Heirloom or Hybrid – Which is Better?

Q.  What’s the difference between heirloom and hybrid seeds?  And which type of seeds is better for the home gardener to use?
 
A.  Heirloom seeds breed true, meaning that the fruit from seed you harvest from the current plant will be the same as the current plant and its fruit, generation after generation.  This means that if you like the current harvest you can use the seeds with confidence that they will give you the same thing next time, and every time.
 
Hybrid seeds have been cross-bred to achieve improvements in flavor, productivity, disease resistance, holding capacity, or other characteristics which people want and request.  However, the next generation cannot be counted on to be the same as the original plant, and thus we need to continue buying seed from the seed grower to be assured of the same end result.

Producing seeds in your own garden is no big problem if you’re growing crops with seeds in the fruit, such as tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc.  However, for things like lettuce, cabbage, and onions you have to let the plant stay in the garden while it “goes to seed” – sometimes for as long as a second year. 

 
This can make a mess of your garden, and foul up your plans for continuing to grow food to eat. 
 
Harvesting, drying, and saving the seeds are also problems to consider before deciding to grow your own seeds.
 
I recommend people get the best advantages of both hybrid and heirloom plants by buying and using the world’s best vegetables and fruits from reputable seed companies, and buying a #10 can of 16 varieties of high quality triple-sealed heirloom seeds from the Food For Everyone Foundation at www.foodforeveryone.org/store
 
Store the can of seeds in a cool dry place, and you will have the protection of good heirloom seeds for many years, while at the same time your family harvests and eats the best produce possible.

Growing Peppers Vertically – “Poor Man’s Hydroponics vs Large Commercial Hydroponics

Q.  Can I grow peppers vertically – like I do my tomatoes?  How do you do it?
 
A.  Some information from the University of Florida Extension division at https://edis.ifas.ufl.edu/HS228 is fascinating – if you are interested in doing “The Poor Man’s Hydroponic Method” of growing peppers vertically.  Pictures of the two common commercial growing methods – the Dutch V and Spanish methods are posted at https://photos.groups.yahoo.com/group/MittleiderMethodGardening/lst.  Key paragraphs from the article are duplicated at the bottom of this article.
 
The Dutch V method prunes the plant to two main branches, and then guides those up strings in a V shape.  Little pruning is done in the Spanish system of growing.  Pruning to two or four main branches is common practice, and thereafter no pruning is done.  Vertical support is provided by poles and strings, or by large tomato cages. 
 
When a pepper plant is carrying the maximum weight of peppers the plant can support, it will stop flowering and fruiting even though there may be weeks or even months left in the growing season.  Removing green fruits as soon as they mature signals the plant to continue flowering and setting fruit, and the result is fruit being set throughout the growing season, and obviously more fruit per plant.
 

“Greenhouse pepper cultivars generally have an indeterminate pattern of growth. Because the plants can grow up to 6-ft tall during a growing season of 250 days, they need to be supported vertically. Pepper plants can be trellised to the Dutch “V” system or to the “Spanish” system ( Fig. 8 ).

“Trellising plants with the “V” system consists of forming a plant with two main stems by removing one of the two shoots developed on each node and leaving one or more adjacent leaves per node. The pairs of stems are kept vertically by the use of hanging twines that are wound around the stems as they grow. The “V” trellis system is used by Dutch and Canadian growers.

“Some of the commonly used cultivars are Parker, Triple 4, Cubico, and Lorca for red; Kelvin, for yellow; and Neibla, and Emily, for orange fruits. New pepper cultivars for greenhouse production are introduced every year by seed companies

“When comparing cultivars for those with the highest yield and fruit quality characteristics with low amounts of culls or other disorders, the best red cultivars were Lorca, Torkal, Triple 4, and Zambra; yellow cultivars were Pekin, Kelvin, Neibla, Bossanova, and Taranto; and orange cultivars were Paramo, Lion, and Boogie
 
“Greenhouse pepper crops in Florida are grown in soil-less culture. Thus methyl bromide is not needed, yet problems with soil borne diseases, and insect and nematode pests are avoided. The plants are grown in containers filled with soil-less media such as perlite, pine bark, or peat mixes. The media can be reused for several crops (two to three) if disease contamination does not occur
 
“Pepper plants in soil-less culture are fertigated (watered and fed) frequently with a complete nutrient solution. Nutrient solution concentrations are similar to those used for tomatoes grown in soil-less culture. In plants at full production, the nutrient concentration levels can reach N: 160, P: 50, K: 200, Ca: 190, Mg: 48, and S: 65 ppm, respectively. The irrigation solution also provides the plants with micronutrients.
 
“The pH of the irrigation solution is maintained at values between 5.5 and 6.5, and the EC, depending on the nutrients concentration levels, will have values between 1.5 and 2.5 mS per cm.”

