Everbearing crops might get8 to 12 applications, spread over several months.
Compare this to the many POUNDS of fertilizer salts organic growers apply to their gardens ALL AT ONCE before planting.  That concentrated one-time application is much more likely to cause run-off or seepage into the groundwater than the small amounts the Mittleider gardener applies.
Our vegetables are healthier, because they receive their nutrition throughout the season, as they need it.  And being very healthy, they have high brix values, and are less susceptible to diseases and pests, as well.

Organic or Chemical – Or Both? – What Kind of Garden Should You Grow?

Today we will discuss a fundamental question in gardening.  Previously I was posed this question:  “I hear that chemicals are poisoning our waterways, and that organic growing is much healthier than using chemicals.  What’s the truth, and how do I grow a healthy, productive, and sustainable garden without hurting the environment?”

This important question deserves an accurate answer.  Therefore let’s learn about plant nutrition. First, plants receive nutrition only as water-soluble mineral compounds through their roots.  When we put plants, compost or manure into the soil, the organic material must first decompose, and the nutrient compounds must revert to water-soluble minerals before the next generation of plants can use them.  This takes time, and sometimes as much as half of the nutrients are lost in the decomposition process.  Nitrogen is particularly susceptible to loss because it is volatile and returns to the air very easily.

Second, there is no real difference between organic, and mineral or chemical nutrients.   Everything in this world is a chemical! To the chemist the elements in the soil are called chemicals, to a geologist they are called minerals, and to an organic enthusiast they are called organics, but they are the same substances. To quote J. I. Rodale, from Organic Gardening magazine, “we organic gardeners have let our enthusiasm run away with us.  We have said that the nitrogen which is in organic matter is different (and thus somehow better) from nitrogen in a commercial fertilizer. But this is not so.”  And “actually there is no difference between the nitrogen in a chemical fertilizer and the nitrogen in a leaf.”

Third, there is no difference between soil and rocks except for the size of the particles, and 12 of the 13 mineral nutrients plants require are essentially ground-up rocks!  They are natural, and there’s really nothing “synthetic” about them.

So you see, there is no difference between “organic nitrogen” and mineral or chemical nitrogen, except two primary things.  1) the nitrogen that is part of an organic substance must decompose and revert to the water-soluble mineral state before being available to plants, and 2) mineral-source nitrogen is much higher in nutritional content, so much less is required to feed your plants.

As further evidence that mineral nutrients are not bad per se, I’ve researched which fertilizers meet the requirements for qualification as a Certified Organic garden, and 12 of the 13 nutrients we use in a Mittleider garden are approved. And the 13th – nitrogen – is the one that’s most often used by organic gardeners, both in the garden and to aid in composting!  Go figure.

This being the case, what should you do to assure you have the best garden and the healthiest plants possible?  Give your plants accurate dosages of the best combination of nutrition you possibly can.  The Mittleider natural mineral nutrient formulas are available at  You can mix your own “from scratch”, or get the micro-nutrients from the Foundation website in the Store section.  And never over-use any kind of fertilizer.  Both manure and mineral compounds will harm our water supply if allowed to leach into the water table.

Meanwhile, remember that 99% of us depend on 1% to feed us, and commercial growers feed their crops!  They use formulas like ours and call them “The preferred horticultural mix.”  Just check out Scott’s Peter’s Professional Pete Lite as an example.

This is not to say that organic materials don’t have a place in the garden.  You can improve soil texture and tilth by adding materials that have desirable characteristics, and even add some nutrient value.  However, improving the soil in that way is not necessary to having a good garden, and people often introduce weeds, rodents, bugs, and diseases into their gardens, or provide a haven for them with their organic mulching practices.  It is for this reason that we do not emphasize or encourage composting and manure.

Mittleider gardens qualify as “organic” because we don’t use pesticides or herbicides.  However, I suggest they are even better than organic, because the plants receive just what they need, they grow fast, and we almost never have insect or disease problems because there are no weeds to provide a home, and the plants aren’t in the ground long enough for the pests to get established.

Dr. Jacob Mittleider’s gardening books, CDs, and Software, as well as natural mineral nutrients, are available at the Foundation website –

Jim Kennard, President Food For Everyone Foundation “Teaching the world to grow food one family at a time.”

