Monday, January 30, 2006

Hi we are back

Mittleider Fertilizers – Micro-nutrients Available for Local Mixing
The Foundation Website has packets of micro-nutrients you can get ifyou don't have ready access to the pre-mixed nutrients.If you are in this boat, there may be an N,P,K mix that is close,that you can use with it. For example, in Salt Lake City the FredMeyer stores have ProPax 14-7-14 with Iron, by Martin Resources.They tout it for a Fall and Winter feeding, but it almost replicatesexactly the Weekly Feed NPK ratios. Buy all you can find!!



Using Grass Fertilizers for Vegetable Gardens?
I do not recommend using lawn fertilizers as weekly feed, becausethey have double the nitrogen and less than half the phosphorus andpotassium that vegetables need.they are designed to make grass green, but not to grow healthy fruitsand vegetables.Any mix - between 10-10-10 and 20-20-20 will do as a starting point.And if you can find a 2-1-2 ratio that's even better.



Water-Soluble Fertilizers Needed?
Question posed by a Group Member: “I have assumed that all commercially formulated fertilizers were water soluble, however, it appears that this is not the case, at least they are not all readily soluble. I put a couple of ounces of 16-16-16 fertilizer (the granules are about the size of b-b's) in a container with about a half gallon of water. After two days, even with periodic shaking it has not completely dissolved. Is it the case that if I am going to use a commercially blended fertilizer, that it should be water soluble ? Clearly all fertilizers must be water soluble otherwise the plant roots could not utilize the nutrients, right? So what is the difference, and what "type" should we be using in the Mittleider Method?”

In response to the question about solubility of 16-16-16, let's discuss several aspects of what you are doing.First, if you are feeding seedlings, we never recommend more than one ounce per 3 gallons of water. More than that might burn your plants. Perhaps you were going to dump the 1/2 gallon of water into a 6 gallon bucket, after it was dissolved?If you are feeding plants in the garden, that is still far too strong, and you will be better off to put the materials on the ground and water them in. for example, 16 ounces placed on 30 feet of row is watered in with 15-18 gallons of water - 4 to 6 times, for a total of 60 to 108 gallons for the 16 ounces, or one ounce of fertilizer per 4-7 gallons of water - does that make sense?Next, whether the materials have, in fact, dissolved: Remember that 16-16-16 is only 48% mineral salts, and 52% inert carrying agent.Therefore, if the material is half-dissolved, it's likely that the mineral nutrients are dissolved, and you are seeing the inert carrying agent. However, if the materials have not dissolved at all, then you need to change what you are using and get something more readily water-soluble.Sometimes fertilizer companies will coat their products with a slow-dissolving cover, in order to be able to say their product is "slow-release", and supposedly somehow better. Don't buy that for vegetables!


Watering in Grow-Boxes – Soil Mixes Needed & Automating Watering
Question from Gardening Group member – “I can’t keep the water in the Grow-Boxes. They dry out too quickly. What am I doing wrong?”
The first mistake you made was in the % of peat moss to sand. We always tell folks to use at least 2/3 peat or other organic material - and as much as 75%. 50% sand allows the water to drain too quickly. So the first thing I would do, if possible, is add more peat, sawdust, or perlite.The next thing to look at is the size of your holes in the PVC pipe. Did you use a #57 drill bit? Sometimes people ignore the instructions in this regard, thinking that a 1/16th inch bit is ok, but it is not! A #57 bit is only .042" in diameter, as compared to .0625" for a 1/16th. This allows far more water to come out, and at greater force.

Monday, May 09, 2005

Fertilizer Frequency - Compare with Organic

The question is often asked about the frequency of fertilizing vegetable plants. One chart says my summer squash is to be fed 5 times in the growing season. But what about those lucky people who grow it from February through November? Do they need to keep fertilizing for a longer period of time?

Fertilizing frequency is an important topic for several reasons. Issues such as cost, toxicity to plants and/or humans, and seepage into ground water sources are a few.

Let’s answer the question first, and then explain in detail the reasons for it. If you want to continue to produce a crop throughout the growing season you must continue to feed your plants.

How many times to feed should only be an issue with ever-bearing crops, such as squash, tomatoes, peppers, cucumbers, etc., because single crop varieties, such as cabbage, lettuce, and spinach only receive between 3 and 5 feedings after transplanting, and you stop feeding 3 weeks before harvest.

Let's review a comparison with organic growers, who apply 2-3" of manure on their garden before planting, with the Mittleider Method, to put the toxicity and ground water pollution issues into perspective (and hopefully to discourage you from indiscriminate applications of manure).

Some folks praise manure because it's only 1% nitrogen, and curse ammonium nitrate because it's 34%. However, they may not have checked their math on what is actually happening in their soil. Applying just 2" of manure to a single soil-bed (not the aisles - just the growing area) adds 250-300# of manure to the soil. It also adds about 2.5 pounds of nitrogen. That's a lot of nitrogen all at once - the equivalent of over 7 pounds of 34-0-0 - and will often burn young plants or emerging seedlings.

