Can you give us some tips on how to figure out how much we need to support our family through the garden?
Gardening, or farming, is nothing if not a learning experience. It takes time to learn what grows best, not only in our regions, but in our own backyards. Additionally, it takes time to figure out which variety of any given plant is best! One of the most helpful things a gardener can do is to keep a gardening journal to keep track of that information and more. With each new growing season, you can tweak your plans until the yield matches your family needs.
To gauge how much of any type of produce you need to plant, however, here are some general guidelines.
- What do you currently eat? Keep a running list of the various fruits and vegetables your family consumes over a period of two to three weeks. Be sure to include canned and frozen vegetables that are part of your recipes and meals as well as quantities.
- With this list, do some research to determine which plants do best in your region and when to plant them. Record this information on a calendar so you don’t miss the prime planting season for broccoli or onions, for example.
- Your list will likely include a few fruits and veggies that may not thrive well, or not at all, in your region. Your options are to either stock up on freeze-dried, frozen, canned or dehydrated versions of these foods or explore the world of hydroponics, which allows for year-round gardening.
- Once you know what to grow and when, your next step is to determine how much to grow of each crop. I know that I like serving a salad several times a week with our dinners, so I have planted more lettuce and spinach than radishes. We love fresh salsa, so I’ve planted four different varieties of chile peppers, cilantro and onions, but no Swiss chard!
- Trial and error will tell you how much a single plant will yield. I’ve found that seed packet information and gardening books are sometimes overly optimistic in their estimations as there are so many variables involved.
- When you find your garden yielding far more produce than you and your family could possibly eat, plan on preserving the extra and sharing with others.
- Here is a chart that might give you an idea of how much of a given crop to plant per person.
Remember that the success or failure of a specific crop, or even your entire garden, depends on many factors. It’s such an inexact science! More than anything, enjoy the process and learn from it. Get your kids involved from the beginning, and give them plenty of responsibility with the watering, weeding, and harvesting. What a great education during their summer vacations!