Q. The commercial produce growers in my area use black plastic with drip lines. They mix fertilizer in their irrigation water and pump it to the plants. What makes the Mittleider method more productive and efficient?
A. Large commercial growers of things like lettuce, cabbage, etc., who water and feed accurately, especially those who feed regularly right in the water supply, and who eliminate weeds completely, are at least as good and productive as the Mittleider Method. They also have very large investments in materials and equipment.
The Mittleider Method is sometimes called “the poor man’s hydroponic method” because it borrows principles and procedures from the large hydroponic, greenhouse, and field growers, and adapts and sizes them to the small family farmer and family-size garden. And we produce great yields without the large capital investment large growers must face.
Most family gardeners don’t understand the importance of a constant water supply, just to the root zone of the plants. They don’t appreciate the value of regular feeding with a complete, balanced nutrient, and they don’t realize how much weeds rob their garden of nutrients that are essential to the well-being of their vegetable plants.
Beyond those three principles, the Mittleider Method teaches vertical growing, with the attendant pollinating, pruning, and protection issues the hydroponic growers handle so well.
These are the primary elements that set the Mittleider Method apart from typical or traditional FAMILY GARDENING and make it SIMILAR to (not better than) hydroponic and large commercial growers.
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.