The Mittleider Method advocates applying only 1# of Weekly Feed mix each week to a 30'-long soil-bed. The WF mix is 13-8-13, therefore you have added only 2 ounces of actual nitrogen to your soil. For you to apply as much nitrogen as the organic gardener you would have to apply the Weekly Feed 20 times!

In addition, they apply it all at once, and much fertilizer is therefore susceptible of being toxic to their plants and/or washed into the ground water system. You, on the other hand, never have more than a couple of ounces at a time in the 3,000+ pounds of soil that make up the top one foot of your soil-bed, and your plants quickly use that up.

Your plants need water-soluble mineral nutrients constantly throughout their growing cycle, but nitrogen is volatile and returns quickly to the air. Phosphorus and potassium also become fixed (adhered) to the soil particles fairly quickly, and so become unavailable. Therefore, we feed weekly to overcome those problems - rather than applying everything all at once at the beginning.
Some people are tired of their garden and fresh produce by the first of August, so they’re happy for it to quit producing. However, if you want your tomatoes and peppers to continue producing right up until winter frost kills your plants, you should keep feeding them until a few weeks before frost. We recommend 8 weeks for tomatoes, 6 weeks for peppers, and 4 weeks for cucumbers.

Saturday, May 07, 2005

Fertilizers in Water - How Much & What About Residue?

Joe Mandell recently said "I've used Weekly Feed for many years now. The original bags shipped from Utah that I got from Dr. Mittleider advised dissolving 1 Tablespoon in a gallon of water and watering seedlings, etc. using a tin can with 150 holes holes punched in the bottom.

"I recently bought a bag of 16-16-16 locally and mixed it with a bag of micro nutrients purchased from you plus 3# of epsom salts as per instructions. I tried mixing 5 gallons of water with 5 Tbs of this new Weekly feed and it won't dissolve! I've left it for three days and it still won't dissolve! What do you advise? Obviously if it doesn't all dissolve, I'll not be giving my plants the proportions of nutrients they need! Does the Weekly Feed that you make up dissolve? If so, what ingredients do you mix to make it? I have to mix it locally because the shipping from Salt Lake City makes it too expensive."

These are good observations, and we can learn from Joe's experience.

First, we now recommend only 2 tablespoons (1 ounce) of Weekly Feed per 3 gallons of water. That's 2 teaspoons per gallon, which I believe is the same as Miracle Grow recommends for their product. We invite comparison with MG, as Weekly Feed is about 1/4th the cost.

Second, the appearance of fertilizers in your water after it should have been dissolved is not a problem. Consider what you used. The bag of 16-16-16 has 16% each of the big three nutrients, and the other 52% is a neutral filler! The same holds true for all of the other compounds that make up the Weekly Feed mix.

The solid material you see in the water is the filler material, and the 48% nutrients have dissolved, so go ahead and water your plants without worrying any more about it.

Fertilizers - Use More if Mix is Weaker? - Why? How Does This Compare With Organic?

Tom Batzel posed an important question, the answer to which everyone should know. He wondered if 60% more fertilizer would need to be applied to the garden each time if you used 10-10-10 instead of 16-16-16 in yourWeekly Feed mix. While that may seem logical, the answer is NO, you should still use 16 ounces per 30' Soil-Bed.

The Mittleider Magic Weekly Feed which we sell pre-bagged in stores is 13-8-13, and 10-10-10 will work alright as a substitute. So, I do not recommend you change the amounts used, nor the application rate. However, if there is any indication that your plants' growth is slowing down, just give an extra feeding in the middle of the week one time (and perhaps a second time for tomatoes, melons, etc.).

Plants do not need large quantities of fertilizer at one time, but rather they need a very small amount all the time. One of the organic enthusiasts' complaints with growing with "chemicals" is that they are over-used (and sometimes they are by others!), and since organic growers use manure and compost with only .5 - 1.5% NPK, you can see where they are coming from.

However, in order to get decent results from manure and compost, they must use large quantities. So they typically put 2" to 3" of manure/compost into a 30' Soil-Bed, amounting to 250-300#, and thereby apply 2 to 3# of actual N, P, and K - all at one time. And if they broadcast the manure on the entire garden, as most do, they will have increased the NPK by a factor of 5! Remember those numbers - 2# to 3# of actual nitrogen applied to a soil-bed all at once at the beginning of the plants' growth cycle.

Using The Mittleider Method and applying just 16 ounces (1#) of Weekly Feed to that 30' Soil-Bed,you will apply 2 OUNCES of nitrogen to the same area. And applying it weekly as needed, your plants will receive just what they need - 8 ounces N for single crop varieties like lettuce, cabbage and beets, and as much as 1 to 2# for ever-bearing varieties like tomatoes, eggplant and zucchini.

So your garden has much less N, P, and K applied using this method than if you were a traditional organic gardener. And perhaps even more importantly, the materials are applied throughout the season as the plantsneed them, rather than all at once at the beginning.

