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
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
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.
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!
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.
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.
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