How Much to Water – Tradition says 1″ Per Week & Mittleider Says 1″ Per Day!

Q.  I came across a question and answer you gave previously (another article which states that 1″ of water in the beds is needed each time you water) and it confused me somewhat. I have a question about putting an inch of standing water on the beds every day.  Conventual wisdom is an inch of water per week. Are we to apply a week’s worth of water per day to the beds?

A.  An example of the confusion many people experience with this subject can be found in an article by Cornell University Agricultural Extension Division about watering tomatoes.  The author states that tomatoes need 1″ of water per week at a minimum.  In the very next paragraph the article gets more specific and says that a single tomato plant needs between 3 and 5 gallons of water per week.

On the surface, those two statements seem to be very inconsistent, but let’s go a little deeper.  Traditionally, tomatoes are grown much farther apart than we do in the Mittleider Method.  In addition, traditional watering is done by flooding the entire garden area.

Let’s suppose a person’s tomatoes are planted 2′ apart, in 30′-long rows that are 3′ apart.  That garden space of approximately 100 square feet would contain about 16 plants, and would require 64 gallons of water per week (assuming 4 gallons per plant).

Applying 1″ of water to 100 square feet of garden would require 8 1/3 cubic feet, or 62.5 gallons (1 cubic foot is 7.5 gallons), which is consistent with what Cornell recommends, both as to the 1″ and the 3-5 gallons per watering.

In the Mittleider Method 16 tomato plants – planted 9″ apart – will take up 12 lineal feet in a soil-bed.  The width of the planting area is 10″-12″.  Using a 12″ width, it would require 1 cubic foot of water each time(12′ long X 1′ wide X 1/12′ deep =1 cubic foot).  That amounts to 7.5 X 7, or 52.5 gallons per week.

So, you can see that watering 1″ per day in your Mittleider Method soil-bed uses less water than watering 1″ per week by flooding. 

There is more to consider, so let’s carry it a bit further.  If you are growing in heavy clay soil Cornell’s recommended 1″ per week may be sufficient, because water drains very slowly from clay soil.  But if your soil is loamy or sandy, or if the temperatures are hot, the water will be gone from the top 8-12″ of the soil in less than a week, and your plants will be stressing.

Tomato plants grown under traditional watering conditions have to expend substantial energy sending their roots deep into the soil, to follow the receding water, and keep from dying.  This is energy we prefer to use growing and maturing fruit.

Furthermore, flooding the entire area wastes much of the water, and usually much more than 1″ depth is applied, wasting even more.  Also, flooding makes the aisles hospitable places for weeds to grow, increases humidity which invites diseases, and the moisture, weeds, and cooler temperatures nurture the bugs.

All things considered, Dr. Mittleider has it figured out very well, even to the point of declaring that you will save 1/2 or more of the water you traditionally used, and promising a better garden with fewer problems with weeds, bugs, and diseases – without resorting to pesticides and herbicides.

Growing Vertically – What Varieties – What books –

Q.  I am planning on trying a vertical garden (most of the veggies) next Spring.  I have heard about “vertical” growing methods, but I am not quite sure what all the details are.   Also, when and how do you prune tomato plants?   Do all tomato plants need to be pruned? 

A.  Several of the Mittleider gardening books give good illustrations and instructions for vertical growing.  I recommend the Mittleider Gardening Course, Gardening by the Foot, Let’s Grow Tomatoes, and Grow-Bed Gardening.  The best place to obtain all of them is by getting the Mittleider Gardening Library CD.  All are available at www.growfood.com in the Store section under Books and Software.

Vegetable varieties that can be grown vertically include indeterminate tomatoes, cucumbers (not the bush type), pole beans, smaller varieties of vining squash, small melons, greenhouse varieties of peppers, and eggplant.

Beans don’t need to be pruned, but all others should be pruned regularly, by removing all sucker stems as soon as they begin to grow.  Several articles on the website in the FAQ section are devoted to pruning.  I recommend you look there for a comprehensive discussion on how to prune – however, the books will be the best, as they include pictures and illustrations.

