The Mittleider Bengal System


The Mittleider method of square foot gardening was adapted by James Sholto Douglas as an inexpensive, easily constructed system designed to fit the growing conditions of Bengal India.

He was the author of several hydroponics books and wished to design a system that would grow vegetables in areas where conventional gardens would fail. And the system had to be constructed of local products...

mittleider grow box Impossible task? Maybe on the surface except he actually did it!

What he came up with was a grow box in traditional Mittleider style that was designed for intensive square foot gardening.

A traditional system can use soil as a growing medium with a regimen of extra fertilization to allow closer spacing of plants. The Bengal system, however, used rock chips and rock dust as a growing medium instead of soil.

Mr. Douglas constructed grow boxes from old packing crates and smashed rocks from the local hills to make chips and dust. He then filled his grow boxes with the smashed rocks and planted vegetables. These nifty little grow boxes were labeled 'hydroponicums'.

He made more boxes out of mud plaster and old, unused metal containers. The theory is that it does not matter what kind of container is used or what size it is and virtually anything can be used as a growing medium as long as it does not pack down around the plant's roots and it retains moisture.

I do not know what kind of fertilizer he used or whether it was organic or purchased. In any event, the experiment was a complete success and hydroponic gardens based on the Bengal system are still in use.

There were some important facts learned from the success of the Bengal system:

  • Hydroponics can be adapted for virtually any environment by using materials on hand,
  • Poor, underdeveloped areas can grow their own food successfully and easily with this system,
  • It is very cheap; not requiring any investment in large farm machinery or the personnel to run them,
  • This could be a workable method of agriculture for the world community,
  • This system can be adapted for anywhere including rooftops, deserts, apartments...

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