4 Acres of Sub-soil After Strip Mining – Lost or Lucky?!

Q.  We just moved to 4 acres of very poor soil, that has been exposed after strip mining, and we need to get something growing.  Is there any hope?  What can we do??

A.  Lucky You!

I’m really not kidding, and here are three good reasons why.

First, it is with good reason that we promise every Mittleider Method gardener “a great garden in any soil”, even WITHOUT ANY SOIL AMENDMENTS! 

Following the tried and true principles and procedures outlined on the website, in the books and CDs, in the Training Videos, as well as in the posts on the Yahoo Groups MittleiderMethodGardening Group, you WILL have a great garden – even if your soil is as barren as sawdust and sand. 

The natural mineral nutrients are so complete and balanced that you can grow healthy plants even in WATER.  That’s one reason this is called “the poor man’s hydroponic system”.

The second reason is that your “barren” soil is probably not as barren of nutrition as you fear.  The top layers of your soil – before the mining was done – had been weathering and having nutrition leached out of them from rain, snow, wind and crop removal for thousands of years, and they were probably already deficient in many nutrients.

However, the sub-surface layers of soil had much less of that weathering and leaching going on, and so may actually have MORE of some elements than the top layers had.

The third reason you may actually be lucky is that your land almost certainly has very few weed seeds, bugs, or diseases in it, for the very reason that all of those things have been scraped off.  You have a CLEAN slate with which to work, and believe me many others would envy you that fact.

So, don’t worry about your “poor soil”, but be grateful for the positives I’ve described, then just create slightly raised level beds with 4″-high ridges, apply the Mittleider Magic Pre-Plant and Weekly Feed nutrients (per the formulas given in the Mittleider gardening books and CDs, as well as in the Learn section of this website) as instructed, then weed, water, and care for your plants, and you will be very happy with the results.

Are Sawdust, Sand, etc. Used in Regular Mittleider Gardens – or Only in Grow-Boxes – and Why?

Q.  I have seen many pictures of both soil boxes and beds.  I read where
the soil in the boxes is basically a soiless mix, but the beds I see look as though they are made with the soil pulled up and ridged.  There is no difference that I can see between the beds and the paths in many pictues.  The soil color and texture is the same in both the paths and the ridged beds in many of the pictures, leading me to believe there was only soil used in their construction, unless of course the entire garden was amended, which seemed unlikely to me.

A.  You’re right. When we garden in the dirt we use whatever dirt is there.
And we promise people “a great garden in any soil” with no soil amendments.
That is no idle promise either, as we never amend the soil in any of the
projects we work on, unless it’s to till into the soil the clean plant residue
of the preceding crop.  The reason we can promise – and deliver – a great garden in any soil, is that the Mittleider Magic natural mineral nutrients provide the nutrition the plants need.  Perhaps that’s why some people call them “the poor man’s hydroponic mix.”

Growing in containers, on the other hand, is a different proposition, and we
recommend no soil be used.  There are several advantages to container gardening, among them avoiding any problems with weeds, diseases, and bugs, all of which often reside in the dirt found in our gardens.

Dirt is also MUCH heavier than sawdust, peat moss, perlite, rice hulls, pine
needles, etc., and over time pushes the container walls out.

Recommended container “soil” mixtures also perform the 5 essential soil
functions better than most dirt, without some of the negatives, such as clay
soil’s tendency to bake hard, crack, not drain well, and not allow roots to
penetrate easily. For example, it warms up better in the spring, yet it stays
cool in the summer; it holds moisture well, yet never stays wet enough to drown the plants and provides ample soil air; it anchors plant roots well, but they are easy to pull when necessary; it holds the fertilizers, and yet they don’t
become “fixed” or adhere to the soil particles as much as they do in the dirt.

And of course the lightweight materials are great for growing and harvesting
root crops.

With all these advantages, why don’t we promote Grow-Box gardening more?

Thirty years ago Jacob Mittleider promoted it heavily, because he felt that for a
serious gardener the advantages outweighed the disadvantages.  But over time he came to realize that the following negatives – for most people – outweighed the positives.

There are significant cost and time elements in building and filling containers.
Also, they are less forgiving for such things as neglecting to water or feed
regularly.  And in some locations the cost is truly prohibitive, materials just
aren’t available, or would be destroyed quickly by insect pests.

So, if you lack soil in a sunny spot, build a Grow-Box.  Or if you are infested with bugs, weeds, or diseases, build Grow-Boxes.  They really are a wonderful way to grow huge crops of healthy vegetables.  But for most of you – who have dirt to use and don’t want the expense and time commitment required to build containers – grow in the dirt with confidence that you really can have a great garden in any soil, and in almost any climate!

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 https://www.hightechhomestead.com/Products.htm for the best gardening books available anywhere!  Get one NOW and be gardening TODAY!!

Fall Lawn & Garden Preparation

Let’s talk about preparing your lawn, trees, shrubs, and garden for winter, and how best to improve your soil during this time of year.

Much of this Country seems to be clay soil, so first let’s find out how to improve problem clay soils. These procedures also apply to other types of soil, but may not be so important if you have loamy or sandy soil.

I don’t often dwell on amending your soil, because it is not essential for growing a good garden if you feed and water properly. However, it can be a good idea, so long as you use clean, weed, seed, bug, and disease-free materials.

