Garden Planning: How much will feed my family??

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Today as I was digging in my freezer it occurred to me, I have slacked significantly in the “putting food up” department. It is January, six months away from any sort of fresh produce coming off of my farm, and all I have in my freezer is corn.

This realization  of lack of veggies was perfectly timed with the onslaught of seed catalogs that I am sure the mail lady is thrilled to be cramming into my mailbox everyday, and a ridiculous level of cabin fever on my part following the polar vortex. All that combined resulted in throwing myself into garden planning.  And by “throwing” I mean called my friend,  talked about what she was doing, & set up a date for girls night out when we could discuss this garden thing further.

After my chat with my friend who was also fired up about a girls night out  large garden, I started wondering exactly how much needs to be planted in a garden to sustain a family for a year.

Ok, yes I live on a farm. Yes we grow stuff. I can fill my freezer with peppers, corn and tomatoes to my hearts desire. But variety is the spice of life, and lets face it there is only so much you can do with that stuff.  I work out some trades over the course of summer, you know some corn for some blueberries, tomatoes for carrots.  Farmers are pretty down with bartering. Unfortunately, I am so behind in some of my trades, if the other party was keeping track they would realize my yet to be grand-kids owe their grand-kids corn,  luckily, I am not sure if they are   But I digress

Grow Your Own, Garden Planting Planing to feed your family
Image courtesy Library of Congress

Turns out after some more phone calls, googling and a trip to the library there is no one exact answer on what should be planted to keep your family in homegrown veggies all year. There are just too many factors that need to be considered. Your families tastes, soil, and climate all come into play.

But I did come across an excellent starting point. A list compiled at New Life on a Homestead based on recommendations from Reader’s Digest Back to Basics. I think this list is a great reference to consider when planning your garden.  Keep in mind these are suggestions assuming you :

  1. Will be using some sort of long term food storage.
  2. Like beets… A LOT 

Feeding Your Family From Your Garden Planting Recommendations from Back to Basics

  • Artichokes: 1-4 plants per person
  • Asparagus: about 10-15 plants per person
  • Beans (Bush): about 15 plants per person
  • Beans (Lima): about 10-20 plants per person
  • Beans (Pole): 2-4 poles of beans per person (each pole with the four strongest seedlings growing)
  • Beets: about 36 plants per person.
  • Broccoli: 3-5 plants per person
  • Brussels Sprouts: 3-5 plants per person
  • Cabbage: 2-3 plants per person
  • Cantaloupe: figure on about 4 fruits per plant (estimate how much your family would eat)
  • Carrots: about 100 seeds per person (1/4 oz would be plenty for a family of six)
  • Cauliflower: 2-3 plants per person
  • Celery: 3-8 plants per person
  • Collards: about 5 plants per person
  • Corn: start out with 1/2 lb. seeds for the family and adjust as needed
  • Cucumbers: 3-6 plants per family
  • Eggplant: 3-6 plants per family
  • Kale: 1 5’ row per person
  • Lettuce: 4-5 plants per person
  • Melons: 2-6 plants per person
  • Okra: 3-4 plants per person
  • Onions: 12-15 plants per person
  • Parsnips: 12-15 plants per person
  • Peas: about 120 plants per person
  • Peppers: 3-5 plants per person
  • Potatoes: 75-200 lbs per person
  • Pumpkins: 1 plant per person
  • Radishes: (succession plant these) 2’ per person
  • Rhubarb: 2-3 crowns per person
  • Spinach: about 15 plants per person
  • Summer Squash (including Zucchini): about 10 per family
  • Sweet Potatoes: about 75 plants per family
  • Tomatoes: about 20 plants per family
  • Turnips: about 1/4 lb seeds per family
  • Watermelon: about 1/2 oz. seeds per family
  • Winter Squash: 2 plants per person

So after checking out this list I did decide this year I definitely want to put about 15 Cauliflower plants in, and 20 broccoli plants. Based on our eating habits and that seems to be the right amount for fresh eating and storing for later. But I am also going to be trying some new stuff in smaller quantities, to see how it goes before I dive right in.

I am still working on my planting list, but I will share it with you once I figure it out. My kitchen garden is getting a complete overhaul this year. I have decided I am much more diligent about general garden maintenance if the garden serves a purpose besides being pretty, so I will be expanding my herb plantings into what was a large flower bed.  

Gardening to feed your family for a year. Some basic recommendations.

Do you plan your garden to provide for your family for the whole year? How much and what do you plant? 

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  1. Thanks for this list. Very helpful! I moved to a house with a quarter-acre plot in 2016 but my health didn’t allow me to work outside until this past spring. I’m hoping to install some raised beds, primarily for vegetables. I’ve tried to think about what to plant, not only in terms of my ability to maintain the garden, but what I enjoy (I”m gardening for one!), what is (to me) ridiculously expensive at the grocery store, and what is generally poor quality at the grocery store (like tomatoes). I’m excited, and trying not to go off the deep end and end up with more than I can take care of, or, if all goes well, more than I can use. I’m especially looking forward to growing tomatoes, sugar snap peas, snow peas, and broccolini. One thing I’m having a real challenge with is when and how to plant for successive harvesting: not things like radishes, where you sow seeds every two weeks or so. But, for example, planting a cool-weather crop like spinach, then a warm season crop for summer harvest, then a cool season again for a fall harvest. Again, thanks for sharing this list.

  2. Hi there, How are you storing everything? Seems like that much food would overwhelm your freezer. And how are you keeping the melons? I super appreciate you writing this trying to figure out how to store for the year is a little confusing 🙂 thanks again

  3. Thank you this was very helpful. We don’t live on a farm but we do have a vegetable patch as well as too much lawn (in my opinion), which I am always negotiating with the rest of the family to root up and replace with more useful and environmentally friendly fruit trees, herbs, veg., etc. I will be able to use the provided list as motivation for my family in order for us to plant more vegetables.