Furthermore, not only are NPK supplied sparingly and accurately as needed, but also the other 10 nutrient compounds that are essential for healthy plant growth, such as iron, zinc, magnesium, etc.

Growing Tomatoes Vertically - How to Prune

Let's discuss how to remove all the sucker stems. This is the major function of pruning tomatoes.

Where the leaf branch grows out from the main stem (in the crotch) pinch off the new growth that comes out of that area but make sure you don't pinch out the top growth. When in doubt stay away from the top of the plant.

Also, stay away from the blossoms that grow about an inch above the leaf node or crotch. Those become the fruit.

To maximize your tomato yield, you must manage the plant's growth. This could be compared to the biblical pruning of the vineyard.

A single plant, taking up less than one lineal foot of space, can produce 15-30# of fruit - but only if you keep it to one main stem. Remember, we're doing "Modified Hydroponics" here, and the hydroponic and greenhouse growers know what they are doing when they prune to one, and only one, main stem per plant.

You will prune the sucker stems from Indeterminate varieties only! Right at the point where each leaf grows out from the stem, a new (sucker) stem will appear and begin to grow. Take it off - the sooner the better - don't let the plant waste energy growing the sucker stem. But DO NOT remove the leaf - only the sucker stem growing between the leaf and the stem!!

Once your plant has several sets of leaves, it will begin producing blossoms. THESE BECOME YOUR TOMATOES. They appear about one inch ABOVE the leaf joint (or node, as it's called). NEVER take off the blossoms. Remember, that's your fruit!

Both pruning and guiding your tomatoes up the baling-twine string should be done religiously at least once each week for every plant.

Growing Tomatoes Vertically - How Close to Plant

How close together should you grow your tomato plants? The answer depends on several factors, and ultimately it is all up to you. If you are growing vertically and using the T-Frames, with tomatoes growing up baling twine ("string"), then you can plant them quite close together - even as close as 8" apart.

The key to your success is in how diligent you are at pruning the sucker stems!! If you will gently guide your plants around the string at least once every week, and take off all sucker stems also at least that often, you will have a single-stalk plant with large hands of tomatoes every 5-7" all the way up the stalk, and your fruit production will amaze you, with anywhere from 15# to 30# per plant.

On the other hand, if you neglect to take off all the suckers, your plants will become big, bushy masses of leaves and branches. The plants will compete with adjacent plants - and even their own sucker branches - for light, and you will have a big mess on your hands, with much reduced fruit production.

So, if you are not diligent in pruning, even 14" apart is probably too close together. I usually plant my tomatoes every 8" (ONE ROW ONLY!) in my beds, but sometimes I will do them 9" apart - it just depends on how many plants I have and how much fruit I want. I guess Dr. M. didn't spell that out in the books, did he.

Fertilizers - Making Your Own Wherever You Are

To our friends in many places where it's sometimes difficult to get fertilizer materials, please don't give up. Here are a few suggestions: If you can't find N, P, and K pre-mixed in fairly equal ratios - between 10 and 20% each, then check a farm-supply store for bags of each separately. For example, you may be able to find 21-0-0 (ammonium sulfate), and 0-45-0 (triple super phosphate), and 0-0-50 (potassium sulfate). If so, mix 12# 21-0-0 with 4# 0-45-0, and 4# 0-0-50. That gives you 20# of a 2-1-2 mix, which is approximately the ratio in which your plants use the three Macro-Nutrients. Then get an 8 1/2 ounce packet of Micro-Nutrients from the Foundation's website, and 3# Epsom Salt from your pharmacy - mix it all together and you have the Weekly Feed mix. There are numerous other mixes of the "Big Three" nutrients - sometimes with two of them combined, such as 18-46-0 and 15-0-53. If you find that, just find some nitrogen and mix enough to get the2-1-2 ratio, and you're there.

Pre-Plant Fertilizer Mix

If you can't find the Mittleider Magic Pre-Plant mix, just mix your own. You need to use lime if your annual rainfall is more than 20", and gypsum if it's less than that.

Mix 5# lime or gypsum, with 4 ounces magnesium sulfate (Epsom Salt) and 1 ounce 20 Mule Team Borax. That is a ratio of 80-4-1. Use two parts of this and one part Weekly Feed mix in your beds, mixed with the soil before planting.

Fertilizer Distributor for Foundation

The Foundation is always interested in expanding the reach of our efforts to help people grow food more productively.

If any Mittleider gardeners are in a position to mix and bag, and sell quantities of the mineral nutrients, we would be pleased to work out a royalty arrangement whereby you - after learning to mix the ingredients accurately, and becoming qualified by your State, or government entity to be a Fertilizer Manufacturer (in Utah it costs about $10 per year) - could get the bags from us and become a fertilizer distributor.

And the same goes for all the books, etc. Just correspond directly with me at jim@growfood.com, and we can discuss your interest.

Fertilizers - Short-Term and Long-Term Solutions

The fertilizer formula is available on the website and in the books, so you can mix your own, but that's not practical for the small gardener. So, for the short-term I suggest you use an NPK mix that's available, such as 16-16-16, 10-10-10, or 20-20-20. To 6# of that mix, you then add 1# of Epsom Salt (magnesium sulfate) and 1 ounce of 20 Mule-team Borax (boron). You can get those two items in your large pharmacies and grocery stores. Borax is a detergent.

