How Much You Need to Plant to Feed a Family
Are you planting a garden this year and you want to make sure that you plant enough to feed your family? Here’s my detailed plan and how to come up with your own!
How Much You Need to Plant to Feed a Family
I’ve been wanting to write a blog post like this for quite some time but I wasn’t really sure how to put it together. Yes, I’ve seen lists going around of exactly what plants to buy and how many you need to feed a family but I always wonder when I see those…how big of a family? What if a family doesn’t eat a certain way?
I’ve never seen a list that fits our family’s needs or likes so I’ve never been able to use something standard to come up with our garden plan to feed our family. In other words, if you came to this blog post looking for a list that you can just “plug and play” to your gardening plans, you aren’t going to find it.
What you will find is how to make your own list so that you can buy the right amount of seeds and plants and make sure that you will have enough space in your garden to plant the things that you need.
Some Guidelines of What Plants Produce
Let’s start with understanding better what a plant can produce. Each plant can produce a certain amount of pounds of food. Some plants just produce one of the things that you need. All plants are different. Here is a general list of what the most common types of garden plants can produce.
Lettuce – 1 Head per plant
Tomatoes – 5 to 10 pounds per plant
Cucumbers – 10 per plant
Radishes – 1 per seed (with 100% germination)
Beets – 1 per seed (with 100% germination)
Carrots – 1 per seed (with 100% germination)
Bell Peppers – 5 to 10 per plant
Hot Peppers – 20 to 50 per plant
Green Beans – 3 to 5 pounds per 10 foot row
Potatoes – 5 to 10 potatoes per plant
Onions – 1 bulb per seed or bulb sown
Zucchini – 6 to 10 pounds per plant
Acorn Squash – 4 per plant (same for other winter squash)
If you are looking for the yield of other varieties of plants, check out this list. The only thing to keep in mind is that some varieties will produce more than the average. You should be able to find out this information from the seed catalog that you are ordering from.
How to Estimate What You Need
This part can get a little tricky and you might not get it right the first time. However, as long as you are preserving your foods in some way, it’s better to overplant when you aren’t sure than to underplant and not have enough to feed your family. Here’s how to figure out how much you need to plant.
- Make a full list of the foods that your family eats and that you can grow in your garden. This likely won’t be a full list of all the foods your family eats (unless you also grow your own meats and spices), but do your best to make this a full list of the types of vegetables (and possibly fruits if you can grow them) that your family already eats on a regular basis.
- Use the list above to begin estimating how many plants you will need of each kind to feed your family until next summer. To do this you will also need to know which of the foods you are going to preserve and how. More on this shortly. Remember, that the list above is the AVERAGE of what each plant will produce. To be more certain, add a few extras of each plant to make sure that you will have enough.
Estimating can be tricky if you don’t know very well what your family eats on a regular basis and how much. This is the key to figuring out how much to plant though! If you don’t know about how many meals your family will eat of one item, this will be very difficult to do.
If you are really stuck on this part, here’s some examples to help you out.
Our family loves beets, if we have enough, we will probably eat them once a week as a part of a meal. We need at least 4 decent sized beets to make a side or to add to a meal. If I want us to eat beets (which I can stop in my root cellar or can) each week through the entire year, I will need to plant at least 208 beets to feed my family for the next year until the next crop will be ready. I will actually plant a few more than this just in case some do not come up.
Another example would be winter squash, something else we store in the root cellar. We eat 1 or 2 winter squash per week, however, they only last from the fall through early spring. If I need 2 squash a week to last me a total of 26 weeks, I’ll need to harvest a total of 52 squash. If each winter squash plant on average produces 4 squash, I will need to plant 13 winter squash plants to get the harvest that my family needs.
This sounds complicated but you can figure it out with a little time and effort!
My Garden Plants and Plans
Last year, I did not have a big enough garden to feed our family and that was totally fine with me. We were building our house and I simply didn’t have the time to put into a garden like that.