Weed-free grass clippings are good soil amendments when they’re available, as are pine needles. And this time of the year you can also use your leaves. Mulch pine needles and leaves as fine as possible with a chipper/shredder or mulching mower, and then turn 3 or 4 inches of them into your soil-beds. Just don’t use walnut leaves, as the sap is very hard on some of your vegetables, especially tomatoes. This procedure will improve your soil tilth, and doing it in the fall gives the organic material plenty of time to de-compose before spring planting.

What else should you be doing now to get your yard ready for winter and give growing things a head start for spring? The Mittleider Method – as taught in his gardening books available at www.foodforeveryone.org – teaches the importance of and best methods of weeding and feeding your garden. A final weeding is a very good idea for starters. Left alone, some weeds will over-winter and come back strong as soon as the snow leaves your ground and before you can get into the yard. That’s why farmers plant winter wheat, and gardeners plant things like garlic – so they have a head start in the spring. Don’t give your weeds that advantage!

The next thing to do is to clean up and remove all organic materials from the garden area! Clean, disease-free plant residue should be turned into the soil along with your leaves, and you should remove everything else, so as not to provide a place for bugs to winter-over.

A slow-release fertilizer is also a good thing to put down in the fall. This way, it is available to lawn, plants, and trees as they first stir in late winter and early spring. This is also an excellent time to apply calcium, which is “the foundation of a good feeding program,” and an essential nutrient almost as important as nitrogen. How is this best done? Calcium does not move very far in the soil, so it’s best to work it into the plants’ root zone in the soil. However, what about the majority of your yard, that doesn’t get turned over every fall?

With lawn, trees, shrubs, vines, and perennials such as raspberries and asparagus, it is usually impractical to dig things up every year like a vegetable garden. Therefore, sometimes the question is asked “Would it be advantageous to aerate first, or use a root feeder or something similar to get Pre-Plant minerals more into the root zone?”

Many people feel this is important, and there may be some advantage to aerating your lawn or around your shrubs and trees before applying your fall slow-release fertilizer and calcium.  However Dr. Mittleider says it is not necessary and doesn’t do it, and we have never aerated our yard and get along just fine.  Therefore, I recommend you spread the materials evenly on the soil surface, scratch them in with a rake or hoe, and either water them in thoroughly or, if you have already turned off your outside water for the winter, let the melting snow take them down into the root zone of your plants.

Do these things now and your garden can be a thing of beauty even in the winter! © James B. Kennard, 2006

Jim Kennard, President of Food For Everyone Foundation, has a wealth of teaching and gardening training and experience upon which to draw in helping the Foundation “Teach the world to grow food one family at a time.” Jim has been a Mittleider gardener for the past twenty nine years; he is a Master Mittleider Gardening Instructor, and has taught classes and worked one-on-one with Dr. Jacob Mittleider on several humanitarian gardening training projects in the USA and abroad. He has conducted projects in Armenia, America, Madagascar, and Turkey by himself. He assists gardeners all over the world from the https://www.foodforeveryone.org website FAQ pages and free Gardening Group, and grows a large demonstration garden at Utah’s Hogle Zoo in his spare time.

Gardening Books, CDs and Software are available at https://www.foodforeveryone.org

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 www.growfood.com 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.

Using Dirt in Grow-Boxes – or Growing Right In the Dirt

To further clarify my last post, most of the time we grow right in the existing dirt, with no soil amendments – no matter how “worn out” or “bad” it is.  Whether you have heavy clay or straight sand, or enything in between, unless the soil is diseased, toxic, or under water you can grow a great garden right in the soil.

However, “If for some reason you really must use Grow-Boxes, because you have no ground, but only a driveway, patio, or rocks, (or if you just want the many benefits offered by Grow-Boxes) then go for it. But DO NOT USE dirt in the Grow-Boxes!”  Following are a few of the many reasons not to use dirt in Grow-Boxes.  I recommend you save this information if you are contemplating that method of growing.

Grow-Boxes are designed to give you an excellent growing environment if you can’t grow in the dirt.  They involve an investment of both time and money, and therefore you should obtain the maximum benefit from their use.  If you put dirt from the garden in Grow-Boxes you defeat some of the reasons for having them in the first place, such as:
1) There are always multiplied thousands of weed seeds lying dormant in the dirt, just waiting for conditions favorable for sprouting.  Putting dirt in a Grow-Box creates that favorable environment, and you will have thousands of weeds, instead of NONE as you should.
2) The likelihood is also high that there will be some bugs and/or disease organisms in the dirt you use.  Put it into your Grow-Box, and suddenly instead of a pristine environment, you have the same problems of fighting bugs and disease as if growing in the soil.
3) By putting dirt in your Grow-Box you have the problems of clay soil, too sandy soil, etc., etc. – again minimizing the benefits of the Grow-Box environment.
4)  The weight of dirt in the box is between 2,000# and 2500# in a single 18″ X 30′ X 8″-high Grow-Box if used exclusively, and much more when saturated with water.  This will put substantial outward pressure on the box, and you will end up re-building your box many times over the years.  On the other hand, using sawdust and sand, I’ve seen Dr. Mittleider’s Grow-Boxes still perfectly usable after 25 years!
 
PLEASE, don’t try and figure out the best methods by trial and error!  It’s been done for you by the best!  Follow the procedures accurately as outlined, and you will have great success.

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 www.growfood.com 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 https://www.hightechhomestead.com/Products.htm for the best gardening books available anywhere!  Get one NOW and be gardening TODAY!!