For a better long-term solution order the Micro-Nutrients from the Store on the website (www.growfood.com) and mix them per the directions. That way you can be confident your plants are getting everything they need.

And for the best solution, have such a great garden your neighbors will want your help. Then you can mix large quantities of the Weekly-Feed formula yourself and have the best mix of all. You could even get the Mittleider Magic bags from the Foundation and "go into business!"

Fertilizers - Which formulas are Best - How to Apply and Where to Buy

Regarding the various fertilizer formulas in the books: Dr. Mittleider constantly experimented with the natural mineral nutrients he was using, and put the formulas he felt were best at the time in his books as he wrote them. They all work, and will give you success, but they were always in the process of being improved as Dr.M. gained more experience in more countries and conditions around the world. Therefore, the formulas on the website, on the CD, and in theMittleider Gardening Course are the best, being the most recent.

For a 4'-wide Grow-Box you will apply 2 - 16 ounce cans - one can down the center of each of the two rows of plants. And when the plants get so big that you can't easily get the fertilizers placed between them, our first choice is to trim some lower leaves and branches so that you can get into the center of the bed, but as a second choice you could dissolve the 16 ounces in 5 gallons of water and evenly distribute that down the length of the 30' bed, and then water it in more thoroughly. Normal watering of a 30' bed will take15-20 gallons, so don't forget to do this, or the salt concentration will be stronger than you want, and could hurt the plants.

The formulas are on the web, or you can order them under Fertilizers in the Store - either pre-packaged, or the micro-nutrients - which you then mix with 16-16-16, etc which you get locally.

Fertilizers - Different Formulas, Liquify or Granular Feed?

I am confused by the multiplicity, or variances in fertilizer formulas in the different books. I am finding one formula in one book and different formulas in other materials.

My latest confusion stems from the "Garden Master" CD. This has a default grow box dimension of 4 ft. by 30 ft. Naturally for many vegetables this is wide enough to allow for two "rows" in each box.

Now the question - do I apply 16 ounces of Weekly Feed fertilizer each week for each "row" OR is it 16 ounces spread over the entire box?

Perhaps another related question - this relates particularly to those vegetables which are planted close together thus rendering it difficult to apply a weekly feed without actually running the risk of burning the plants. Is it possible to take the 16 ounces of weekly feed and dilute it in sufficient water so as to NOT burn the plants? If so - how much water and any special dosage methods?

For those searching for that particular blend of Macro nutrients - I discovered that some good farm supply stores will either themselves blend the exact formula you desire or at least their source can blend it for them and have it available at the store in good speed. The neat thing about this is that THEY (the store) pays the shipping - you only pay for the fertilizer." Glenn LeBrun

The fertilizer formulas were developed over time as Dr. Mittleider gained experience in growing throughout the world, and the best materials and amounts he knew were included in the books as he wrote them. The most recent book is the Mittleider Gardening Course, and so the best formulas are there and on the website in the Learn section, which has the complete Mittleider Gardening Basics Course. But please take comfort in the knowledge that any of the fertilizers - from any of the books - will give you an excellent garden. They worked when he used them, and they still work today.

A 4'-wide Box will normally be planted in 4 rows of single crop varieties planted 10-12" apart, near the outside edges of the box and 12" in, or two crops of climbing plants planted about 12" in from the outside edges. You feed two applications of the 16 ounces per week - down the center about 4-6" from the rows of plants.

We prefer, rather than liquifying the fertilizer, which may result in burning the plants, to trim the low-lying leaves and stems, to give access for feeding.

Carlic Cultivation - Commercial?

I am looking for some advise on garlic cultivation on a commercialscale in a tropical climate. Can some one advise me or direct me to resources where I can obtain more information? Thank you.Lim Hua Peng

For Lim Hua Peng in Singapore (Isn't it amazing!!) and all the restof you, the following address has several good sources of garlic-growing information.http://newyork.villageworld.com/Directory/Home/Gardens/Vegetables/

Try this website http://www.beautyarablady.com/pages/vegetable_gardening.htm

Growing Garlic

what is a good way to grow garlic and are onions growns about the same way? I never seem to get my onion sets very big. Is it true you should scrape away the dirt from the top after the onion starts to get some size to them.? I love garlic.....linda in montana

Onions and garlic grow about the same way, culture wise. The only big difference is that different kinds of onions have different day-length needs, and are, therefore, planted at different times of the year (this may account for your small size - day-length limitations in Montana - JK). Onions, of course, get a little bigger, and I give them a little wider spacing. If you have never grown garlic before, the blades are flatter and look morel ike a coarse grass instead of cylindrical like onions. The first time I planted garlic, I started pulling them up when they started growing, as I thought they were weed grass instead of what I planted. Then I smelled them, and realized my mistake! For good size onions, never let them really dry out (not wet, just moist) and feed them very well. The weekly feeding program using Mittleider fornula works great. They can be grown in just about any soil type as long as they receive enough food and water, but they do like a rich, deep, organic-rich soil. Without soil amendments, theMittleider formula supplies everything they really have to have, as long as you feed consistently and keep them watered. I just like the soil to be as loose, friable, water-retentive, worm-filled and rich as possible. Bernard Bailey

Tomato Plants With Wilted Stems - Solution?

