Mittleider Garden Preparation
It is a beautiful day and the weather is perfect for setting up the raised beds in preparation for planting next week. Today I will be laying out the garden and building the grown boxes. Tomorrow I will add the growing medium – a combination of sand and sawdust – along with the pre-plant and weekly feed fertilizers.
There will be three beds laid out in accordance with the Mittleider gardening method. That is 30 feet long and 18 inches wide. Two of the beds will have supports for growing vertically. The third bed will be used to grow bell peppers and other plants that don’t need vertical support.
The first steps in Mittleider garden preparation were taken care of earlier this year. You can see that post via the link at the bottom of this page. The first step in today’s work was to get some supplies. I went to Lowes and picked up the wood for the basic boxes. I already had the 4×4’s for the supports on hand. I also picked up the rest of the materials I need to make the watering system. I’ll write about that in another post.
Before I actually construct the grow boxes I need to prepare the ground where it will go. It is very important that the ground be level inside and outside the bottom of the grow box. That’s why I went through the trouble and expense of using the Kubota.
The second step is to stake out the corners of the overall garden and then establish the location of the corners of the grow-boxes with cords and stakes. For my garden, the overall dimensions are 20 feet by 40 feet. This will give me a five-foot aisle at each end and three and one-half feet between each grow-box.
Each box is thirty feet long and 18 inches wide. You can see the first one is complete in this picture. That’s as far as I got today – hence the change to the title of this post. It’s supposed to rain for a couple of days so I’ll work on this as I can.
These were my supervisors
The next two boxes were a little trickier to build because I needed to install the 4×4 T-posts. To do this, I laid out the boxes and then dug the holes for the 4×4’s. Then I assembled the T-posts, double checked to make sure the T-posts were level and plumb, and then screwed them into the 2×8’s. The inside of these boxes are prepped identically to the first one; level the ground and fertilize with pre-plant mixture.
Building the T-posts is not really difficult, but it is time-consuming. Digging the 15-inch deep holes in Arkansas rocky soil is a lot more work. I rented a one-man post hole digger from Home Depot and got the job done in 4 hrs. Here’s what the finished boxes with T-posts installed look like.
Building the grow boxes with the T-posts is definitely a two person job. It is possible to do it alone – I did these by myself. However, it would be a lot faster and less frustrating if you have a helper.
The next step for these boxes is to put pre-plant fertilizer in the bottom. The pre-plant fertilizer is a mix of Lime, Epsom Salts, and Borax in specific ratios. I mixed up a large batch using 20 pounds of Lime, 1 pound of Epsom Salts, and 1/4 pound of Borax. This mixture is applied one ounce per linear foot.
The light at the end of the tunnel is getting closer. Once the pre-plant is in I will fill the boxes with the custom soil mixture recommended by the Mittleider Gardening Method. This is 1/3 course sand 2/3 sawdust. You fill the box alternating between the sand and the sawdust and then till it all together with a light-weight tiller like the Mantis, or by hand using a shovel and rake.
I got my sand from a local sand and gravel company. The sawdust I got free from a company that builds pallets. For three beds, I needed one cubic yard of course sand and three cubic yards of sawdust. Sand and sawdust make the perfect growing medium for most plants. It provides all five functions necessary for healthy plant growth:
- Anchor the plants – provide a firm foundation for growth and development
- Retain and release moisture
- Retain and release oxygen
- Retain and release nutrients
- Help control temperature – keep plants cool in the summer and warm in the winter
What sand and sawdust lack is nutrition and we provide that with the weekly feed. Before we transplant the seedlings we will apply the weekly feed fertilizer at a rate of 1/2 ounce per linear foot. The weekly feed recipe is:
- 25 pounds of All Purpose Fertilizer (13-13-13 up to 17-17-17)
- 4 pounds Epsom Salts
- One (10 ounce) packet of Mittleider Micronutrients (click to order online)
- 3 pounds garden lime/gypsum or 1/2 pound of Perlite to control moisture
Once this is mixed into the soil, it is time to level the soil inside the boxes. Now these boxes are “beds” and ready for planting. However, before we do that we need to construct the watering system to ensure even watering directly to the roots of each plant. I’ll build the watering system later this week and post an update worth pictures and instructions. Until then, have a great day and thanks for stopping by the Ten Mile Farm and Market.
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