How Much to Grow

One of the big questions when gardening is:

How many plants should we grow, to have enough food for our household, but not the whole neighbourhood?

The answer depends on a few factors, such as:

  • richness of the soil

  • consistency of water throughout the season

  • the variety of the crop (eg, what type of bean or tomato)

  • the weather

  • competition from weeds

  • how much space you have in your garden, etc.

As well, it depends on how much you like to eat fresh produce! Can you eat a pint of cherry tomatoes a day, in season? Or, you’re good with a pint a week?

Therefore, there isn’t a cut and dried answer that will suit every household, but there are some guidelines that can help you in your planning.

Here are some estimates for some of the most popular crops, and how many plants will be required for a household of 2-3 people.

TRANSPLANTED CROPS THAT PRODUCE 1-2 CONCENTRATED HARVESTS

Broccoli: 1 plant will provide 1 head + some side shoots; plant a few plants every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply

Lettuce: 1 plant = 1 head of lettuce; plant a few heads every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply

Leeks: 1 plant = 1 leek; estimate accordingly for your family; they take a few months to mature

Potatoes: 1 plant can provide enough for a meal for 2-3 people when they’re new potatoes, and potentially 2-3 meals when the potatoes are fully mature

Squash: harvested in the fall; quantities depend on the type of squash; generally, each plant can produce 2-3 squash (some varieties will produce 4-5); take this into account, when determining if you’d like a few squash in the fall, or some to store for the winter; the squash vines also take a lot of room in the garden

Sweet Potatoes: harvested in the late fall; 1 plant can provide enough sweet potatoes for 2-3 meals for a household; this number can be greater if the plants are well-nourished

TRANSPLANTED CROPS THAT GIVE A WEEKLY HARVEST FOR A FEW WEEKS

Cucumbers: 2 - 3 plants can provide an abundance for fresh eating, and should produce for several weeks

Pickling Cucumbers: 2-3 plants can provide enough to ferment a 1-2 quarts per week for a few weeks

Melons: 2-3 plants can provide several melons over about a 3 week time period

Zucchini: 1-2 plants can provide an abundance of zucchini for a household; harvest every 2-3 days for optimal-sized zucchini. If there’s one vegetable to not over-plant, it’s zucchini; most households have enough with 1-2 plants, unless they really love it, or want some to preserve for the winter (which is a good idea).

TRANSPLANTED CROPS THAT GIVE A WEEKLY HARVEST FOR A COUPLE MONTHS

Kale: 2-3 plants can give 1-2 “bunches” weekly; will produce for ~ 2-3 months

Peppers: 2-5 plants can provide an abundance for fresh eating in the summer, producing peppers for several weeks

Swiss Chard: 2-3 plants can provide a “bunch” per week; will produce for 2-3 months

Slicing Tomatoes: 2-4 plants can provide enough for fresh eating; plant more for preserving

Cherry Tomatoes: 1-3 plants can provide enough for fresh eating

DIRECT-SEEDED CROPS

Green Beans: 5-10 feet of beans, with seeds spaced ~1 inch apart, can provide enough for fresh eating for 2-3 weeks; plant every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply

Beets: 10 feet of beets, with seeds spaced ~ every 4-6 inches, can provide 20 - 30 beets; plant every 3-4 weeks for a continuous supply

Carrots: 10 feet of carrots, with seeds spaced ~ every 3-4 inches, can provide 30-40 carrots; plant every 2-3 weeks for a continuous supply

Garlic: 1 clove of garlic planted in the fall = 1 head of garlic to harvest the next summer

Peas: 10 feet of peas can provide enough for fresh eating for a household; plant more if you really like them :)

Radishes: 10 feet of radishes, with seeds spaced ~ 1-2 inches apart, can provide 7 - 10 bunches of radishes, harvested over a 2 week time period

Spinach: 10 feet of spinach, with seeds spaced ~ 4-5 inches apart, can provide enough for fresh salads for a household; plant every 2 weeks in the summer, or every 4 weeks in the spring and late summer, for a continuous supply. It grows and germinates best in cool weather, so it may be best to plant it mostly in the spring and fall.

*More details to come, regarding succession planting (aka: how often to plant crops for a continuous supply, and the earliest and latest dates each crop can be planted).