Planning Nex Year’s Garden – What Could You Produce?

Many people arrive at the end of the gardening season and wish they had planned their garden better. Often there is wasted space, and sometimes we have grown things that were not used, and perhaps couldn’t even be given away.

Now is a good time to begin planning for next year’s garden – to make sure you realize the greatest benefit from your valuable time and available space, and that you make the most of those precious 6 months of growing which nature provides us.

First you should decide what your garden is used for. Is it for casual use, with just a few things grown for fun, or do you depend on it as a major source of your family’s food? Next, decide what kinds of things are best to grow – juicy tomatoes, or that new triple-sweet corn. And then plan for how much of each thing you will grow.

How your garden is used depends on 1) whether or not you’re able or willing to devote serious effort to your garden, 2) whether you expect to feed your family just during the growing season or for the entire year, 3) what things your family likes to eat, 4) will there be supplementation from other sources, or will you be depending on your garden completely, and 5) do you want or expect to earn money from the sale of your produce.

An excellent and inexpensive database of commonly grown vegetables, with when, where, and how they can be grown, as well as how much they will produce, is contained on the Garden Wizard and Garden Master CD’s. These are wonderful resources for the serious family gardener, and can be found at www.foodforeveryone.org under Software.

I recommend growing high-value and ever-bearing crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, pole beans, zucchini, etc., to maximize your yield in the minimum space, for the least cost and effort.

Let’s assume you have a large family you want to feed from your garden, and that you have 1/8th of an acre that can be used for this purpose. I’ll give examples of what can be grown in 30′-long soil-beds.

On 1/8th of an acre you should be able to grow thirty two 30’-long soil-beds that are 18” wide, with 3 ½’ interior aisles and 5’ end aisles.

Using vertical growing with the Mittleider Method (which includes organic gardening, container gardening, hydroponic gardening, and soil gardening), your garden should produce the following amounts of fresh, healthy vegetables:

Five beds of indeterminate tomatoes – 2,000-4,000# of tomatoes from July through October. Two beds of sweet peppers – 500-1,000 peppers. Two beds of eggplant – 500-1,000 eggplant. Two beds of cucumber – 750-1,500 cucumbers. Three beds of pole beans – 400-800# of beans. Two beds of zucchini – 500-1,000# of zucchini.

So far we’ve only used 1/2 of the garden, and you have more than enough vegetables to feed the family during the growing season, with excess to sell or give away. Doubling the space of these 6 crops could provide income to buy other food staples, and/or provide sufficient to dry or bottle food for the winter months.

Growing easily-stored food in the other half of your garden, such as potatoes, cabbage, beets, onions, turnips and carrots can provide the family fresh food during the winter. You should be able to produce the following amounts, and if you will provide proper cold storage these can be usable for up to 6 months.

Two beds of carrots – 200-400# of carrots. Two beds of cabbage – 200-400# of cabbage. One bed of beets – 100-200# of beets. Two beds of onions – 200-400# of onions. Five beds of potatoes – 500-1,000# of potatoes.

The carrots, cabbage and beet crops can often be doubled by growing an early and late crop in the same space, which make these varieties more valuable for the serious grower.

In this scenario you have four beds left to plant. Crops like corn, large squash, and watermelon should only be grown if you have ample EXTRA space, because they take much space for the yield they produce. For example one bed of corn should produce about 90-100 ears of corn – all within about 2 weeks, whereas a bed of tomatoes should produce 400-800 POUNDS of tomatoes, spaced over 4 months.

Take the time now for this important planning exercise. Have your family decide what they want to eat, calculate the amounts of each vegetable needed, and then plan your space so you can grow at least that much in your garden.

Good Growing!

——————————————————————————–

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’s mission of “Teaching 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

Preserving Your Garden Harvest – Eat Fresh for 4-6 Months!

Folks, this one’s a keeper, so turn on your printer and save it in your gardening library.