Planting Sweet and Hot Peppers close – Affect the Fruit?

Q.   If you plant sweet peppers next to hot peppers will you have sweet hot peppers?
 
A.  Plants are cross-pollinated by bees and other insects, and the thing that is affected is the seed, which produces the next generation of plants.
 
If you were to eat the seeds that had been cross-pollinated you may notice the heat, but the mother fruit should not be affected.

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.

How to Grow the Healthiest Vegetables

Q.  I want to grow the healthiest vegetables possible. Isn’t organic gardening healthier than the Mittleider Method – tell me the truth!

A.  This is a very good question and it deserves a straight answer. I will therefore tell you some very important things about plant nutrition. First of all, plants receive nutrition only as water- soluble mineral compounds, through their roots. When we put compost or manure, etc. 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 process.

Secondly, there is no difference between organic, mineral, and chemical nutrients.  Everything in this world is a chemical!!  To the chemist everything in the soil is 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, “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.” (Organic Gardening)

Thirdly, 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! There is really nothing “synthetic” about them.  So, you see there is no difference between “organic nitrogen”, mineral nitrogen and chemical nitrogen – except the nitrogen that is part of an organic substance must decompose and revert to the water-soluble mineral state before being available to plants.

This being the case, what should we do to assure we have the best garden and the healthiest plants possible? Give the plants the best combination of nutrition we possibly can.  Remember that 99% of us depend on 1% to feed us, and the big growers feed their crops! The big fertilizer companies use formulas similar to Dr. Mittleider’s and call them “The preferred horticultural mix.” Just check out Scott’s Peter’s Professional Pete Lite as an example.

Now, 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.  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 and 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 they aren’t in the ground long enough for the pests to get established.

Registration No Fun – Why Do It?

Q.  I don’t like the registration process, why must I do it, and why is it so difficult?  Also, how do I read the manuals and other things?  And finally, my current garden is only 2 feet by 15 feet.  I can’t seem to get the program to allow me to plant plants.  Can I get my money back?

A.  Thanks for your comments. And please forgive us for our failure to please you in your first exposure to The Garden Master CD. Hopefully your comments will help us learn to do things better.Dr. Ron Guymon, the creator of the Garden Designer, has forwarded your note to me, and I would like to try and help you figure things out, if possible.Dr. Guymon is working on making the registration process easier. Our idea in including the 9 manuals on the CD was to give everyone a very nice “bonus” for registering as a customer, and the 3 that are available for you to access before registering are intended to help you see the value, so that you will want to register and receive the other 6. Perhaps we didn’t explain that adequately.Are you able to read the 3 manuals? If not, you will just need to install the Free Acrobat Reader that is on the CD. That makes it possible to read PDF files, including the books and lessons, as well as the manuals.With regard to your garden of 2′ X 15′, all you have to do is make all your aisle spaces “0”, and you will have a row in which to plant. Certainly the benefits of organizing and planning a garden are greatly minimized with one so small. I hope you or your family or neighbors have the opportunity of growing a bigger garden, so that you can benefit from the unique and valuable features of the Designer.The Designer portion of the CD took a brilliant PhD educator, who has trained many Fortune 500 staff people, 3 years and something like $100,000 to create. And while it isn’t perfect, I really believe it can be a terrific tool to help you and your family and friends avoid the mistakes that so frequently cause failure in the garden.The books and manuals sell in the paper version for about $70, and are the result of Dr. Mittleider’s 57 years’ experience all around the world, and the assistance of other PhD educators in their presentation. By using these materials you can be confident of having a garden that is the envy of your friends and neighbors. I am attaching a brief recap of just a few of the many success stories from around the world, of people whose lives have been changed by using these materials.You may not be aware of the standard practice in the industry regarding software returns. Because of the ability of anyone to copy the entire contents of a CD ROM disk, refunds are not given, however, if a product is defective it can be returned for replacement.  Please give the books, lessons, video snippets, and the Designer another chance, and don’t judge this material too harshly on the basis of your first look – particularly using the benefits to creating a 2′ X15′ garden as a criteria.

Can you help automate the gardening process?

Q. Can you help automate the gardening process?

A. If you would like to create or expand your garden and need help with decisions and automating the planning process, the Garden Wizard, available at www.growfood.com on the Software page, is a great tool!  Dr. Ron Guymon has devoted thousands of man hours over two and one half years to producing this multi-faceted tool for those who want help determining what, when, where, and how to plant, water, feed, etc.  It includes growing season helps for over 3,000 locations in the USA, as well as planting and feeding requirements for all common vegetable crops.

Another way to automate your gardening is to build a simple and effective watering system that will allow you to water quickly and efficiently while saving water.  The plans for this system are in Chapter 15 of the Mittleider Gardening Course – available at www.growfood.com on the Books page.  They can be seen free in the Store section as well.