One of the annual challenges to planting a garden is deciding just how much to plant of what in order to get the right amount. The truth of this situation is that there is no steadfast method as weather events can cause severe crop losses, people eat different amounts, and someone might disproportionately favor one crop (tomatoes, for example) over another (say, eggplant). If tomato sandwiches are going to feature daily this summer, obviously one would plant more tomatoes than eggplants.
Thus, in order to make a plan for just how much of what to plant, it’s is better to get some semblance of what crop plants are likely to produce, considering all conditions. Furthermore, gardeners will have to tailor to their own particular tastes. There’s no use planting a row of okra if that’s not something that’ll feature in dishes. Instead, use that space for something that’ll make it on to the dinner plate.
Now, You May Ask Yourself…
Before settling on any numbers or even looking at them, it’s important to go through an honest assessment of whom this food is for and where it is being grown.
That means recognizing what a family likes to and doesn’t like to eat. It means paying special attention to what people really like to eat and growing that in larger quantity. It requires considering the age, size and appetite of individuals so that average yields can be levied appropriately. Is this just for seasonal eating or are there aspirations for preserving some for the winter?
Also, we have to consider the garden. We must accept the limitation of the overall size of a garden and decide which veggies take priority. We have to think of the climate and what grows best where we are. It’s best to grow what’s easiest and to grow what we’ll likely look to eat often first, and the other plants can fill in as space allows. For example, loose-leaf lettuce would probably be harvested daily, but cauliflower is going to take a long time to get one head. So, go for the loose-leaf first: It’ll put you in the garden more often and will provide food over a longer expanse of time.
Getting Down to the Details
Finding a chart only requires a web search, but there are some other things to be aware when planning a garden.
- Timing is really important. Some veggies will prefer to grow in the shoulder seasons—spring and fall—while others will require a completely frost-free lifestyle. Classic crops like green beans, cucumbers, tomatoes and corn are going to need summer weather. Most leafy vegetables, however, tend to perform great in the cooler weather. In other words, these might be able to grow in the same space at different times.
- Sizing matters as well. One squash plant is going to require much more space (and provide much more food) than one arugula plant. The rule of thumb is that one or two summer squash plants are enough to supply a person for an entire year. In contrast, arugula is rated at five plants per person.
- Sharing garden space is another relevant factor. Some plants make great companions. Some don’t get along at all. In other words, if tomatoes are high priority and space is limited, that means potatoes (not good to plant together) might not make the cut. However, garlic and basil can share space with tomatoes because the cooperate and occupy different areas vertically.
Again, the best plan is always the one that’ll get you eating more from the garden more often, and that, in turn, will make the garden more productive because it’ll mean being out there to pull a weed while picking a couple of cucumbers or noticing some aphids while looking for ripe tomatoes.
By the Averages
Anyway, here are some of the basics for popular crops, but of course, there is experience-based advice to be had for growing anything from fava beans to horseradish to rice. The veggies selected here are likely (and recommended) to be found in a backyard garden, and the numbers are meant to supply a year’s worth of food for a middling appetite for something, split between eating it fresh and preserving some of it. It will have to be adjusted for preferences, eating habits and overlap, i.e. arugula and lettuce are used similarly so having both might reduce the number of plants needed.
Cool-Weather Plants per Person
- Arugula – 5
- Beets – 5
- Brussel Sprouts – 2
- Cabbage – 6
- Carrots – 25
- Collards – 2
- Kale – 5
- Leeks – 12
- Lettuce – 10
- Peas – 25
- Spinach – 3
- Swiss Chard – 3
Warm-Weather Plants per Person
- Corn – 12
- Cucumbers – 5
- Eggplants – 1
- Green Beans – 5
- Melons – 2
- Okra – 5
- Peppers – 2
- Potatoes – 10 (5-10 lbs. per plant)
- Radishes – 15
- Squashes – 1
- Sweet Potatoes – 5
- Tomatoes – 3
Now, that’s both a tremendous start and a lot of food to enjoy. The crux to figuring this whole thing out is moving from this point, keeping a log and adjusting to meet a particular family’s needs and particular garden’s capabilities. But, the whole process of dreaming, eating and recording can be a lot of fun, regardless if there are too many zucchinis or too few peas. Luckily, there is the supermarket or veggie stand to make up the difference.
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