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Do you experience garden planning overwhelm each year when deciding how much to plant per person in the garden? Well, you are not alone.
Each spring garden season when planning the garden, I experience this sense of overwhelming indecisiveness. There is always an uncertainty if I will hit the mark or will I be scurrying around trying to fix my mistakes.
How much should I plant to feed my family? For us, this number is 6. But for you, the number may be a family of 4, or twelve, or…… you get the picture. Will I have enough space? Do we need that this year?
The truth is there is no decisive ‘real answer’ to these questions. And figuring out how much to plant to feed your family can seem impossible. But, I have a plan for us.
I’ve written this post in an attempt to help summarize how much to plant per person for your size family. So what size garden do you need to feed a family of 4 or 6 or 12?
I’ve included a formula to help. And then keeping notes or records year after year will help as well. And after you have a few seasons under your belt you will feel more at ease when it’s time to plan for next season’s garden.
How Much To Plant Per Person
Planning a garden to feed a family for the year does take some practice. I will not tell you that you’ll figure it out in one season. But keeping organized notes you’ll find the anxiety becoming less and less.
The answer to these questions depends on several factors. Figuring them out is the tricky part. But you can do it.
How Much Space Do You Have?
How much you can grow will depend on the size and layout you have available. So growing a kitchen garden or even a canning garden takes some planning.
Consider the space it takes to grow vegetable varieties. Then you can do companion planting, container gardening, and succession planting as well.
Landscape gardening is an idea for urban homesteaders who garden in the front yard or a small space. You can grow herbs and even tomatoes as edible landscapes.
If you have limited space, decide on your most loved crops first. And then grow less loved crops last.
What Grows Well In Your Climate?
You’ll need to do some research to determine what grows well in your zone. You can find this information online.
To find your area gardening zone. Type in your zip code, city, and state use the words average first and last frost date and gardening zone. The answer will be specific to the information entered.
If you live in an area with a short growing season, you may not be able to grow okra. But if you live in an area with a long growing season, as we do, it would be no problem.
What Does Your Family Like To Eat?
Before anything, the first thing to do is a pantry inventory.
- What do you currently have in the pantry?
- What do you buy now that you’d like to cut from the grocery budget? Write these down. We will use this as a guide.
Only grow what your family will eat. Don’t get caught up in the gorgeous images on Instagram and Youtube.
If your family will not eat beets, then don’t grow them, there is no reason to.
Do You Plan to Grow For Both Eating Fresh & Canning Too?
If there are vegetables you have no plans of canning or storing over winter, then no need to grow extra.
In this scenario, you could plan to grow lettuce in both spring and fall. But in the fall garden, plan to grow less lettuce, and add broccoli for freezing.
Broccoli can endure colder temperatures than lettuce. So if space is small, think about what you can do in successive planting to save space.
So for the vegetables, you plan on both eating fresh in season and preserving, you’ll need to plan to grow more.
RELATED: Take the guesswork out! Use the easy formula worksheets in The Canning Garden Workbook (printable) to figure out how much to plant, for canning, to feed your family for a full year!
What Does Your Family Eat In Larger Quantities?
Think about a typical week for the year as a whole. Beyond the growing season and into the fall and winter.
- How many times a week do you eat a certain crop?
- Is it a vegetable that’s used in many dishes or ways?
For example, potatoes. They are delicious any meal of the day: breakfast, lunch, or dinner. In our house potatoes are more of a staple since they are used in many ways.
You can bake or fry them with onions. Mashed or canned and used in winter soups and stews or frozen as hashbrowns. But then, if you grow several pounds as we do, you will plan for storing them as well.
Tomatoes are another vegetable used a lot! Not only are they delicious for eating fresh or in a salad. They are canned whole or with garlic and herbs, used for making spaghetti sauce & pizza sauce, salsa, and so on. We grow a lot of tomatoes and use a lot of them too.
What Do You Need Extra For Preserving?
So now, go back to the pantry inventory you have and make a list of the vegetables you use in more than one way. Think of all the different meals and dishes you use them in and write it down – make list.
This will help when deciding how much to plant per person for canning. If you use a lot of a certain food, I’d suggest you grow more than what the charts suggest.
I’ve designed this chart to be a guide. Numbers are based on the amount it takes to preserve and last for a year. As mentioned, if you plan to eat fresh as well, I’d suggest you grow more than the suggested amounts.
Formula – How Much to Plant Per Person For A Year Food
Let’s do the math. It’s not as hard as it sounds.
For example, Green Beans (snap beans) – Use this formula
1) Average Pounds Eaten Weekly x Number of Weeks = Total Pounds Needed
2) Number of Pounds Needed ÷ Pounds per Plant = Number of Plants Needed
The way you will find how many pounds a plant produces is by doing an online search. In the search bar type – “how many pounds does a _____________ plant produce” and you will find a very close average. (fill in the blank)
If your family eats 1 quart of green beans a week, there are 52 weeks in the year. So you will need 52 quarts of canned green beans. I know by searching the internet, a green bean plant produces, on average, ½ – ¾ pounds of green beans.
Now granted, not every plant will produce top quality. And others will produce even more, so use these as an average.
So for our green bean example:
2 lbs = 1 qt So fill in the formula like this:
1) Pounds ate weekly (2 lbs) x number of weeks (52) = 104 pounds of green beans needed for the year.
2) Number of pounds needed (104) ÷ pounds per plant (½) = 52 plants.
So to grow enough green beans to feed your family for a year, you’ll need to grow 52 plants. But for good measure, I always grow more. Some for eating fresh and others for gifting.
And remember, not every plant is going to produce well, so grow extra to be safe. If you don’t want to gift them, it’s a good way to earn some extra income on your homestead.
If you can’t grow all your vegetable needs, don’t worry. Make a list of what you can grow and then plan to buy locally from your farmer’s market or farm stands. Unless you have unlimited space and not many do, it’s ok to buy local to fill the gaps.
Other Spring Gardening Posts:
- How to Start Seeds Indoors
- Best Seed Catalogs for Heirloom Seeds
- How to Build Raised Beds Cheaply
- How to Improve Soil Quality
- What is Healthy Soil
- How to Start a Garden