by Chantal L
- Closer plant spacing allows for more plants in less area
- The vertical growth of the plant maximizes light availability
- In theory, this method uses little water as only the root systems are to be watered
- Soil mixture and nutrients can be stored long-term
- Works for any conditions or climate
- It is promoted that it can be used by any skill level
- This method can be adapted in parts to be utilized with other methods
- Soil nutrient depletion and crop rotation can be avoided
- Obtaining the structural requirements, specific growing substrate and fertilizers could be a financial and transport issue for many people
- The gardens are not portable if used to the method specifications
- This method is claimed to be organic, however, it is widely discussed online that the structural materials, substrates, and feeding solutions are not organic
- The garden beds need to be constantly maintained with the plant feeding mixture, it is not a set and forget method
About the Mittleider Gardening Method
The Mittleider gardening method was developed by Dr Jacob Mittleider, who aimed for a method that would be high yielding and could be used in a diversity of countries (it is currently documented as being used in 27 different countries), conditions and be able to be an accessible and natural method to grow food. It is a very successful method of high yielding crop production in many countries and I believe this to be an excellent method and it has its place in both small and large-scale agriculture.
The idea of this method is it aims to combine the best of both soil gardens and hydroponic gardens, being that everything that the plant needs is coming from a nutrient fed to the plant weekly rather than from the substrate.
Mitteleider: The substrate that the plants are to be grown in is very light with little density and a ratio of high water holding capacity and good drainage. The plant nutrients come from the specific plant food mix which is needed to be added at the start of the planting and then weekly throughout the growth cycle of the plants.
Hydroponic: The substrate that is used in hydroponics is light in texture and density and has little to no water holding capacity. Root growth is encouraged away from the substrate into the water, this water has a hydroponic nutrient that is to be replenished weekly. The water in a hydroponic system can be static, circulating or mist style. The water/nutrient mixture falls by gravity back to a holding tank and is recirculated back to the root systems by a pump.
So how do you use this method, as the method is intended?
- A bottomless plant frame, the grow boxes are ideal at 4-foot x 30 foot and 8 inches deep. The width of the beds (4 foot) is to allow access to the entire garden bed from either side. OR raised soil beds that are 18 inches wide, 30 feet long and 8 inches deep. The grass is to be removed from under the intended garden bed. Chose a sunny location with water close by.
The ground (where the grass has been removed) is to be sprinkled with agricultural lime or gypsum and also sprinkled with the prepared ‘pre-plant mix’ (see details below).
3: The grow boxes or raised beds are filled or tilled with the growing medium (see details of the mix ratios are below)
4: When the grow boxes and beds have been filled with the soil mixture, level the soil off and make a ridge down the center of the soil as an irrigation channel.
5: Install preferred irrigation systems, this method encourages that that watering is directed at the root systems of the plants. (see below link to a PDF on this topic)
6: Install structures for vertical growth of plants, this will be specific to your own requirements of plants, space, and budget. Enclosed greenhouses are also an option. ‘T’ style frames are promoted to in using the Mittleider method to enable vertical growth that can cater for high and fast growth rates of the plants.
7: Selected and appropriate plants placement, the substrate is to be conditioned with the pre-plant mix and the weekly feeding mix prior to the plants going in the grow beds.
Mittleider soil mixture:
The method recommends using: Sawdust, perlite, builders sand, peat moss and/or styrofoam pellets. Most of the mixture ratios are based on using 50-75% of sawdust or peat moss (these have good water retaining capacity) and then 25-50% of a substrate that has very little or no water holding capacity, which would be the sand, perlite or styrofoam pellets.
There are many adaptions available online depending on what is available in your local area, but the theme of what is being used is to use a growing medium that is light, airy and organic in the above ratios that have good water holding ability or good drainage.
Mittleider feeding mixture:
The method recommends using their proprietary blend which can be purchased from the food for everyone foundation. The proprietary blend is to be mixed with several commercially available agricultural products. Many online discussions use this as their own adaption:|
- ‘Pre-plant mix’: 80 parts agricultural lime, 4 parts Epsom salts, 1 part Borax
- ‘Weekly feed mix’: 6 pounds of 13-13-13* or 16-16-16 fertilizer, 1 pound Epsom salts, 5 grams borax
- The weekly fertilizing recommendation is ½ ounce per foot per week of the garden bed.
How can this method be of benefit to a prepper:
Primarily high yielding, high growth rate and multiple cropping per year. Once the grow beds are installed, apart from the plants, the requirements are water and the feed mixes. It is anticipated that in theory if you were maintaining about three grow beds, a 20-gallon bucket of the pre-mixed feed mix could last about two years.
There are obviously many variables to this including rainfall, individual plant requirements, and storage supplies getting compromised. The exact storage is out of the scope of this article as I personally have not got a supply of these items nor used the method as the method is intended.
You can see this method in action, by avid users of the method by looking at the Youtube channel of LDS Prepper. The instructional will take you through all of the steps and show the high yielding results and there is an instructional on their storage methods.
My own adaption of the Mittleider Method:
I have used the principals of the soil mixture, with both moisture retaining ability and good drainage. What I have changed is I have used 25% worm castings for plant nutrition, I soaked water holding crystals in worm juice which makes up about 10% of the mixture this will be ongoing nutrition for the plants. Then I used 30% vermiculite and 35% peat moss.
So, in theory, this mixture should feed the plants, retain moisture and have good drainage. It is also light and airy enough to allow for good root growth rates.
The planter that I have used has five self-watering cascading pots, to date, it has required maintaining this about every 5-10 days with water and commercial hydroponic nutrient. The growth rates are much faster than growing in the traditional potting mix.
The Mittleider method is promoted by ‘The Food For Everyone Foundation’ and further resources are available for purchase from their website: foodforeveryone.org. This is a link to view one chapter of the ‘The Mittleider Gardening Course’ e-book (PDF)“. The course e-book can be purchased online for $14.95 which is complete course and details for using this system.
I have purchased the ebook, it is well written and laid out with useful diagrams. It has a lot of information and troubleshooting on plants, diseases, insects etc as well as plans to build the grow boxes and vertical structures. It is $14.95 well spent.