I have a soil bed garden with tomato plants that seemed healthy until today. There are stems on some of the plants that are completely wilted. The wilted stems are towards the top of the plant but not the very tip. The remaining stems and leaves seem healthy. I am using a 16-16-16 fertilizer mix with the added mico nutrients. The soil is mostly peat moss with some ground soil mixed in. The plants have been watered regularly and fertilized every seven days. The plants are about two feet tall with many flowers and some very small tomatoes. Any suggestions? Thanks! Chris

Are the tops - above the wilted stems - still green? How much of the stem is wilted? It may be mechanical damage. You must be careful as you guide the stems around the string, that you do not twist the stems. If the plant above the wilted stem is brown, you might have a salt problem - try watering very heavily two or three times without any fertilizer being applied. Is there any evidence of cutting, chewing, or boring on the wilted stems? There is also the possibility of insect damage. The tomato hornworm usually attacks the leaves, rather than the stem, so that doesn't sound like it.

Fertilizer - Substitutes for Mittleider Magic - J. R. Peter's or Miracle Grow?

Q. I have found a source of Peat Lite 20-10-20 manufactured by J.R.Peters Co. at less than $20 per 25 lb bag. It is a water-soluble fertilizer. Please advise whether or not it can be used as a substitute for the Mittleider formula, and what, if any additions should be made.

A. I can't answer for the usability of any other fertilizer, not having field-tested them. But water-soluble fertilizers are intended for use in a greenhouse or hydroponic growing environment, where feeding is done in the daily watering. So, for seedling production, it may work for you (with the caveats stated below), however, where we feed weekly in the garden, Pete Lite may leach beyond the plants'root zone before the next feeding, and your plants could go hungry.
Nutrient Mittleider Magic % Pete Lite %
Nitrogen 13. 20.
Phosphate 8. 10.
Potash 13. 20.
Magnesium 1.3 .25
Sulfur .4 .00
Calcium .9 .00
Boron .16 .02
Manganese .15 .05
Zinc .20 .016
Iron .02 .10
Copper .04 .01
Molybdenum .03 .01
Cloride .10 .00

Dr. Mittleider's worldwide experience has shown us that the high %'s of NPK are not needed. That may be why some folks are concerned with toxicity in many commercial fertilizers. On the other hand, we almost always experience a need for higheramounts of the next three - or secondary - nutrients than are customarily applied. Notice we have 5 times the magnesium, and PeteLite lists neither of the other two (in their defense, they recommend a separate calcium-source application, similar to our Pre-PlantMix).

Sulfur should be supplemented - especially in a low-rainfall/high pH area (sulfur lowers the pH). And most of the micro-nutrients are substantially higher in Mittleider Magic - for good reason. Sometimes, however, the %'s of Micro-nutrients can be misleading. For example, if a chelated compound is used, the nutrient is more available than if a straight sulfate compound is used. This is the case with our Iron - and that's why we use less than Pete Lite does. Perhaps they use chelated compounds of some of the others, whereas we do not. All of that being said, you may have success with Pete Lite for some time, especially in the greenhouse, before you begin seeing serious deficiency symptoms.

Growing Tomatoes Vertically Using T-Frames

You'll learn here to grow tomatoes the way "the big boys" do it! And if you do it right, your yield will blow you (and your neighbors) away. You need one T-Frame every 10 feet maximum. Then you can use heavy-gauge wire, galvanized steel pipe (1/2" is adequate) or even 2 X 4's on edge -between the T-Frames. If you want to build a frame strong enough to support a plastic covering in early spring and late fall, I recommend the 2 x 4's. Then arch PVC on top using 45 degree slip fittings, and hang 6 mil plastic over the entire structure for the world's least expensive greenhouse

Graphically illustrated instructions for building and installing T-Frames are contained in the Mittleider Gardening Course - advanced section, Chapter 15. This chapter is available free on the Foundation's website at www.foodforeveryone.org/store.

Here's the "guts" of it. For a 30' Soil-Bed or Grow-Box, buy 6 - 8' treated 4 X 4's. Cut two of them into 6 equal-sized pieces 32" long. Four 32" lengths become the top of the T.

The other two 32" 4 X 4 lengths then are cut into 4 equal-sized braces using 45 degree-angle cuts as follows: Measure and mark 105/8" along the bottom edge, then 3 5/8", then 10 5/8", then 3 5/8".On the top edge, measure and mark 3 1/2", then 3 5/8", then 10 5/8",then 3 5/8". Draw lines between these marks, then, using a table saw,cut on the lines.Pre-drill through the top center of the 32" tops, then use a 6" spike to nail into the 8' post. Screw or nail the braces to the top and the post.

