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by Lauren at Modern Self-Reliance
It’s near seed starting time, and the perfect time to plan out my summer garden. I rent a plot from the community garden that is 800 square feet (oddly the same size as my apartment). This is not enough to provide our needs, but does well for us. Part of the learning plan for this garden is to learn how much I need to plant, based on % crop loss, our eating habits, yield per plant, my growing abilities, etc. I am using this time while I live in an apartment and use the community garden as a time to experiment and collect data on how I want to set up my own garden when I eventually have my own land.
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In the days of subsistence farming, the answer to this question was passed down from generation to generation. But today, this seems like an important question. How much do I need to plant if I want to live out of my garden for the whole year?
My method to answer this questions for your family
Step One: How much do you use in a week?
For the example of carrots: I use 2-3 commercial carrots per week. In a year (52 weeks) I need 104-156 commercial carrots. I can assume that carrots I grow many be smaller than commercial carrots so I will plan for 3-4 of my carrots per week resulting in 156-208 of my carrots.
Step Two: How much product does one plant yield?
This question is easy for a plant like carrots; one carrot plant yields one carrot. However, for a plant like tomatoes, the question of yields comes down to many factors: type/species of tomato, the skill of the gardener, the weather that year, the pests that year, etc. After the summer, I will post my specific yields.
Step Three: Gardening for unpredictability: expect 10% loss
If I was a subsistence farmer, I would need to plant much more that I needed to account for crop loss. I will guess at 10% crop loss, I am sure large scale growers experience more loss but I try to harvest on time and can pay more attention to my crops because I don’t have acres and acres to care for. There are ways to mitigate loss, like starting seeds inside, using row covers, (using pesticides), using fertilizer, etc. Take my carrot example of 156-208 carrots and multiple 156-208 by 1.1. This gives me the need to plant 172-228 carrots.
Step Four: Only plant what you eat
This seems obvious to me, but I also feel like it needs to be said. Many gardeners will offer advice like: “Start with lettuce, it’s easy to grow.” But if you don’t like lettuce, don’t grow lettuce! Lettuce may be easy to grow, but it will be a waste of space (and effort) if your family won’t eat it. If your family doesn’t eat it now chances are when it is home-grown from the garden, they still won’t eat it. (Of course, produce grown from your garden may taste better than store bought produce, and your family may still not eat it.)
What do I plan to grow in my future dream garden?
Of course, at the end of the day you can always turn to a handy website to give a rough outline of what they plant/use to feed their family. I have included below, a plan for a family of 2. You can scale to your family. Not all of these I have planted in my community garden, but I work on these estimates based on our eating habits and growing skills continually.
Family of 2
|Acorn Squash||4 plants|
|Brussel Sprouts||3 plants|
|Bush Beans||160 plants|
|Butternut Squash||4 plants|
|Hot peppers||12 plants|
|Pole Beans||4 plants|
|Spaghetti Squash||4 plants|
|Summer Squash||3 plants|
|Sweet Peppers||12 plants|
|Sweet Potatoes||10 plants|
|White Potatoes||60 plants|
It uses to be that tomato seeds were tomato seeds, but today there are many different options. I don't mean different species, but how the seed was grown. Non-gmo seeds means that no one went in and messed with the generic make-up of the plant. Heirloom varieties are older, less refined plants that our ancestors would recognize. They may not produce perfect round shapes but are known to produce year after year. Organic seeds are ones that were grown without pesticides.
I prefer to choose seeds that are all three types. I want a hardy plant that hasn't been modified as much. I want a plant whose seeds will be fertile to grow next season and I want seeds that don't come with chemicals already inside them. So I choose High Mowing Organic Seeds. They are local to Vermont, which is local to me, meaning I know these seeds will grow in my soil. I also like supporting local business over big companies. However, you can find their products on Amazon which makes it easy. Check out their seeds here.
When in doubt, plan to have 52 quarts of everything! That way each week of the year, you will have one of everything! Want to learn to preserve your harvest too?
What works for your family? Are there vegetables you love that aren’t on this list? Thanks for stopping by!
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