With cold weather soon upon us, everyone should be working to save your harvest, either by storing or preserving. Canning, drying, and freezing, are good ways of preserving your crops such as beans, corn, peas, peppers, summer squash, and tomatoes. They need to be done immediately after picking, while crops are fresh and tasty. Whether you cold-store or preserve your produce depends on the type of food you’ve grown, your facilities, and your family’s eating preferences.

Cold storage of vegetables such as cabbage, beets, carrots, potatoes, squash, and turnips can give you the best tasting and healthiest food of the four methods, and may even be the least expensive in the long run. And you can eat every one of these garden-fresh even 4 to 6 months after they’ve been harvested! However it requires some careful preparation, so let’s discuss how best to prepare for and store your fall harvest.

The details of harvesting and properly storing your crops are covered on several of the Mittleider gardening books, including Food For Everyone – all available at www.foodforeveryone.org.

Since tomatoes are many peoples’ favorite garden produce, let’s discuss them first. Before the first killing frost, pick all your tomatoes, including the green ones. Handle them gently, because cuts or bruises will cause them to spoil quickly. Fruit that’s close to ripe can be placed on a kitchen counter, out of direct sunlight, and it will ripen in a few days. Green fruit should be placed on a shelf in a cool, dry place, such as your basement or garage. As they begin to ripen you can bring them into the kitchen. Always remove any fruit that is beginning to spoil. We eat tomatoes into January this way.

Most of your other vegi’s need more help to keep them fresh. If your garden is very small and you don’t have much to store, you may be able to use an old refrigerator, or a barrel buried in the back yard. However, for those who are serious about providing fresh food for your families, I recommend a root cellar, either under the house or buried outside. A good size is 8′ wide and at least 10′ deep. This gives you 2′ for an aisle and 3′ on each side for storage. A shelf on each side is good for things like onions and garlic, which need to be kept dry.

You can set it into the side of a hill or dig a hole 4’ to 5’ deep in a corner of the yard, build the cellar, and cover it with the excess dirt. This will help insulate it and maintain the low, but not freezing temperatures you need. Provide yourself a small door and insulate it well.

Harvest your crops at peak maturity and store only those which are free of disease or damage. Don’t harvest for storage until late fall, since more starches are converted to sugars by the cool weather. Root crops should be picked fresh and stored immediately. Potatoes and squash, on the other hand, first need to be cured at 60-75 degrees for 7 to 14 days. Most produce should be stored at just above freezing temperatures, except winter squash, which does better at or above 50 degrees.

Your root crops will stay fresh and sweet for months if you harvest them with roots intact and pack them in wet sawdust. Cabbage and other brassicas also need their roots. Remove outer leaves, then pack the roots in wet sawdust, leaving the cabbage exposed. Provide separation between crops to avoid mixing flavors, and to keep squash dry.

Potatoes should not be as wet as the root crops. They will do well in temperatures below 40 degrees, but pack them in slightly moist, rather than wet sawdust. Peat moss and sand, or combinations of all three, can be substituted for straight sawdust, but are not as ideal. I recommend you work with your neighbors to find a sawmill, and obtain a truckload.

Onions and garlic also store well. They can handle cold temperatures but, like winter squash, they do better with humidity only 60 to 70 percent. Therefore these should be up off the damp floor, on shelves or hung from the ceiling. A cold basement can also work, but be sure to provide separation from living areas to avoid the strong smell.

Remember, cold temperatures are essential for good long-term storage of vegetables, but do not let them freeze! Insulate your root cellar well. Good healthy eating to you! More details are at www.foodforeveryone.org in the FAQ section. © 2006 – James B. Kennard

Jim Kennard, President Food For Everyone Foundation “Teaching the world to grow food one family at a time.” www.foodforeveryone.org

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

What Grows Vertically – Problems with Canal Water and Manure

Q.  I connected with your web site after admiring the beautiful garden west of Hogle Zoo in Salt Lake City.  (my family was admiring the giraffes!)   I like the concept of vertical gardening.  My question is this:  Can you grow stuff like pumpkins, watermelons, squash, etc.  up a wire?  If you do, how do you support the fruit.  Even cucumbers seem like they’d be too heavy.   I’m excited to try the drip irrigation system this spring.  I feel like I’ve been knocking my head against a wall for 15 years because we water with canal water and fertilize with horse manure.  My kids and I could spend our whole lives in the garden and couldn’t begin to keep the weeds out of it.  This year we’ll be using well water and trying the Mittleider method. I hope we can manage to kill off all that grass and morning glory.  Maybe you’ve got some ideas for that as well. 

