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.

Fertilizers qualify as organic? What about Mad Cow Disease?

Mittleider Gardens Organic? What about Mad Cow Disease!

Q. Does a Mittleider garden qualify as organic? Have any of his fertilizing formulas been approved for organic gardening use?

A. An “Organic Garden” is a difficult thing to pin down with precision, because some say nothing “Artificial” can be used, some say nothing “Synthetic” can be used, and some say no chemical pesticides nor herbicides can be used. Meanwhile, the USDA names every one of the nutrients in the Mittleider fertilizers as being acceptable for use in organic gardening. So, depending on your definition, I would say that a Mittleider garden is one of the best organic gardens I have ever seen.

I’ve never met an organic gardener who doesn’t use at least one of the three nitrogen fertilizers that are our primary source of that nutrient. I’m speaking of 21-0-0, 34-0-0, or 46-0-0. They do so both in the garden and especially in their composting, because virtually everyone agrees that composting organic materials ties-up the nitrogen, and if supplementation is not done, the plants really suffer.

And yet of all the 13 mineral nutrients that man can provide his plants, nitrogen is the one that is the most “artificial” or “synthetic”, since it is the result of a several-step scientific process.

Most of the other 12 nutrients we use are ground-up rocks! However some organic “purists” will refuse to use them as “bad”, and instead use blood and bone meal, or hoof and horn meal, etc., which it is now being reported could be infected with the worst disease known to man – the incurable Mad Cow Disease.

We are very happy with the results we get by using natural mineral nutrients, and by using clean, healthy plant residues wherever and whenever we can do so.

My carrots taste bitter, what’s wrong?

Q.  My carrots taste bitter, what’s wrong?   I am watering for 20 to 30 minutes using a drip system 3 times per week.  I use the Mittleider organic method of growing.

A. Your problem is a lack of water.  You need to water daily until you see water coming out the bottom of the box.  I’ve never seen a soaker hose that would adequately water a sawdust/sand grow-box in 1/2 hour.  And it will dry out too much if you only water every other day. 

I recommend you automate your watering using the PVC pipe system taught and demonstrated in the Mittleider gardening books.  This system is inexpensive to build, it waters very accurately, and will last practically forever, if you take care of it. 

The books are available at, and you can even download the chapter of the Mittleider Gardening Library free, by going to the Store section and clicking on that book.

Hard-Pan Clay Soil – Usable for Garden?

Q.  We are living in a very bad hard-pan soil area. When I dig a hole and add water, the water will stay for days. Can I have a garden on this ground?

A.  So long as you have plenty of sunshine and access to water, the soil is no problem! 

We promise “a great garden in any soil, and in almost any climate.”  And we mean it!  If you will follow the illustrations and instructions in the Mittleider gardening books that are available at you will not even need to amend your soil with organic materials, and you can grow just fine in hard clay soil.

What you’ll be doing is making slightly raised, ridged, level soil-beds, and growing inside those.  The only thing approaching soil amendments I do is plant small seeds by mixing 1 part seed with 100 parts sand, then cover the seed with sand, rather than clay soil. 

Then, after the plants are up, and the clay soil begins to crack as it loses soil moisture, I will apply 5 to 10 pounds of sand to those cracks before watering.  Doing this twice is usually enough to stop the damage to your plants’ roots from the cracking, and over time it improves the soil in the soil-bed as well.

If you feel the clay soil is just too hard to work with, and you’d rather not fight it, then build Grow-Boxes and grow your food above-ground.  Several Mittleider gardening books show you how, including Grow-Box Gardening, Gardening By The Foot, and Lets Grow Tomatoes.  And The Mittleider Gardening Course has a section  that is devoted to Grow-Box gardening.

The Mittleider Gardening books and Manuals teach all you need to know about this subject, and can be purchased in the Store section, or as digital downloads. 

A digital copy costs 30-40% less, and is available instantly!  I HIGHLY recommend you look here for the best gardening books available anywhere!  Get one NOW and be gardening TODAY!!