For 20 years I have owned a 3/4 acre parcel adjacent to Utah’s Hogle Zoo, where I have grown a vegetable garden using The Mittleider Method as taught in many of the developing countries around the world by Jacob R. Mittleider. Because Jacob was satisfied that my garden represented him well he let me put his name on it, so it is known as The Mittleider Garden at Utah’s Hogle Zoo.
During that time I was privileged to help Dr. Mittleider on a few projects, and during the past 7 years, with his blessing, I have conducted 9 projects in 6 countries myself.
The Hogle Zoo garden is always extremely productive, beautiful to look at, and a very popular unofficial “exhibit” with the 850,000 annual visitors to the zoo.
Over the years many people asked, as they visited over the fence, if I used the zoo animals’ manure, and I always told them no, that I used natural mineral fertilizers. But one day a lady piqued my interest when she said the Seattle Zoo sells their
composted animal manure to the public as “Zoo Doo.”
I decided to check this out, so I talked to the Seattle Zoo people and found they pile the manure in win-rows, turning them occasionally. And after about a year, they dry, bag, and sell it.
I decided I could make a lot better compost than what Seattle got by leaving manure out in the rain for a year. So I first bought a Compost Tumbler and learned the best procedures and mixes as I tested small batches. Very soon I had constant 140+ degree heat for 3 weeks, and produced beautiful, black, sweet-smelling compost.
I then acquired a full-size 10-yard cement truck and began doing large batches. With loads this size, they maintained temperatures of over 140 degrees for 3 weeks, and then cooled down for one week. And You’ve never seen such beautiful material – I really felt like I made the world’s best compost!
I obtained the right to use the Zoo-Doo name, bought bags, T-shirts, banners, cart, etc. and began selling at the Zoo gift shop and in the local nurseries. I ended up on TV and in the local newspapers, and became known as “The Zoo-Doo Man.”
Whenever I had more Zoo-Doo than I could sell, I would drive the cement truck down to my garden and off-load the batch over the wall. I then put it into several soil-beds and grew vegetables with it – to compare which was better – compost or the Mittleider natural mineral nutrients, which I’d been using all along. And I grew good stuff with my Zoo-Doo.
However, the most important thing I learned in that two-year experiment was not how to make and sell Zoo-Doo. I learned for myself that I could grow better vegetables more consistently, and with a lot less time, cost, and hassle, with just a few pounds of inexpensive natural mineral nutrients, than I could with truckloads of “the world’s best compost.”
I therefore continue to put good, clean organic materials back into the soil when they are available, but I KNOW that highly productive vegetable gardens are not dependent on improving the soil with organic material.