A.  we recommend fruits that are less than 6# each for vertical growing.  We grow indeterminate tomatoes and eggplant vertically, guiding them up baling twine strings that are fastened to strong wire strung between T-Frames.  Cucumbers are ideal for growing vertically, as well as any of the small indeterminate squashes. 

Any of the aforementioned plants need to be pruned, in order to have success growing them vertically.  You can expect to increase your yields by 3-4 times in this way.  Detailed instructions are included in several of the Mittleider gardening books and CD’s available at www.growfood.com.  Articles in this FAQ section also deal with vertical growing and pruning.  Look under Tomatoes for several.

Keep your fruits picked as they ripen, to avoid excess weight on the vines, which can sometimes drag the vines down if too many fruits are allowed to remain.

I’ve been “knocking my head against a wall for 15 years” also, telling people to avoid canal water (or filter it) and manure for the reason you cite, as well as the problems many have with pests and diseases.  Thanks for the testimonial.

Remembering that “one year’s seeds makes 7 years’ weeds”, I recommend you get a couple of 2-way hoes as shown on the website’s Store pages at www.growfood.com under Tools.   Follow the recommendations for “E & O” (early and often) weeding, and by leaving the aisles completely dry, you will get ahead of the weeds quickly.

 

 

Plants Not Growing – Being Detective to Find Out Why

Q.  I am writing in regard to some problems with the container “Grow-Box” method we are experimenting with here in southern Mexico. 

We built the box, mixed 3/4 sawdust and 1/4th sand, as well as adding the calcium and the fertilizer pre-mix before planting. 

At planting we added the first week’s fertilizer mixture and watered. 
 
We are experiencing problems with all our plants.  They just don’t look good at all.   The squash started good but then the older leaves seem to die prematurely.  
 
The female squash at flowering have the fungus that causes blossom end rot and many of the female flowers never reach the stage of opening up at all.  They start to get pale looking and shrivel up and die before they open. 
 
Our lettuce looks weak and isn’t growing well. It has good color but just seems to sit there and doesn’t grow.  We also planted green tomatoes that are not growing well.  They just seem to grow very slowly.  The Swiss chard is not growing as I had hoped it would either.
 
We have moisture and the plants have not wilted.  I don’t think there is too much water.  Other than the fungal problem on the squash we have had very little insect problem.  
 
Jim Wagoner, IMB Missionary to Oaxaca Mexico
 
A.  Let’s look at each element of the equation, to determine what is missing.

 
What are the materials being used – what kind of sawdust, and what kind of sand?  Is it new sawdust, or has it been used for something else before?  It can be new, but should not have been used for growing before.  Also, it should not be from walnut trees.
 
The program calls for mixing 2# of Pre-Plant mix PLUS 1# of Weekly Feed mix into the soil of an 18″ X30′ bed or box before planting.  Did you apply both, including Weekly Feed?  And are those the amounts you used?
 
You say you put Weekly Feed in when you planted – first of all is the Weekly Feed formula accurate?  Secondly, were you planting seed or seedlings?  When planting seed, you do not put any more fertilizer down until the plants are showing – then you feed 1# per 30′ bed.  Fertilizer applied at planting of seed, if it’s close to the sprouting seed, can kill the new seedling, or severly stunt its growth. 
 
When planting seedlings, we recommend applying 1/2# of 34-0-0 or other nitrate to a 30′-long bed immediately after transplanting, watering that in, and then starting the Weekly Feed regimen 3 days later.  Did you do that?
 
