Saturday, March 14, 2015

Garden Planning: Calculating How Much to Grow to Feed Your Family

Turkeys were back today. They didnt seem to mind the weather. Or they are just SO HUNGRY....

Well, nobody wants to be outside today. Freezing Rain and Sleet, everything is turning to ice and it is barely above freezing.  I put on the crampons to go collect sap.  There was about 5 and a half gallons I think. Overall, I am getting much less sap than I figured. Several of the taps are sort of "duds" while a few others go like gangbusters.   It is still early in the season, so maybe things will pick up.  At this rate, I think one gallon of finished syrup is about what I can expect to net.  And funny thing, now that the deep snow cover is starting to melt, my buckets seems to be getting higher and higher. :-)  We are talking about taking one of the "duds" out, and drilling a tap in another tree to try that.

I have been doing a lot of reading and studying and trying to get a handle on exactly how much of what I should plant in order to have enough to eat and preserve till next garden season.  This is of course, going to vary from family to family, but I did come across some good calculations that can serve as a jumping off point.  This year, I am having to hold down my expectations because we are starting from scratch, and I really don't know yet even how good the soil is, and we will not get an early start, so I will miss most of the real early plantings.  But, we have to start somewhere, right?
This year, as I've mentioned before, I set the goal to be onion independent.  That means planting and harvesting enough onions to take us through next years harvest.  Honestly, I dont know if I can do it.
This used to be the norm, you know.  This is what people did. They planned and planted enough to feed their family all year.  Canning, freezing, drying, and pickling,  some fermenting, and root cellar storage were methods used to store and preserve the food to last the year.  When I read about the quantities needed it is rather mind boggling.  The list below suggested 60 pea plants per person!  (way high I think) But only 80 onions per person. (way low for us).    So, I think what you'll have to do first is this:

Take stock of what you are BUYING weekly now at the grocery store.
Do you use 5 pound of potatoes a week? Or does that 5 pounds last you two weeks,  or maybe you use 10 pounds a week... 
Do you eat spinach every day? How about carrots?  How often do you use tomato sauce for cooking? these are the kind of  questions I will be asking myself.

Multiply that amount by 52 weeks.  That will be goal harvest of that particular vegetable.
For example, using onions again, I use at least one onion a day.  right there, that's 365 onions, but, of course, crops may fail, the onions might not bulb up and be small so that I need to use two instead of one, and, some will not last in storage.  So, I am figuring almost double that amount to compensate for those things.

For things you cannot store, such as lettuce, you will want to plant many succession crops to keep them going as long as possible, plus, use some kind of season extender like a hoop house, greenhouse, or cold frame.    Winter greens will need to be of the canned or frozen variety if they come from your garden.

While this might be an over-simplification, it is, as I mentioned, a good place to start. You will have to tweak this list to suit what you and your family actually eat. If you hate beets, but love broccoli, adjust the numbers accordingly.   I found several websites with good information, but what I liked about this list is that it gives you the number of plants, rather than the number of square feet of garden space, or row feet, or pounds of harvested fruit.   This just seems an easier way to look at it.

This list came from a great website The Well Fed Homestead.  Keep in mind that this list assumes you will be canning or freezing or dehydrating the surplus, and using all the storage techniques possible to keep the food throughout the winter and early spring.  Also keep in mind that these quantities are PER PERSON - but they might vary depending on whether you are feeding small children vs. hungry teenagers.