Reminder…if you want your garden to feed your entire family for a year, it IS going to take more effort than your standard kitchen garden. There will be many more plants to care for. Decide in advance what you will have time for and if this coming gardening season is too busy for you, don’t feel bad about also having to buy some from the farmer’s market or in bulk. Those are all viable options as well and many of us will have to do a mixture of options anyway since we can’t all grow everything we eat in our zone.
Our family loves fruit but we mostly have to grow berries and have just a few fruit trees. Since this is the case, I still will happily buy peaches, bananas, or other fruits I can’t grow in bulk to be able to preserve them for our family.
Getting back to the subject of this section, I’m now going to share with you my own garden plans for the coming summer. I apologize if they are a little complicated or don’t make much sense…I just wrote them up for myself to understand and to follow when the time comes for me to plant. Also, these of course, are based off my growing area and conditions (zone 4).
This is an overview of my garden for the summer. Each section represents a raised bed area. We are adding in several more this year to be able to produce a larger quantity and we are also adding wicking beds to try in our very dry climate.
Yes, I realize I’m not the best drawer ever. I don’t really care. This gets the job done and I can read it! 🙂
Here’s an up close image of my plans for some of the raised beds. I’ve mapped out exactly how much I can fit in each space according to the instructions on the seed packets. You will also notice that we are moving to poly cropping this year instead of monocropping to help with beneficial insects and to help keep the issues away.
Creating a garden to feed your family for the year is not a one-size-fits-all type of plan. It will take some careful planning and figuring out the details and honestly just really knowing your plants and your family’s needs.
That being said, it CAN be done! I hope that this helps give you a little clarity if this is your plan for your garden for the coming year.
Have you ever planted enough to feed your family for a full year? What are some factors that went into your decision? What tips can you share with others?
My dad had a roadside stand for sweet corn. So that added to the size of the garden. So about the only thing we had to buy was dairy and meat.
i like this way of planning how much a family needs of a specific vegetable based on what you actually use rather than some other arbitrary suggestion. the problem with any planting guide is always what will actually grow in any given year. Last year I couldn’t get beans to grow even though I planted several different varieties, but cucumbers and okra were bumper crops. Next year I might have more beans and less cucumber.
Last year (since I had hail and issues) I just compensated for that by buying the produce in bulk during the summer that we couldn’t grow. It wasn’t growing it ourselves obviously but at least we weren’t stuck with limited varieties. This year I’m trying to plan ahead by growing more varieties than I’ve ever done before just in case something happens to a few of them.
The draw up you have for your garden plans looks just like mine! Also we’ve got very similar garden layouts. I’m working up bumping the amount we grow and store this year as well, but I’m having a hard time creating enough compost to keep our garden fertile. So it’s inevitable that some beds will remain empty because they didn’t receive any fertilizer.
I’ve been collecting manure from the neighbor’s animals to turn it into compost 🙂 It’s rare that anyone says no to use helping to clean up a pasture!
I’m looking forward to building raised beds to see how much nore can be grown.
Im trying to grow in containers this year like carrots or potatoes
Thank you for taking the time to gather this information and share. It was a blessing with my garden planning stages.
Thanks. This gives me something to work on. It is just hubby and I so our gardening style is all our faves. My goal is to expand our growing into winter plus grow up a kitchen herb garden.
I’m looking forward to building raised beds to see how much more can be grown.
We’ve been canning for 20 years and I log how much we put up and then what is left before I start the next year. This gives me a count of what we need for our family. I usually can 6 to 12 pints extra at least. When I hit our family quota I then can for my mother in law to have too. I highly recommend a log. We do beans, corn, beets, salsa, tomatoes, pickles every year then throw in extra crops each year to mix it up.
Thank you for this post!! It’s so helpful. This year is our first year to really expand our garden to carry us longer. We are putting in raised beds and using large cattle feed tubs for tomatoes and peppers. Our family is growing this year so I really want lots of vegetables for all of us.
Do you have recipes for beets you could share or are there some in your book?