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.

Types of Sawdust to Use

To all Sawdust users:
 
Some folks think that because Cedar or other kinds of bark are used to keep weeds down, sawdust from those sources will be bad for plants.  This is not the case.  Bark and other types of mulch inhibit weed growth primarily by denying light to emerging weed seedlings. 
 
On the negative side, mulches also encourage garden pests and diseases by giving them a cool damp place to live and multiply.  We recommend you keep your garden clean, clear, and dry, except at the root zone of your plants. When you plant according to the Mittleider Method the close-planted vegetable plants will quickly shade the ground and minimize water evaporation, without any need for other ground cover.
 
Walnut sawdust is the only material – at least in North America – that we have found to be a problem for vegetable plants.