Is your garden soil great? Does it produce an abundant crop for you without any great effort on your part? We were once told “By the sweat of thy face shalt thou eat thy bread . . “, and with several thousand years’ rain, snow, wind, and crops removing the minerals from the land, we very rarely see fertile ground anymore.
So, how do you get your ground to consistently grow a large crop of healthy vegetables – there must be a way! Let me tell you some of my experience with this important question.
For 20 years I owned a 3/4 acre parcel adjacent to Utah’s Hogle Zoo, in Salt Lake City, where I grew a vegetable garden using The Mittleider Method as taught in many of the developing countries around the world by Dr. Jacob R. Mittleider. To receive Dr. Mittleider’s Gardening Basics Course e-book free, visit the Charitable Foundation’s website at http://www.foodforeveryone.org.
For any years I was privileged to help Dr. M. on a some of his projects, and in the past 20 years, with his blessing, I’ve conducted quite a few myself, including Turkey, Armenia, Georgia (Republic), Madagascar, Colombia, and the Philippines. My Zoo garden was always extremely productive, rather nice to look at, and a very popular unofficial “exhibit” with the 700,000+ annual visitors to the zoo.
Many people asked, as they visited over the fence, if I used the zoo animals’ manure, and I always told them no, that I use natural mineral nutrients. But then 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 called and talked to them and found they pile the manure in win-rows in the forest near the zoo, 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 it 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, using the manure from 7 of the large herbivores. Very quickly I learned how to compost aerobically by maintaining the mix at a constant 140+ degree heat, and after 3 weeks I had beautiful, black, sweet-smelling compost.
I thought this was great, but there was nowhere near enough compost to take care of my large garden, so I then acquired a 10-yard cement truck and began doing large batches. With loads this size, they maintained temperatures 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 was making 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 the local TV and in the newspapers, and became known as “The Zoo-Doo Man.”
Whenever I had more 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, smell, and hassle, with a few pounds of inexpensive natural mineral nutrients, than I could with truckloads of “the world’s best compost.”
I therefore continue to use good, clean organic materials when they are available, but I know that highly productive vegetable gardens are not dependent on improving the soil with organic material.
Another side benefit is that we were able to avoid any insect or disease infestations (often introduced by compost) in those 20 years, and so I almost never have to use pesticides or herbicides in my gardens.