Compare Mittleider Method With Commercial Produce Growers

Q.  The commercial produce growers in my area use black plastic with drip lines. They mix fertilizer in their irrigation water and pump it to the plants. What makes the Mittleider method more productive and efficient?
 
A.  Large commercial growers of things like lettuce, cabbage, etc., who water and feed accurately, especially those who feed regularly right in the water supply, and who eliminate weeds completely, are at least as good and productive as the Mittleider Method.  They also have very large investments in materials and equipment.
 
The Mittleider Method is sometimes called “the poor man’s hydroponic method” because it borrows principles and procedures from the large hydroponic, greenhouse, and field growers, and adapts and sizes them to the small family farmer and family-size garden.  And we produce great yields without the large capital investment large growers must face.
 
Most family gardeners don’t understand the importance of a constant water supply, just to the root zone of the plants.  They don’t appreciate the value of regular feeding with a complete, balanced nutrient, and they don’t realize how much weeds rob their garden of nutrients that are essential to the well-being of their vegetable plants.
 
Beyond those three principles, the Mittleider Method teaches vertical growing, with the attendant pollinating, pruning, and protection issues the hydroponic growers handle so well.
 
These are the primary elements that set the Mittleider Method apart from typical or traditional FAMILY GARDENING and make it SIMILAR to (not better than) hydroponic and large commercial growers.

Adding Nitrogen to Your Soil Naturally – Nodulation on Plant Roots

Q.  I’ve been told I should inoculate my bean seeds. Why should I do this, and how do I do it?  Does alfalfa need it?  Any others?

A.  Why Use Rhizobia Inoculants? Rhizobia bacteria are a group of soil based microorganisms, which establish symbiotic relationships with beans and other legume plants, such as alfalfa and clover. They then form nodules on the roots of the legumes, where they store nitrogen and provide it to the plants. In return, the plants provide carbon and energy for the Rhizobia, which the plant produces by photosynthesis.  Nitrogen is vital for plant growth.  It is abundant in the atmosphere as N2, and in soil organic matter in other forms, but because of its volatility, it is not available in the NO3 form that plants can use.

Conventional methods of providing nitrogen to plants include 1) adding nitrogen fertilizers to the soil, or 2) inoculating with the Rhizobia nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Rhizobia then take N2 atmospheric nitrogen and convert it to the NO3 inorganic form that is useable by plants. In addition, the nitrogen they store in nodules on the plant roots, if the roots are left in the ground, can reduce nitrogen fertilizer requirements for the next growing season. 

Therefore, before planting, some gardeners “inoculate” their bean seeds.  This consists of coating the seeds with a small amount of powder containing the Rhizobia bacteria, thus effectively enabling the plants to draw nitrogen from the air and deposit it in nodules on their roots. This ability to “fix” nitrogen is unique to plants in the legume family, because of the symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia bacteria. 

Inoculants only need to be used in poor soils that don’t have much soil nitrogen for plants to use. In fertile soil, the bacteria occur naturally, so inoculants are not needed. The inoculant comes in small packages, it is usually available where you buy your seeds, and it takes very little to do the job.Immediately before planting, put the bean seeds in a pan and add a little water to moisten them. Then add a small amount of inoculant, and stir the beans with a stick until they have a little powder on their seed coats.

To gain the maximum benefit from inoculating your been seeds, spade or till disease-free bean plants into the earth immediately after the last harvest. This adds organic matter to the soil and releases the nitrogen from the root nodules as well.   Always destroy all diseased plants immediately. 

Some people mistakenly believe planting beans and corn together is good, because the beans can climb the corn stalks, and the corn can get nitrogen from the beans.  This is not a good idea for several reasons.  The two plants are competing for the same water, food (13 nutrients are needed!), and light, and both will suffer for having to share.  In addition, the nitrogen in the bean root nodules is “fixed” and unavailable to the corn. It is only released to the soil after the bean plant has completed its life cycle.