Tuesday, January 19, 2010

How to setup a sustainable Mittleider garden soilbed.

First off, you MUST have direct sunlight all day long for vegetables to thrive. Therefore, use only the space that has no shade. And don't worry if it seems small! You'll grow twice the food in one fourth the space others are using, so just do it right in the space you

have. And actually, starting small is a good idea anyway! It's easier, more fun, and won't wear you out!

Level ground, or something with a slight Southern slope is best, in order to catch the sun's strongest rays, and to avoid rapid water run-off that will wash out your soil, seeds, and seedlings.

Begin by clearing your ground of EVERYTHING! No weeds, rocks, or anything else is allowed.

"Cleanliness is next to godliness" certainly applies here, and you surely want your garden to be a thing of beauty, as well as being productive!

Measure and stake the perimeter of your garden. This gives you an important starting point for figuring out how many soil-beds you can have, and then placing them properly. Let's use
25' X 35' as an example of what your garden area might be.

It doesn't really matter what direction your beds face, so far as sun exposure is concerned.

What does matter, though, is that the beds be level, and that you plant taller plants to the North or East of shorter plants. This is to assure that taller plants don't shade shorter
plants, and rob them of essential sunlight. So, align your beds to maximize those factors as
much as possible.

I'll assume we are able to run the beds lengthwise along the 35' dimension. Your soil-beds should be 18" wide and any length you choose. When you become experienced in this method of growing, and want to specialize in growing certain crops all the time, you may want to begin using 4'-wide beds, but let's stick to the best family garden layout for now.

The ideal size for aisles is 3.5', and since we have 25' width in our example garden, this

will give us 5 - 18" beds with 3 ' aisles. If you have only 23' you could get by with aisles a little narrower. But don't squeeze those aisles! You will be growing plants that need all of that space, and reducing the aisle space only leads to problems of not enough light and
air for your growing plants!

We'll make our beds 30' long. This leaves us 2.5' on each end of the garden for walking, and
30' is a good length, because it makes caring for the garden easy. More about that later.

Using 18"-long stakes, stake your 5 - 18" X 30' beds, with 4 stakes per bed.

Apply 32 ounces of the Mittleider Pre-Plant Mix, and 16 ounces of Weekly Feed Mix to the soil under your strings. This amounts to about 1 ounce and half ounce per running foot of
those VERY important natural mineral nutrients. Dig or till the soil of your soil-bed to a
depth of at least 8".

Then, using nylon string, tie strings between the stakes, to outline your soil-beds.
Begin making raised, ridged beds by pulling about 2+ inches of dirt from the aisles into the 18"-wide bed area under your strings. Smooth and level that dirt, and then check the level
of your bed area. It must be level to make watering easy and efficient, so don't ignore this
step! Move dirt from the high spots in your bed to the low spots, until your bed is no more
than one inch higher at the water-source end than the other end.

Make 4"-high ridges all around your bed by pulling soil from the center of the bed to just
beneath the strings. When you're finished you should have a planting area that is about 12"
wide and between 1 and 2" above the level of the aisles, with 4" ridges, the top of which
are 18" apart. Re-check the level of your planting area, and move soil as necessary to keep
the bed level from end to end.
Your Mittleider "Best of Organic" garden is now ready to plant!


Monday, January 18, 2010

Watering and leveling garden beds

> I water with the system through a garden hose (one hose per two 30 foot
> until I tie in to the water main for the sprinkler system I hope to finish
> this week) for 5 minutes twice a day (5am and 3pm), and feed regularly-
> every Friday. One thing I noticed with the garden hose pressure is that
> far ends don't get nearly as much water as the water source end does, but
> thought that once I get the system hooked up to my sprinkler system off
> water main it would remedy that. Also, having the water source at the end
> that is slightly low (off level) doesn't help. Perhaps I should move the
> source to the other end while I have trenches dug for the sprinkler pipe?
> perhaps just do a better job of leveling next year? Or wait for better
> pressure through my water main? Still, I would think 5 minutes twice a day
> would be sufficient, but than again, it is 5 minutes at a time on two 30
> foot zones from a garden hose. On the water source end it appears the
> get too much water, as the dam breaks regularly. Surely a good lesson on
> proper leveling, I guess. But I wonder if the water pressure has more
> on the varied end to end water amounts. The end you see that looked dry to
> you is obviously the far end- in respect to the water source. However,
> always look moist to me- at least on the surface. Deep down in the root
> may be another story.

You should by all means move your hoses to the high end of the beds. There
is no way to fight gravity, and your plants are suffering for water. I'd
also put 1-2" dams across the planting area every few feet, to try and keep
the water from all going to the low end. It does, indeed, graphically
illustrate the importance of leveling the beds.

You all will find that every one of Dr. M.'s instructions are like a part of
the Baker's recipe. And you just can't replicate the bread if you don't
strictly follow the recipe.