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

Natural Fertilizers Preferred

Q.  I am curious if there are any Mittleider Method materials that have been adapted for organic vegetable production.  I have grown vegetables for many years and prefer avoiding soluble commercial fertilizers.

A.  We do not use soluble fertilizers, such as Miracle Gro, but prefer to use the simpler, more natural compounds.  All of the materials we use and recommend have been approved by the USDA for use in organic gardening.

We know exactly what we are feeding our plants, whereas organic growers often find themselves not knowing what they have, especially with the micro-nutrients.

Our experience around the world has also taught us that manure and compost often contain weed seeds and diseases, and sometimes even bugs.  We get great yields for an entire growing season while some of our organic neighbors watch their gardens stop producing in July and August.

If you are skeptical, I recommend you plant some of your garden using each  method separately, and compare the results.

Can a Mittleider Garden Be Organic?

Q.  Can a Mittleider Garden Be Organic?

A.  In response to a woman who is growing a 1-acre organic garden in California, I wrote the following.  I’ve enumerated a few of the principles and procedures which make the Mittleider Method unique – and better than most others.

Many have referred to the  Mittleider Method as “better than organic” because most of our gardens can qualify as organic (once in a while growers in hot countries have to use pesticides or lose their whole crop).

The reasons they may be better than organic include, but are not limited to:

1) because we leave nothing to chance, but apply small amounts of natural mineral nutrients to assure fast, healthy growth.  This also helps our plants ward off pests and diseases that will often take less healthy plants.

2) We encourage growing healthy seedlings in a clean, warm environment, which gives the plants a major head-start and avoids much of the problems encountered upon germination and emergence – with cold soil, hungry bugs, damping-off, etc.

3) We water only the root zones, thus not encouraging pest and disease proliferation caused by sprinkling or flooding.

4) We prune any leaves touching the cround to minimize disease and pest infestations from that common source.

5) We allow no weeds – nor encourage putting mulch, etc. on the bround – since both of these harbor pests and diseases.

6) Since our plants grow very fast and reach maturity quicker than typical gardens, the diseases and pests have less chance to take over. 

7) Then we harvest and remove a crop immediately at maturity, to avoid the buildup of pests and diseases that occur when people leave their crop too long in the garden (all too common in homegardens).

With these preventative cultural practices, plus fast healthy griowth, Mittleider Method gardens have much less need to use pesticides or herbicides anyway.

Are Chemical Fertilizers Threatening Our Reproductive Capacity?

Q.  I’ve heard that chemicals may cause low sperm counts in men, and that people who eat organically produced produce are healthier.  Is it true?
A.  It has been reported for some time that male sperm counts in America and Western Europe are declining, and that in many cases we are threatened with infertility.  Some people claim the reason for this decline is people eating food produced using chemicals.
There is nothing in the studies I have read that implicates the natural mineral nutrients used in growing a Mittleider garden!  Please do not be led into throwing the baby out with the bath water.
Increased estrogen, caused primarily by materials fed to beef cattle, and lower fiber in our diets, are the main two culprits as I read it, and nothing is said about minerals that are mined from the earth, purified and concentrated, and properly applied in tiny quantities as fertilizers to food crops.
Why IS this decline in male sperm counts happening? I’ve reproduced some of the information below, for your consideration, as taken from this website
One explanation suggests “environmental chemicals called endocrine disrupters that masquerade as hormones. Specifically, synthetic chemicals that mimic the female sex hormone estrogen may influence male development in utero or during the formative years of early childhood when hormone sensitivity is high.”

“In 1993, a study published in The Lancet traced the decline to males being exposed in the womb to female sex hormones that permanently alter their sexual development, and greatly reduce a man’s ability to produce sperm. (6) The study, along with one  published later in 1993 in the Journal of Endocrinology established several diet-linked sources of increased estrogenic exposure to males in the womb (7) :

“1) The modern diet increases the levels of natural estrogen in women. Fiber in the diet today is lower than it was 50 years ago. Natural estrogens excreted in the bile are more readily reabsorbed into the bloodstream when the lower intestine contains little dietary fiber. Thus, a fetus today may be exposed to higher levels of the mother’s own natural estrogens, compared to a fetus 50 years ago. (Fiber is found in all whole grains, vegetables and fruits; and is absent in all meats, dairy products, and eggs.)