Bury the T-Frame 15" in the ground at 10' (or shorter) intervals just inside the ridge on one side o fyour Grow-Bed, or inside the side frame of your Grow-Box. Use #8 gage wire and eye-bolts between the T-Frames, or 1/2"galvanized pipe (held in place by two nails).

If you want to extend the growing season, use 2 X 4's on edge to tie the T-Frames together, and make an arched canopy with 3/4" PVC and 45 degree Slip fittings every 2', then cover in early Spring and late Fall with 6 mil clear plastic.

Container Gardening - How much Fertilizer to Use

I have a number of friends who live in apartments, etc., and the only way for them to garden is in containers. Has the Food For Everyone Foundation worked out the math for how much of what to use in say, 5, 10 and 15 gallon planter pots, etc.? Obviously, I mean the pre-plant and weekly feed fertilizers, not soil mix. I figure why re-invent the wheel if someone else has already done the math. Lettuce, carrots, beets, bush beans, zucchini and many others have done well for quite a few. Bernard Bailey

One cubic foot equals about 7 1/2 gallons, so a 5 gallon pot amounts to 2/3rds of a cubic foot, 10 gallons equals 1 1/3rd, and 15 gallons equals 2 cubic feet.

We use 1 1/2 ounces (3 tablespoons) of Pre-Plant and 3/4 of an ounce of Weekly Feed in a single 18" X 18" X 2 3/4" flat, which is about 1/2 cubic foot. Doing the math gives you the following:
5 gallon pot - Pre-Plant = 2 ounces Weekly Feed = 1 ounce
10 gallon pot - Pre-Plant = 4 ounces Weekly Feed = 2 ounces
15 gallon pot - Pre-Plant = 6 ounces Weekly Feed = 3 ounces

Inoculating Bean Seeds & Intercropping Beans & Corn - Good Idea?

Inoculating been seeds.
Q. I've been told I should inoculate my bean seeds. Why should I do this, and how do I do it?
A. Why Use Rhizobia Inoculants? Rhizobia bacteria are a group of soil based microorganisms, which establish symbiotic relationships with beans and other legume plants, such as alfalfa and clover. They then form nodules on the roots of the legumes, where they store nitrogen and provide it to the plants. In return, the plants provide carbon and energy for the Rhizobia, which the plant produces by photosynthesis.

Nitrogen is vital for plant growth. It is abundant in the atmosphere as N2, and in soil organic matter in other forms, but because of its volatility, it is not available in the NO3 form that plants can use.

Conventional methods of providing nitrogen to plants include 1) adding nitrogen fertilizers to the soil, or 2) inoculating with the Rhizobia nitrogen-fixing bacteria. Rhizobia then take N2 atmospheric nitrogen and convert it to the NO3 inorganic form that is useable by plants. In addition, the nitrogen they store in nodules on the plant roots, if the roots are left in the ground, can reduce nitrogen fertilizer requirements for the next growing season.
Therefore, before planting, some gardeners "inoculate" their bean seeds.

This consists of coating the seeds with a small amount of powder containing the Rhizobia bacteria, thus effectively enabling the plants to draw nitrogen from the air and deposit it in nodules on their roots. This ability to "fix" nitrogen is unique to plants in the legume family, because of the symbiotic relationship with Rhizobia bacteria.
Inoculants only need to be used in poor soils that don't have much soil nitrogen for plants to use. In fertile soil, the bacteria occur naturally, so inoculants are not needed. The inoculant comes in small packages, it is usually available where you buy your seeds, and it takes very little to do the job.

Immediately before planting, put the bean seeds in a pan and add a little water to moisten them. Then add a small amount of inoculant, and stir the beans with a stick until they have a little powder on their seed coats.

To gain the maximum benefit from inoculating your been seeds, spade or till disease-free bean plants into the earth immediately after the last harvest. This adds organic matter to the soil and releases the nitrogen from the root nodules as well. Always destroy all diseased plants immediately.

Some people mistakenly believe planting beans and corn together is good, because the beans can climb the corn stalks, and the corn can get nitrogen from the beans. This is not a good idea for several reasons. The two plants are competing for the same water, food (13 nutrients are needed!), and light, and both will suffer for having to share. In addition, the nitrogen in the bean root nodules is "fixed" and unavailable to the corn. It is only released to the soil after the bean plant has completed its life cycle.

Been Seeds - Inoculate to Increase Nitrogen Fixing a Good Idea?

Do you recommend inoculating beans before planting them and if so what is the best way this is done. The instructions on the inoculant I purchased are sketchy. For instance, how long do you keep the seeds in the inoculant before planting?

Inoculating seeds.
Before planting, some gardeners "inoculate" their bean seeds. This is simply coating the seeds with a small amount of a special powdery bacteria that enables the plants to draw nitrogen from the air and deposit it in their roots. The ability to draw nitrogen from the air and store it in nodules on the plant roots (or "fix" it) is unique to beans and other plants in the legume family, such as alfalfa and clover.