It is VERY rare to have a fungus disease in new sawdust/sand mix, unless it came with transplanted seedlings.  NEVER use seedlings grown by someone else!  If you’ve got it, you’ll have problems for sure. 
 
The problem is more likely caused by failure to be pollinated by the male flower, by stress, or lack of direct sunlight, water or nutrients.  A plant in stress will abort new fruit in order to try and stay alive.  Blossom-end rot is a classic example of stress due to uneven watering or lack of nutrients, such as calcium. 
 
If the leaves look healthy it’s very possible the squash problem is lack of pollination.  For squash plants, take a male blossom, tear off the petals, exposing the anther, and pollinate female flowers, by lightly touching the pistil.  Do this in the morning between 7:30 and 9:00, and only do it with blossoms that are wide open, as they are the only ones that are fertile.
 
How close to the plants are you applying the fertilizers?  And how are you watering?  Remember that sawdust and sand will allow the water to go almost straight down. 
 
Sometimes people apply the fertilizers 6″+ away from the stems of the plants, and the tiny roots never see any food, because it is washed down and out of the root zone, rather than flooding the root zone with nutrients, as should be done. 
 
Do you have full and direct sunshine all day long?  This is essential!  And are you really watering thoroughly?  You should see water coming out from the bottom of the box before you stop.  Remember, it’s almost impossible to water too much, but very easy to water too little.
 
Plants that are “just sitting there” and not growing vigorously are either sitting in the shade, where they don’t get direct sunlight for 8-12 hours each day as they need, or most likely they are lacking nutrients or water, or both.  Let’s get specific and see which of those three is in short supply.
 
By accurately following the illustrations and instructions in just one of Dr. Jacob Mittleider’s vegetable gardening books, such as Grow-Bed Gardening (available at www.growfood.com), you can avoid these problems and have a trouble-free and successful garden.

 

Why don’t my plants grow well??

Q.  It doesn’t seem to matter what kind of soil, soil amendments, or fertilizer I add to my grow boxes, my produce is consistently miniscule and non-productive.  When I dig up the soil, the boxes are full of tiny fibrous roots.  There are several very large trees next door-20-30 feet away from my garden area.  Could it be that these roots are from the trees and are sapping all the nutrients from my garden?  What can I do?
 
A.  There may be several reasons, either individually or acting in concert, that are causing your crop failures.  Let’s investigate each potential problem.

 

1)  Trees nearby may indicate too much shade.  Are your plants getting at least 6 hours of direct sunlight each day?  If not, you will not get much produce. 8-10 hours is better – especially for plants which produce flowers and fruit. 

 

2)  What is the soil composition, and what are you feeding your plants?  We recommend sawdust, peatmoss, perlite, and sand – in any combination you like, but with the sand being 25%-35% by volume.  That has no nutrition, so you need to feed your plants regularly.  One application of calcium as lime in a Pre-Plant Mix and regular small applications of a complete, balanced natural mineral nutrient mix we call Weekly Feed, will assure healthy, robust plants.

 

3)  How often do you water?  a raised bed or container will drain faster than ground-level soil, especially if you have lightweight organic materials as a major component.  Daily watering, until water seeps out the sides at the bottom is important to assure adequate moisture to the plants.

 

4)  If all the other elements are properly taken care of, it would take an awful lot of tree roots to keep your plants from growing, but it is possible.  Dig a shovel-width trench the length of your containers, between them and the trees, at least one foot deep.  This should cut most of the tree roots that have ventured that far.

 

5)  Are the trees walnuts?  Walnut trees have a reputation for producing a substance which is toxic to some vegetable plants.  Tomatoes do not do well at all near walnut trees.  If they are walnuts, you may well have that problem.

Germinating Tomatoes In The Greenhouse

Q.  I have had trouble getting my tomatoes to germinate in the greenhouse.  Is there a variety that you would suggest? I live at 41 degrees North latitude and 5,000 feet elevation. Any additional advice would be appreciated.