“2) Synthetic estrogens, including DES, were fed to beef cattle from the 1950s through the 1970s to make them grow more meat faster. Though DES has been outlawed for use in U.S. livestock, hormones such as Steer-oid, Ralgro, Compudose,  and Synovex are still used in virtually every cattle feedlot in the country. This is the primary reason the European Economic Union refuses to import U.S. beef. Such practices have increased the quantity of estrogens in meat-eating women, and may have contaminated some water supplies.

“3) Another source of increased estrogens in women today is the many synthetic organic chemicals and heavy metals that have been released into the environment in massive quantities since World War II. Some of these compounds, such as PCBs and dioxins, concentrate in ever higher levels on higher rungs of the food chains. Vegetarians, and even more notably vegans, thus enjoy some degree of protection.”

Do Commercial Fertilizers Harm Soil Microbes or Make Nutrients Unavailable to Plants?

Q.  It is my understanding the microbes found in organic compost materials is what packages the nutrients for the plants. Sort of like the good bacteria that your body needs to maintian the right balance in the blood stream. I also understand that synthetically produced fertilizers will kill these microbes. This is the difference between a naturally packaged fertilizer and a synthetically produced one.  How can man’s synthesis be better for the plants than the Earth’s Natural processes?  When compared on other subjects, man’s synthetics cannot always produce safe results.

A.  What you’re describing, I would suggest, includes some hyperbole being spread by organic promoters.

Reality is somewhat different.  Nature provided us with large rock deposits containing one or more of the 13 essential plant nutrients, in many places around the earth.  In the past 100 or so years man has discovered these deposits, learned how to use them properly, and how to mine them.  In the mining process other elements are removed, including heavy metals, and sometimes the essential minerals are concentrated.  It is important to understand that the concentration process applied to natural minerals from rocks does not make the material “synthetically” produced, nor does it make it unsafe or harmful to microbes, plants, or humans.
The above described process is what has allowed our farmers to feed 250 million of us and allow us to do other things with our time (1 feeds 100), rather than slaving on the farm as our grandfathers did, using manure (organics) as our only fertilizer source (1 fed 4 or 5). 
Please remember that 90-95% of our food is produced using modern equipment and these same natural mineral nutrients from commercially produced fertilizers.
It is important to distinguish between potential problems associated with the mis-use and/or over-application of pesticides and herbicides, and the valuable, safe, and highly productive use of natural mineral nutrients, usually referred to as commercial fertilizers.

Organic Fertilizing and Nitrogen Deficiency

Organic Fertilizing & Nitrogen Deficiency

Q. Sometimes I have seen gardens with compost and manure as the fertilizer of choice become very yellow. What causes this, and how do I avoid that happening to my garden?

A. What you have seen is “Induced Nitrogen Deficiency.” Soil amendments, including straw, tree bark, shavings or sawdust, peat moss, and manure (almost always containing a large percentage of bedding straw or sawdust) can induce a nitrogen deficiency on plants. The reason is that these materials are very high in carbon content, and therefore adding them into the soil raises the carbon to nitrogen ratio.

The carbon to nitrogen ratio is the amount of carbon in relation to the amount of nitrogen in the soil. This ratio should be 10:1 or lower. When the soil has ten parts of carbon, it should have at least one part of nitrogen or the plants will not be able to obtain the nitrogen they need. When carbonatious soil amendments are added, the amount of carbon is raised in relation to nitrogen. Micro-organisms in the soil attempt to break down the carbonatious material and in this process they use some of the nitrogen from the soil, making the ratio even worse. The micro-organisms have the ability to take the nitrogen before the plant can, so oftentimes adding soil amendments induces a nitrogen deficiency for the plant population. Therefore, whenever soil amendments are used, it is important to add some nitrogen, to bring the carbon to nitrogen ratio back to a ten to one, so that both the plant and the micro-organisms requirements are satisfied.