How Much To Grow

Reader Contribution by Cindy Conner

Garden planning usually takes the form of making a garden map and deciding where each crop goes, considering rotations, succession plantings, and companion planting. Deciding how much of everything to grow is sometimes a balancing act. Knowing how much of each crop your family consumes in a year might be a good place to begin your planning. The worksheet that you see part of in the picture is in Chapter 4 of my book Grow a Sustainable Diet: planning and growing to feed ourselves and the earth. There is a link in the book that takes you to PDFs for all the worksheets that are in the book so you can print them. If you work through the calculations you will have a better idea of how much of your needs could be met with your available space. You can design your own worksheet, adding columns for things you want to compare with each crop. Be sure to have a space for comments, such as what your best yield was, how many squash per vine you can expect, how many cups a pound of dried beans cooks up to, etc.

First you need to know how much you eat. You could weigh produce in the grocery store to determine how much you might consume at a meal, then multiply that by the number of meals per week that food provides. When you eat a seasonal diet, you wouldn’t be eating the same thing all 52 weeks of the year. On the other hand, if you are preserving your food, you may want some things each week. If you have carefully archived your Mother Earth News magazines, you can find the article I wrote for the October/November 2012 issue called A Plan for Food Self-Sufficiency that is about this very thing. It contains charts that give you an idea of how many servings you can get per pound of food as it comes from the garden. If what you are considering is on those charts, you don’t have to bother measuring anything. If you can’t find that MEN issue, click on the title of that article in this post and it will take you to the online version. The charts are there—just follow the links.

When I developed this worksheet for the book and showed it to my daughter, she said that is exactly how she decided how much she would grow for the small CSA she had when she lived in Arkansas. It is the method I used when I planned for my CSA in 1997 and also when I grew to sell at the farmers market a couple years later. If you know how much is needed, you can proceed to deciding how much you will harvest from the space you have available. You’ll find help with that at Homeplace Earth. Once you establish your garden and are comfortable growing your own food, you can begin to fine-tune your growing by keeping records of yields. Knowing better what to expect will help you plan to feed your family and your community.

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