Inoculants work best in poor soils that don't have much soil nitrogen for plants to use. In fertile soil, the bacteria occurs naturally, so you're not likely to need inoculants. Inoculant comes in small packages, and it's usually available where you buy your seeds. A little goes a long way.

Put the bean seeds in a pan, add a little water to moisten them. Add a small amount of inoculant, and stir the beans with a stick until most of them have a little powder on their seed coats. After they've been inoculated, plant them right away.

To improve your soil, chop, spade or till your disease-free bean plants into the earth immediately after the last harvest. You'll be adding valuable organic matter to the soil and releasing the nitrogen from the roots as well. Destroy all diseased plants.

Amount of Fertilizer to Feed My Grow-Box Container Garden

I have several 18" x 8' grow boxes, using 2" X 8" lumber, lining the inside of a 25' x 50' furrow garden. I have the Mittleider Garden Master software package and I love it. However, math is not my strong point, so if you could give me the math formula to figure out the amount per square foot that will help. I have not found the high nitrogen required locally either. So I am using the 16-16-16 for vegetable gardens as my weekly fertilizer.

You should mix 8 ounces of Pre-Plant nutrients into the soil in one 18" X 8' Grow-Box, along with 4 ounces of Weekly-Feed mix - both of these one time only, before you plant. After your plants are up, you should feed 4 ounces (1/4#) for each 18" X 8' Grow-Box until 3 weeks before the plants are mature.

This amounts to 1 ounce of Pre-Plant Mix per running foot of bed planting area, and 1/2 ounce of Weekly Feed mix.

Controlling Cutworms in the Garden

I went out this morning to check on our garden and found one young broccoli plant "decapitated" with its top resting on the soil next to the "stump" of the stem. Upon digging it up with a trowl to replace it with another seedling I found a very plump worm, perhaps 1 1/2 inches long, hiding in the soil. Is this a Cutworm? I have rarely had a similar problem so have not taken precautions against such pests. What can I do to eliminate them? Rich Dietrich, Tennessee

Cutworms surface and feed at night, so the best control is either a soil drench, or diazanon liquid or crystals mixed with sawdust and mounded around the stem of vulnerable plants.

For those who can't bring themselves to use an insecticide, just cut a 2 1/2" square of plastic, then wrap it around your stems, with 1/2 above ground and 1/2 below ground. They can't eat what they can't get to.

Soil Amendments - Importance in the Vegetable Garden

Bernie has good ideas about soil amendments, and I hope no-one gets the idea that I'm against them. However, that being said, I would like to emphasize once more - they are not necessary to grow a good garden. Let me give you an example of why we shouldn't over-emphasize the importance of soil amendments.

Not too long ago a Salt Lake newspaper carried a big article by our local gardening guru - about a "Master Gardener" with many years' experience. This man was making a case for soil amendments, and was quoted as saying that for 30 years he could not grow a good garden - that he had to add 2-3" of horse manure every year, and that now, after 40 years, he could grow anything.

I suggest that no-one can afford to wait for 30 years in order to grow their food. And I don't believe God would set things up to make that a requirement.

The truth is that with proper nutrition you can grow in anything - so long as it's not toxic! And we've done it all over the world. The Food For Everyone Foundation promises "a great garden in any soil, and in virtually any climate."

So, if you have good organic materials, and want to improve soil tilth and not waste things, by all means put them back in the ground, where they belong anyway. But don't buy the story that you must amend your soil before you can grow a successful garden - it just isn't factual.

Gypsum as Source of Calcium Plus Soil Amendment in Alkaline Soils

"I gardened for many years in Colorado. We often used gypsum not only as a source of calcium, but to help "bust" the clay soils we dealt with, and things grew very well. Whenever you remove a crop, you have a prime opportunity to amend the soil before putting in your next crop. Spagnum peat moss, oak leaf compost, some sawdust, and many other organic materials are acid in nature, and will help to counteract the alkali, orbase, pH of your soil without adding anything dangerous to your plants. At the same time, they increase the carbon to nitrogen ratio in the soil, leading to healthier plants". Bernard Bailey

Grow-Box Container Gardening - Materials to Use and Watering System

In response to a question about materials to use for filling Grow-Boxes, someone used 50% sand, which is too much. They were also having trouble with water coming out with too much force and washing out their tiny plants. Following is my answer.

The first mistake you made was in the % of peatmoss to sand. We always tell folks to use at least 2/3 peat or other organic material -and as much as 75%. 50% sand allows the water to drain too quickly. So the first thing I would do, if possible, is add more peat, sawdust, or perlite.The next thing to look at is the size of your holes in the PVC pipe. Did you use a #57 drill bit? Sometimes people ignore the instructions in this ragard, thinking that a 1/16th inch bit is ok, but it is not! A #57 bit is only .042" in diameter, as compared to .0625" for a 1/16th. This allows far more water to come out, and at greater force. Either or both of those conditions could explain your percieved problem. If neither of those are the reasons, write again and we'll take another look at it.