Beans, Lima10-20 plants per person  ( I would likely substitute some kind of shelled bean, like pinto)
Beans, Pole10-20 plants per person
Beets10-20 plants per person
Broccoli5-10 plants per person ( 20 brocolli plants isn't as much as you might think.. you only get one big crown from each, and then some side sprouts.... These freeze well)
Brussels Sprouts2-8 plants per person  ( I would go for the lower total here)
Cabbage3-10 plants per person (this is way low.  I think one cabbage a week from Oct. - May is about what we would want... 32 for storing and fermenting, and more for eating fresh, so about 50 plants total for the two of us)
Carrots10-40 plants per person (this is also way low for us.  40 plants is only 40 carrots... I would eat that many in a month, easy, all by myself, so this will have to increase greatly for us. But I interplant carrots in all the empty spaces and around other plants all throughout the garden year.. they love tomatoes, you know)
Cauliflower3-5 plants per person (I would like to plant more, but these are hard to grow, and I won't commit that much garden space to such an uncertainty)
Celeriac1-5 plants per person ( I might just start with celery for this year and skip the celeriac)
Celery3-8 plants per person (this is another one that needs to be much higher for us. I love celery)
Corn12-40 plants per person (this is a tough one. We may plant the corn for animal feed more than for us, and use it as support for the pole beans. Interplanting in this way mimics the natural way plants grow , and benefits both species)
Cucumbers3-5 plants per person (this seems about right, if I want to make lots of pickles. but DO I want to make lots of pickles???? )
Eggplant1 plant per person, plus 2-3 extra per family  (maybe, at least 2 i think..)
Kale1 5’ row per person (we will need more kale, but it can grow in several successions, and I will mix other cold hardy greens as well, like turnip, mustard, chard,  etc.  Being plant based, we eat many more green than probably most people) 
Lettuce10-12 plants per person (not nearly enough for us, not even close I will have several varieties of lettuce.. some leaf lettuce which is "cut and come again", and then the romaine, which we will allow to head up for that nice crunch)
Melons2-6 plants per person (melons are hard to grow here, I probably won't even bother)
Onions40-80 plants per person (we have already discussed this one)
Peas25-60 plants per person (really? WHO EATS THAT MANY PEAS?????????)
Peppers5-6 plants per person (we will need more, much more. Not just for fresh eating, but making nacho slices, and chili powder, and salsa, and pico de gallo and dehydrating for winter soups) More more more.... hot peppers, sweet peppers.. more more more - I do love peppers. :-) I have already started some seeds, and have about 15 pots.  And I am not done. 
Potatoes10-30 plants per person (this might be close, depending on what the crop produces... but i think I would err on a few more for storage)
Pumpkins1 plant per person ( 2 pumpkin plants, if I plant them right on the compost pile, can give us plenty of pumpkins most likely)
Rhubarb2-3 crowns per person  (well, this is a perennial that wouldn't go right in the garden space anyway, so I'm not counting it)
Spinach10-20 plants per person (not enough, not nearly enough - we do eat spinach daily)
Summer Squash2-4 plants per person ( I can tell this figure assumes lots of freezing zucchini and having some to leave on  your neighbor's doorsteps and run  )
Winter Squash2 plants per person (this one is low. Winter squash is one of the best storage vegetables, good calories, ... I would go much higher on this one. Besides, I have several new varieties to try.)
Sweet Potatoes5 plants per person (sigh, if only they would grow here... maybe if we get the greenhouse)
Tomatoes2-5 plants per person ( this seems low too.  I need tomato sauce, canned tomatoes, dried tomates, fresh tomatoes, salsa!)

There are more greens that we will want to plant. I gotta have Swiss Chard, and Collards... and this doesn't even begin to mention all the herbs... parsley, cilantro, basil, oregano, thyme, dill.....  But, as I said, this is a jumping off place and you can start with this and make your plans accordingly.
I'm not sure I have enough available  garden space this year to accommodate everything I will want to plant.   Though I would love to have everything in place right away, this is a process.  It might take several  years to get the systems and garden space in place.  Or a lifetime.  I better be patient.  So, what I might do is pick a couple of these items, and focus on harvesting enough of those.  It will probably be the storage vegetables, like beans, squash, carrots, and potatoes (and of course onions).  

And here is Day 4 of the Chick Flicks.

also, the chick and the egg.  Can you see a difference yet? Just remembering that she came out of that size egg only  a week ago... I guess they are  gaining weight at a rate of like 10 or more percent a day. That would be like a 150 pound adult gaining 15 pounds a day.   Does that put it in perspective?

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