Growing Enough Food to Feed a Family (2024)

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How big a vegetable garden do you need to feed a family? How big would your garden need to be? How much should you plant? Let’s contemplate thepossibilities!

To answer these questions, here are a number of factors.For example, where do you live? If you live in a southern state (example, Georgia), you may be able togrow year-round. If you live in colder region, however, you may not be able to depend on a full winter harvest and will instead need to can or freeze part of your late-summeryield.

  1. According to a UK study, to sustain one person on a vegetarian diet for an entire year, you’d probably need about 4000 square feet of growing space. This excludes access paths. That’s a big! Clearly, this amount of real estate will require a major committment in terms of your labor,too.
  2. For a non-vegetarian individual, however, we’d estimate that you need about 200 square feet of garden space to allow for a harvest that feeds everyone year-round. So, for an average family of four, plan for an 800 square-foot garden—a plot that is 20 feet by 40 feet in size. It can depend on what you plant, of course; some crops take up more room thanothers.

Perhaps it’s better to back out how many people are in your family and what you actually like to eat. There’s no point in growing asparagus if you are the only one who will eatthem1

Look at your normal diet andnote how much you eat per week. Example: If you ate3pounds of potatoes a week (!), that’s 12 pounds amonth and 144pounds ayear!

Common Vegetables toGrow

Let’s look at common plants families eat and how much garden space is required per person.Some crops, such as tomatoes, produce many vegetables or fruits per plant, so you’ll need fewer of these plants to obtain a large harvest. Others such as carrots produce just one vegetable per plant and require correspondingly more to besown.

Below are examples based on one individual’s habits (yours may be different).

As mentioned above, let’s say you ate 3pounds of potatoes a week, that’s 12 pounds amonth and 144 pounds a year.
Assuming 75 to 200 pounds per person, that translatesto:

  • Yield per 10-foot row: 10 to 20pounds
  • Row length needed: 75 to 100 feet, which is about 85plants

Assuming 15 to 65 pounds of tomatoes a year per person, that translatesto:

  • Yield per 10-foot row: 15 to45lbs
  • Row length needed: 10 to 15 feet, which is 6 to10plants

Assuming 7 to 20 pounds of carrots per person per year, this translatesto:

  1. Yield per 10-foot row: 7 to 10pounds
  2. Row length needed: 10 to 20 feet, which is about 30 to 60plants

The Almanac Garden Planner makes it easy to work out the row length required for a certain number of plants! It spaces the plants for you and calculates the number of plants you need.
So, for other crops just continue this process of working out how much you’ll eat, researching how much each plant yields, and how long the row will need tobe.

How to get the most from yourspace

There are some tried and tested growing techniques which help you to get the most from any garden, no matter how big or howsmall.

Use different varieties
Where possible, plant early, mid and late varieties of your crops. This will provide a steady flow of produce spread throughout the season, and can also help to reduce losses due to pests and diseases as your plants will be in different stages of growth at differenttimes.

For example, if you’re growing potatoes you could choose 3 different varieties: one each of first early, second early and maincrop varieties. Many other crops have seasonal varieties too, including peas, beans, apples, onions andcorn.

Succession plant
Succession planting is all about maximizing the space you have available, ensuring that there is always something growing in the ground. As you harvest your first early potatoes in June, you could then plant a quick growing crop such as some beets. The Garden Planner can help to keep track of this – set the dates that crops will be in the ground and select a specific month to see what space will be available, then pop in a few rows of your chosen successioncrop.

Extend your season and protect your crops
Use greenhouses, cold frames or a hoop house to add an extra few weeks at the start and end of the growing season. In cooler climates this will ensure you are much more successful with tender crops like tomatoes, cucumbers and melons. They will also help to protect your crops from unseasonal weather such as wet summers and from some pests such as birds, small mammals and deer. Plus, it’s always welcome to be able to harvest fresh produce early in theseason.

Grow calorie crops
Calorie crops are those which have a high calorie content per weight of crop. If you’re growing lots of your own food, you’ll want to include the top 5 of potatoes, corn, beans, winter squash and perhaps grains such as wheat. These crops fill you up, are generally much less work than other crops and are very versatile – they store well, for long periods and are endlessly useful in thekitchen.

Growing any fresh food in your garden is a great way to feed your family – it doesn’t have to be about being totally self-sufficient. Whether you have a few containers by your back door or have a 2 acre plot you’ll be able to add fresh ingredients to your meals and reduce your grocery bills, and if you garden organically and sustainably you’ll be reducing your environmental impacttoo.

Ready to plan? Get a free 7-day trial of ouronlineAlmanac Garden Planner.

Growing Enough Food to Feed a Family (2024)


Growing Enough Food to Feed a Family? ›

The first step is to figure out how much of a specific food item your family eats during an average week. Multiply that out by 52, then calculate how much of each crop you need to grow to preserve that amount of food. This will be based on the average yield each of those plants produces.

What is growing enough food to feed your family called? ›

Subsistence agriculture occurs when farmers grow crops to meet the needs of themselves and their families on smallholdings.

How much land to grow enough food for a family? ›

The general rule of thumb when it comes to growing a garden is to have 100 square feet of gardening space (traditional row gardens) per person for fresh eating only. To preserve food and put it up for the non-growing season, you're looking at 200 square feet of gardening space per person.

What size garden will feed a family of 4? ›

For a family of four, the Morning Chores calculator recommends a garden 40-feet-by-20-feet. “That would allow you to grow an adequate amount of vegetables to feed that family of four,” Lindley said.

How much space do you need to grow food for a family? ›

A good rule of thumb is that you need about 200 square feet per person for a self-sustaining garden. So if you're a family of four, figure you'll need about 800 square feet, or a space about 20x40 or 10x80.

Can you grow enough food to feed a family? ›

Generally speaking, 200 square feet of garden space per person will allow for a harvest that feeds everyone year-round. For an average family of four, plan for an 800 square-foot garden—a plot that's 20 feet by 40 feet in size should do the trick. If your family is larger (or smaller), scale up or down as needed.

What is growing only enough food to feed one's family? ›

Explanation: Growing only enough food to feed your family is an example of d. subsistence agriculture. Subsistence agriculture is a mode of agriculture in which crops are grown primarily for the purpose of feeding the farmer and their family with little or no surplus for sale.

What is the term for producing just enough food for your family? ›

Subsistence Farming: Subsistence farming, also known as subsistence agriculture, is a farming practice where farmers produce just enough food to feed themselves and their families, with little or no surplus for sale or trade.

In what type of farming do people grow only enough food to feed their families? ›

Subsistence agriculture is the production of food primarily for consumption by the farmer and mostly found in less developed countries. In subsistence agriculture, small-scale farming is primarily grown for consumption by the farmer and their family.

What is growing food called? ›

Horticulture is defined as that branch of agriculture concerned with growing plants that are used by people for food, for medicinal purposes, and for aesthetic gratification. Horticulture is divided into specializations.

What is the word for people who grow their own food? ›

A farmer is a person engaged in agriculture, raising living organisms for food or raw materials. The term usually applies to people who do some combination of raising field crops, orchards, vineyards, poultry, or other livestock.


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