These are good questions and ones that I haven’t had a good answer for. Until now.
I just plant more of the things I like to eat and less of the things I don’t and hope it all works out in the end. But after doing this for several years, that system is not working. It’s a lot of work to plant crops you won’t end up harvesting and there’s a limited amount of time and storage when harvest season comes around.
Planning the harvest to your specific needs is the only way to ensure you aren’t wasting precious time, money or labor. There are various “rules of thumb” on the Internet, such as “grow 5 celery plants per person”. But everyone has different preferences when it comes to diet. It makes a lot more sense to figure out plantings based on how much food you actually eat rather than vague per-person estimates.
So over the holiday weekend I created a spreadsheet that lists every vegetable we grow. Next to each vegetable I enter the serving size for each meal and the number of meals we consume that vegetable each month. For example, 1/2 cup of corn once a week or 3/4 cup of potatoes 3 times a month. Then it calculates the number of plantings needed to produce that much harvest for the whole year. For example, 78 stalks of corn and 17 potato plants.
I also added fields for Family Size and Sufficiency Goal so it is easy to change the calculations as our family and goals change. This year our goal is to grow 50% of our own produce.
Lastly, I converted the spreadsheet into an online calculator and published it on this site so I could share it with others. It’s been a tremendously helpful tool already. Besides knowing we need to plant 177 onion bulbs, I also know how much area is required for each vegetable, so I know how big to size the garden plot.
At 50% sufficiency for our family, we need a garden plot with just over 600 square feet, which is about 25′ x 25′. But if we wanted to produce all our own produce, we’d need a garden double that size.
Click here to see the How Much To Grow Calculator or find it under the “Gardening” tab in the menu bar. Let me know your thoughts to improve it and any other vegetables you’d like me to list.