A.  Tomatoes need a constant sustained temperature in the 70’s for good germination. Get a good thermometer, then insulate your greenhouse as much as possible, without losing light. Heating the entire greenhouse is too expensive, enclose the table where your plants are growing in clear plastic and heat only that space, thus creating a greenhouse within a greenhouse.  We use heaters this time of year, either propane, kerosene, or electric in order to sustain good growing temperatures for tomatoes and other warm-weather plants.

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.

Last year I had two Grow-Boxes in my greenhouse planted with eggplants. There were an equal number of plants in each of them, all of the plants produced flowers and I dusted them myself with a little brush to pollinate them. But one box gave me a lot of eggplants and the other produced nothing! Why was this so? And what I can do to prevent it from happening again?

(Eggplants & tomatoes belong to the same family and these answers apply to both.)

1) Were both beds of plants healthy? Were they the same variety, and do they look and grow the same? The bed that failed to produce fruit – were the plants continuing to be healthy, or did they stop growing and show signs of disease, etc.? Only if they were sick is there a problem with the soil, in which case you may need to treat or sterilize the soil.

To sterilize the soil, the best thing is methyl bromide, which takes 24 hours and kills everything, so use extreme caution! However, to use it in a greenhouse you must have a full body suit with outside supplied air. It can be fatal in even small doses in enclosed areas. Otherwise you could use steam, if you can get enough to hold the temperature at 200 degrees F for 2 hours. Either way, you must cover the bed tightly with plastic.

If the two beds of eggplant looked the same you do not need to sterilize the soil. Methyl Bromide is a chemical that is very effective at killing everything – but it is getting harder to find, and very expensive. And in the USA it requires a Pesticide Applicator’s license to even buy or use it. Steam equipment is also expensive, and unless you have a steam-heat source that you could tap into, it probably isn’t practical either. With the extremely cold winters you have (-30 C), many bugs and disease pathogens are killed, so I will be surprised if your problem is a disease in the soil.

2) If the plants were healthy, but just did not produce fruit, then the problem is most likely in the pollination somewhere. Eggplants are self-pollinating, so you do not need to help them, and you could have actually caused the problem – if the brush was too wet, or if it was diseased or something. If it was too wet – either the brush or the environment – that could inhibit the transfer of pollen also. Were you using the same brush to pollinate both rows? And were you pollinating both rows the same day? If so, then it isn’t the brush, but some environmental difference. Try just shaking or vibrating the plants to make the pollen transfer if there is no air movement in your greenhouse.

3) What about the light factor? Did both beds get the same amount of sunlight? Fruiting plants must have uniform, sustained light all day – otherwise they produce greenery, but no fruit.

4) Eggplants like warm temperatures also, in addition to lots of light. Was one bed subject to more cold air than the other – such as being planted closer to the greenhouse wall? If the temperature goes below 60 degrees, sometimes frost-sensitive and frost-intolerant plants won’t produce fruit. Was there any difference in temperature at critical times between the two beds?

5) Also, some insects will eat the pollen, such as ants. Is that a possibility? However it would be unusual to have insects attack one bed and not the adjacent one.

6) Were the two beds planted at the same time, so that the plants were the same size? If not, conditions might have been different when the second one was flowering (although the flowering continues for months – so that isn’t likely), or the taller row was shading the shorter row.

7) What time of day did you pollinate? If it is done before the male flower is fully open, the pollen is green and won’t fertilize. Also, after the female flower starts to collapse it is too old, and won’t accept pollination.

8) Is there a possibility your one box had nematodes in the roots? If the plants are carrying nematodes, they may look healthy, but they can’t support the nematodes and bear fruit at the same time, and since they can’t get rid of the nematodes, they abort the fruit and just keep on trying, without success.

9) If you pollinate using a male from the same plant, you have more risk of not getting good fruit – it’s better to use a male from a different plant and cross-pollinate.

You really have to become a detective to discover what happened, don’t you! Let me know the answers to the above, and maybe we can narrow it down and find the most likely cause of the problem.