Edible Garden Basics: How Much Food to Grow Per Person

By Catherine Winter

Food security is as much of an issue as it was in the 1930s and 40s. With grocery stores being emptied at record speeds and supply chain issues still looming, many are buying vegetable seeds in the hope of growing food for their families this year. But that opens a new issue to deal with: how much food does someone need to grow to ensure that every family member will get enough to eat?

Several Factors to Consider

Child with Strawberries

Many factors need to be taken into account here, including how many people are in your household, their ages, and what they’ll actually eat. As mentioned in previous articles, sure—your land might be ideal for growing acres of one particular species (like zucchini) but it’ll be a disappointing waste if nobody will eat it.

Additionally, you’ll need to consider whether you’re just growing food to eat fresh, or if you’ll be preserving some to eat over the winter.

Let’s take a look at how much food you’ll need to grow to feed an average family of four, consisting of two adults and two adolescent children. From this average, you can make adjustments to suit your own family’s individual needs.

How Much to Plant to Feed a Family of Four

Soup Garden Harvest

Families come in many different shapes and sizes, so you can adjust the amount (and species) to grow based on your crew’s unique needs.

For example, if nightshade allergies are prevalent in your household, skip the tomatoes and peppers and add more green beans, root vegetables, and squashes. If y’all love spinach, grow double that amount, and skip the stuff you don’t like.

You’ll also need to work with the space you have available to you to determine which species will thrive there. If you have a big sunny backyard, you’ll be able to grow a lot, very easily. Others may have to adapt to smaller outdoor spaces, using fences for growing beans and peas, upside-down hanging bottle planters for tomatoes and herbs, etc.

Related post: Regrow These Vegetables in Your Kitchen!

Approximate Number of Plants to Grow:

Vegetable Per Person Per Family
Beans, bush (2 plants/foot of row) 12-15 plants 40-60 plants
Beans, pole (2 plants/foot of row) 12-15 plants 45 plants
Beets (3 plants/foot of row) 20-30 plants 60-90 plants
Brussels Sprouts (1 plant/foot of row) 5 plants 20 plants
Cabbage (1 plant/foot of row) 6 plants 24 plants
Carrots (12 plants/feet of row) 48 plants 144 plants
Cauliflower (1 plant/foot of row) 4-6 plants 16-24 plants
Chard, Swiss (2 plants/foot of row) 5 plants 20 plants
Cucumbers (1 plant/2 feet of row) 1 vine, 2 bushes 2 vines, 4 bushes
Eggplant (1 plant/2 feet of row) 2-3 plants 7 plants
Kale (2 plants/foot of row) 6 plants 24 plants
Leaf lettuce (3 plants/feet of row) 24 plants 78 plants
Melons (1 plant/6 feet of row) 1-2 plants 4 plants
Onions (4 groups/foot of row) 12-20 groups 80-100 groups
Onions, green (8 groups/foot of row) 48 groups 160+ groups
Peas (6 plants/foot of row) 6-24 plants 80 plants
Peppers (1 plant/foot of row) 3-5 plants 8-10 plants
Potatoes (1 plant/foot of row) 10 plants 40 plants
Pumpkins (1 plant/6 feet of row) 1-2 plants 4-6 plants
Spinach (6 plants/foot of row) 30-60 plants 180 plants
Squash (1 plant/6 feet of row) 1-2 plants 3 plants
Tomatoes, cherry (1 plant/foot of row) 3-6 plants 12-24 plants
Tomatoes (1 plant/2 feet of row) 2-4 plants 4-6 plants
Turnips (4 plants/foot of row) 8-10 30-40 plants
Zucchini (1 plant/3 feet of row) 1-2 plants 4-6 plants

We’ll be publishing articles on harvesting and preserving your homegrown produce over the next few months, so stay tuned!

Related post: Pickles!

Additional Inspiration from World War 2 Victory Gardens:

This pamphlet, Dig For Victory: Grow for Winter as well as Summer, was released by the UK Ministry of Agriculture in the early 1940s. People grew all manner of food in their back (or front) yard “Victory Gardens“, and there’s no reason why we can’t do that again!

The images, although blurry (sorry) offer helpful guidelines on garden layout, as well as number of plants per row. It also tells you when to sow which species, and when they’re ready to be harvested.

Victory Garden Plan

WW2 Victory Garden Details

Remember that if you’re planning to can/preserve food for the winter, you’ll have to grow approximately double the amount suggested here, of the foods you’d like to keep around.

Tomatoes, and foods that can be pickled are the easiest to can. For low-acid foods such as peas, beans, potatoes, etc., you’ll need to invest in a pressure canner in order to preserve your food safely. As an alternative to pressure canning, you can freeze your harvest for up to 6 months.

In addition, remember that you leave green beans to mature on the vine in order to have large dry beans to add to soups and stews over the colder months.

Hopefully this article has been helpful to you in your garden-planning endeavours! Remember that if you need help with garden design, we offer consultations and coaching on a sliding scale.
Just contact us and let us know how we can help you out.

Additional articles you may enjoy:

+ Strawberry Jam 101

+ Grow 100 Pounds of Potatoes in a Barrel

+ Make Your Own Potting Soil for Container Gardens


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