This season I studied the Mittleider gardening method and applied those concepts to my back yard garden. The method was developed by Dr. Mittleider over a period of time as he helped agriculturally depressed countries around the world to grow their own food.
The basic idea is simply to provide what plants need to grow. Plants need sunlight, water, nutrients, and warm temperature. If you provide an environment with these basics your plants will grow.
Dr. Mittleider refined the method to enhance yield and make the method simple.
The grow bed is an 18" wide 30' long row. Depending on plant size the 18" bed has two rows 12" apart for small plants, medium size plants are staggered in two rows, and large plants are planted in a single row inside the 18" x 30' grow bed.
Watering is confined to just the 18" x 30' row. the walk ways get no water. So a sprinkler is not recommended. I installed an automatic watering system that does just that and it works like a charm. The garden gets all the water it needs from running for 1 to 3 minutes a day. That's it.
An interesting concept of the Mittleider method is that the soil is not important and in fact it is recommended to use a sand sawdust growing medium. The reason for this is to provide a growing medium that is easily penetrated by the plants roots. You might ask, what about the nutrients the plants need to grow. In the Mittleider method all nutrients are provided by a weekly feed. To make a long story short, fertilizer. For you folks who are hung up on organic gardening I'll address that issue in another post.
The weekly feed fertilizer consists of a general purpose fertilizer with a small amount of trace elements added to provide a well rounded mix of everything a plants needs to grow and grow they will. I'm in Wisconsin so my general purpose fertilizer is just 10-10-10. I add to that a small packet of trace nutrients and that is my weekly feed.
My garden using the Mittleider method grows faster, grows bigger, and yields more vegetables than I have ever experienced.
I recently left the garden for a two weeks while I visited my Mom and family in Florida. Remember I have an automatic watering system. When I returned the garden was out of control. Tomato plants had grown from three feet high to over 6' high, yellow squash were the size of footballs, the three pumpkins I planted had over run half the garden, the cantaloupe and honey dews over ran the rest of the garden area. The cucumbers were just an inch long when I left and now there are 4 or 5 dozen giant cucumbers to deal with. Vegetables were over sized and everywhere. I didn't expect everything to grow so much and so fast. The weeds were thriving as well and had grown to knee high with some waist high. What a jungle I had when I returned.
I am now definitely an advocate of the Mittleider garden method.