Water Solubility of Comml Fertilizers - How much To Use?

I have assumed that all commercially formulated fertilizers were water soluble, however, it appears that this is not the case, at least they are not all readily soluble. I put a couple of ounces of 16-16-16 fertilizer (the granules are about the size of b-b's) in a container with about a half gallon of water. After two days, even with periodic shaking it has not completely dissolved. Is it the case that if I am going to use a commercially blended fertilizer, that it should be water soluble ? Clearly all fertilizers must be water soluble otherwise the plant roots could not utilize the nutrients, right? So what is the difference, and what "type" should we be using in the Mittleider Method?

In response to the question above, about solubility of 16-16-16, let's discuss several aspects of what you are doing. First, if you are feeding seedlings, we never recommend more than one ounce per 3 gallons of water. More than that might burn your plants. Perhaps you were going to dump the 1/2 gallon of water into a 6 gallon bucket, after it was dissolved? If you are feeding plants in the garden, that is still far too strong, and you will be better off to put the materials on the ground and water them in. For example, 16 ounces placed on 30 feet of row is watered in with 15-18 gallons of water - 4 to 6 times, for a totalof 60 to 108 gallons for the 16 ounces, or one ounce of fertilizer per 4-7 gallons of water - does that make sense?

Next, whether the materials have, in fact, dissolved: Remember that 16-16-16 is only 48% mineral salts, and 52% inert carrying agent. Therefore, if the material is half-dissolved, it's likely that the mineral nutrients are dissolved, and you are seeing the inert carrying agent. However, if the materials have not dissolved at all, then you need to change what you are using and get something more readily water-soluble. Sometimes fertilizer companies will coat their products with a slow-dissolving cover, in order to be able to say their product is "slow-release", and supposedly somehow better. Don't buy that for vegetables!

What to Use For Fertilizing Vegetable Garden - Lawn Fertilizer?

I do not recommend using lawn fertilizers as Weekly Feed, because they have double the nitrogen and less than half the phosphorus and potassium that vegetables need. They are designed to make grass green, but not to grow healthy fruits and vegetables. Any mix - between 10-10-10 and 20-20-20 will do as a starting point. And if you can find a 2-1-2 ratio that's even better.

Beyond that I recommend you add 1# Epsom Salt, plus 1 ounce 20 Mule Team Borax for, 6# of NPK, for a good short-term solution

Or better yet, order the complete Micro-Mix from the Food For Everyone Foundation at www.foodforeveryone.org/store and have the real thing.

Of course you could mix your own from "scratch". The complete formula is on the website in the Learn section. Look at http://foodforeveryone.org/soil_bed_fertilizing/50/how-do-i-mix-the-weekly-feed-fertilizer.

Jim Kennard

Jim Kennard

Using The Mittleider Method Garden Master Software

For anyone who has the Mittleider Method Garden Master Software CD, please look on the FAQ pageon the website www.growfood.com for help with printing. The screen image of the Garden Plan Detail won't look like that if you hit Print, so you have to do Alt/PrintScreen and paste into your WP program to print it in that format.

If You Can't Find the Recommended Fertilizers

The Foundation Website has packets of micro-nutrients you can get if you don't have ready access to the pre-mixed nutrients. If you are in this boat, there may be an N,P,K mix that is close, that you can use with it. For example, in Salt Lake City the FredMeyer stores have ProPax 14-7-14 with Iron, by Martin Resources.They tout it for a Fall and Winter feeding, but it almost replicates exactly the Mittleider Magic Weekly Feed NPK ratios. Buy all you can find!!

What is the Best Nitrogen Fertilizer to Use on Vegetables?

In response to Sue, who asked me about the availability of ammonium nitrate (34-0-0 - NH4-NO3): It is probably the best nitrogen fertilizeer, because the NO3 is immediately available to your plants. And, in cold weather NH4 is not available, so if you only have 21-0-0 (NH4-SO3) the plants could starve with the nitrogen right there. However, ammonium nitrate can also be used to make explosives, and so some companies have stopped carrying it because of insurance cost increases, and some States may have even outlawed it. If that is the situation where you live, try for 21-0-0 - and hope the weather is warm enough for the nigrogen to be available to theplant.

Another nitrogen fertilizer is urea (46-0-0 - NH2-CO-NH2). This formof nitrogen is more difficult than either of the others for plants to use. That's because it has to go through several changes before it becomes available to the plant, and in the process of changing, muchof it is usually lost into the air. So DON'T BE FOOLED BY THE BIG NUMBERS into thinking this one is the best to use - it isn't so! IF YOU ARE HAVING TROUBLE FINDING STRAIGHT NITROGEN, JUST BUY A BLEND (16-16-16 OR SIMILAR) AND USE THAT WITH THE MICRONUTRIENTS AVAILABLE AT WWW.GROWFOOD.COM, AND EPSOM SALT FROM YOUR PHARMACY, FOR A DECENT WEEKLY FEED MIX.

Sunday, April 10, 2005

Day 1

Well I laid the beds out today :):) it feels good to be out in the sun.