Grow 100 Tons of Tomatoes On 1 Acre

Q.  I’ve heard the Mittleider Method can produce 100 tons of tomatoes on one acre.  How is this possible, since field-grown tomato growers do well to produce 35 tons per acre!

A.  I’ll describe “The poor man’s hydroponic method” of growing in a 1-acre garden, using raised beds, or Grow-Boxes, as Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider calls them. And remember that just one acre of tomatoes grown successfully using this method – and selling them for just $.50 per pound, would yield $100,000 per year!

One acre (43,560 square feet) will accommodate 312 – 30′ rows of tomatoes, grown in 4′ X 30′ Grow-Boxes, with 3 1/2′ side aisles, 5′ end aisles, and 5′ aisles around the perimeter.

Planted 9″ apart, that amounts to 12,792 tomato plants (41 per bed).Growing a large tomato that averages 8 ounces (some varieties actually average 10-12 ounces), feeding and watering properly, and growing vertically, each plant should produce 16# of fruit from July through October in Utah.

A good variety will produce a “hand” of 3-7 tomatoes every 5-7″ up a 7′ stem in 4 months’ production. Using 4 per hand X 12 hands X 1/2# per tomato = 24. And I will reduce that by 33%, in order to be very conservative.This amounts to 204,672 pounds of tomatoes – or $102,336 at $.50 per pound. Who said you couldn’t live off the land!

There certainly are costs – as there are to any business. 1) Creating and filling the boxes, 2) making T-Frames, 3) wires or pipes – and baling twine strings, and 4) automating the watering are the major costs, but these are one-time capital expenditures, and will be more than recovered in the first year.

Now, suppose you’d like to increase your yield (remember, I’ve said hydroponic growers can grow 330 tons or 660,000# per year on one acre.  Of course, they have huge investments in year-round greenhouses, etc., etc.).  By simply putting an arched PVC roof over each pair of your Grow-Boxes, and covering them with 6 mil greenhouse plastic, you can lengthen your growing season by two months, or 50%!

Now you’re looking at over 300,000# of tomatoes per acre, and more than half the yield of the expensive hydroponic growers – but you’re growing “in the dirt”, because your boxes are open at the bottom, so your plants get all the natural nutrients available to them from the soil.

And you don’t need the greenhouse covering all the time, so your plants can benefit from direct sunlight as well.Imagine That!  And your garden can qualify as an organic garden, if you do everything properly, and don’t use any pesticides or herbicides.

Do you think these numbers are hard to believe? Just visit a greenhouse tomato operation and see tomato plants that are 20′ and 30′ long – still producing after more than a year!

Several of Dr. Mittleider’s books teach tomato production, and I encourage you to read them.  Go to www.foodforeveryone.org

Pictures of the 320 plants I’m growing on 1200 square feet adjacent to Utah’s Hogle Zoo, in Salt Lake City are posted at MittleiderMethodGardening@yahoogroups.com.