~This blog is brought to you by Grace Quarer at Park Seed~

Trying to figure out how much food to grow for your household is not as simple as it may seem. It really takes a few seasons to get it right and, then, there are still variables. The first decision you have to make is what do you want from your garden? Some gardeners are hoping they can provide fresh vegetables for their family during the growing season. They are not interested in preserving food to use throughout the year. Other gardeners are concerned about food security and are willing to commit the time required to preserve as much of their family’s food needs as possible.

Things to consider when growing food for your household

The size of your garden is one determining factor. Are you willing and able to increase the size of your garden? Is there another area of your yard that could also be used to garden in? A trellis added on the side or back of your garage or garden shed could provide a good spot for vertical gardening. Is there an area that has good sunlight exposure that could be used for growing berries? If there is no additional space to grow in, it will be important to use as many gardening techniques as possible to gain the most benefit from every bit of your garden. Companion planting–where you plant two vegetables in the same space–is an example. Plant radishes with your carrots. The radishes will be harvested before the carrots need the space. Plant organic herbs like basil between the tomatoes. Plant a spring crop of peas, and when they are harvested follow with a fall crop of broccoli. Try to plan your garden so that there is never an unused area. Make use of vertical growth when possible. Cucumbers and squash take very little garden space if grown vertically instead of spreading on the ground. Make use of the vegetable planting guide. Consider using row covers to allow you to plant sooner in the spring and continue growing later into the fall. All these techniques can significantly increase the amount of food you can grow.

The next factor is how you are going to preserve the food you grow beyond daily use. If you prefer freezing over canning, you will need more space than a refrigerator freezer. If you are going to can, you need plenty of shelf space for all the jars. Consider how much of each vegetable you like to use at a time. If you like to cook in large batches, quart jars make sense. If you cook just what you need to give each family member a single serving, pint jars may be a better choice. Actually measuring the amount of each vegetable you currently serve is really helpful when you preserve the food from your garden.

Keep a good garden record book of what you grow each year. Note what variety you plant and how much you plant. If you are preserving food, keep track of how much you put in each freezer bag and how many bags you froze–or if canning, the size of the jars and how many.

In other words, let’s say you planted five regular tomato plants. Your goal is to provide your family’s needs over the year. Keep a record of how many jars of tomatoes you canned in addition to the tomatoes that were eaten while the plants were producing. Did you have enough to last until the following year’s tomatoes were being picked? Or were you out of canned tomatoes by February? Adjust the number of tomato plants you grow based on the information you recorded.

Keeping track of the amount of a given vegetable you typically serve at a meal is also helpful. Some gardeners like to freeze their vegetables in the amount they serve for their family, while others just have large freezer bags or containers of green beans from which they take what they need each time until used up. Either method works. Keeping track is especially helpful if you have growing children. A teenage boy definitely eats more than a toddler. Also, as children grow, they are usually interested in eating more types of vegetables, especially if they helped grow them. You may need to add to the amount you grow and serve each year as your children grow.

Lastly, do not waste garden space growing food you don’t like. If no one in your family will eat it, there is no point in growing it. However, remember that the organic vegetable seeds that were sown in your garden grow into vegetables that you pick and immediately serve. This tastes very different from the same vegetable that has been picked a week or more before you purchase it at the grocery store. Also, the grocery vegetables are chosen for their ability to ship and last a longer time. There are lots of other varieties that may be more appealing to your family. So, try a plant or two of different varieties or new-to-you vegetables. You may discover a new favorite and it’s part of the fun of gardening.

When looking at the chart for how much to grow of each vegetable to last for the year, keep in mind the variables that have already been mentioned. Also, think about your eating patterns and modify the amounts accordingly. If you are on a special diet where certain foods are restricted, you will need less. Do you like to juice? Do you include vegetables in all your meals or only for dinner? This chart shows the recommended amount to plant per person per year.

Artichokes: 1-4 plants

Asparagus: 5 plants

Beans, Bush: 10-15 plants

Beans, Lima: 10-15 plants

Beets: 10-20 plants

Broccoli: 8 plants

Brussels Sprouts: 5 plants

Cabbage: 5 plants

Carrots: 10-40 plants

Cauliflower: 3-5 plants

Celeriac: 1-5 plants

Celery: 3-8 plants

Chard: 2 plants

Corn: 15-40 plants

Cucumbers: 5 plants

Eggplant: 1 plant

Kale: 1 five-foot row

Lettuce: 10-12 plants

Melons: 2-6 plants

Onions: 30-80 plants

Peas: 25-60 plants

Peppers: 5-8 plants

Potatoes: 20-30 plants

Pumpkins: 1 plant

Rhubarb: 2-3 crowns

Spinach: 10-20 plants

Sweet Potatoes: 5 plants

Tomatoes: 5 plants

Remember: You might not plant enough the first year, but keep track of your harvest and consumption and you’ll have the perfect amount each year to feed your whole household.