How Big, How Small?

By Alex Straight

WVU Extension Agent

Agriculture & Natural

Resources, Ritchie

One of the first steps to successfully growing your own food is planning an appropriately sized garden. If growing a garden for home consumption, you should only plant enough to feed your household for one year. Even if you preserve your harvest, it is recommended to use all canned and frozen goods within one year of their preservation date.

A good rule of thumb for conventional row planting systems is one-tenth acre of garden per person for a year’s worth of vegetables. A family of four will need a two-fifths acre garden or 17,600 square feet. To maximize your space and production, plant crops during several seasons to ensure you have fresh vegetables from early spring to late fall. Your garden will need managed to control competition from weeds and losses from pests. Utilizing mulches around plants will help reduce weeds and retain soil moisture.

When deciding what to plant, grow what you like to eat. Produce that is to be canned, frozen, or dried will need planted at higher rates than if only eaten fresh. You also must be aware of plants that require a lot of space, such as corn and squash.

Corn will require about 20 stalks per person in a 15-foot row. Plant two to four squash plants to obtain a bushel of stored squash per person. Squash will store well for months and provide healthy, satisfying winter meals. Potatoes also store well and require about 20 plants per person for a yield of two to three bushels.

Versatile garden favorites, like tomatoes and peppers, should be planted at a rate of two to five plants per person. For beans and peas, plant 10-foot to 30-foot rows to yield 24 quarts per person.

Broccoli, cauliflower, and beets are cool-season crops that you can plant more than once (in spring and summer). If you plant five to ten plants each of broccoli and cauliflower and 10 to 20 plants of beets per person, you should have plenty to freeze and to last until the next season.

Greens, like lettuce and kale, are mostly eaten fresh so you should plant 15 to 20 feet per person in multiple plantings.

If you are only interested in meeting your fresh produce needs, then you will only need about one-half to one quarter of the space mentioned above. Also, don’t forget to plant flowers in your garden to deter pests and attract pollinators.


more recommended stories