How Much to Plant for a Year's Worth of Food (2024)

I should know better, but it happens everyyear: I start too many seeds, feel uncertain about whether or not I sowed enough, then realize I’m growing more food than my family can possibly eat.

And I don’t think I’m alone in this!

My eyes are muchbigger than my stomach—and my garden—at the beginning of every season, and I inevitably end up with hundreds of seedlings that I scramble to find room for in any patch of bare soil.

Or sometimes, on the flip side, I don’t plant nearly enough of my favorite fruits and vegetables. (Especially the ones I like to snack in the field before bringing them in.)

How Much to Plant for a Year's Worth of Food (1)

For a while, I struggled with knowing exactly how much to plant in a vegetable garden to feed my family.

Finding that balance between having enough food to eat and preserve, while wasting as little as possible to overripeness, frost, and the compost pile, can be tricky.

(I know that returning plants to the life cycle by way of composting isn’t really waste, but those unused vegetables still took time, water, and other resources to grow.)

Related: 11 Vegetables You Grow That You Didn’t Know You Could Eat

I had questions that every edible gardener has wondered at some point: How do I know if I’m growing enough food? What size garden does it take to feed a family of four?

Over the years, I’ve tracked how much we grow versus how much we eat, and I thought it was worth sharing these numbers with you to ease some of the pre-planting anxiety we all feel when mapping out our garden beds.

The only downside to having hard numbers to reference is that they’re highly variable when it comes to a topic like this.

Factors like the size of your garden, your growing conditions, and even the appetites of your family members all influence how many plants are considered “enough.”

So, use this information as a starting point for planning your new garden, and tailor it accordingly based on your own family’s needs, preferences, and resources.

5 things to consider before deciding how much food you need to grow

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1. How big is your garden?

This is the most limiting factor when deciding how many plants to grow per person. Even if you want to grow enough tomatoes to feed your family for an entire season, those plants take up a lot of space.

You may find yourself needing to scale back in order to provide some variety for your meals, or you may decide that you’d rather grow as many tomatoes as you can and just buy other vegetables you like to eat.

(A tip from my own experience: I tend to focus on growing vegetables that are expensive to buy organic, like tomatoes and bell peppers, over less expensive produce like potatoes and onions.)

Remember that garden space doesn’t have to be within the confines of a “proper” edible garden either.

You may be able to get away with growing salad greens in a window box, letting beans and cucumbers climb a back fence, or adding artichoke plants to your ornamental landscaping in the front yard.

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By being creative with plant placements and repurposing household items (like a vintage clawfoot bathtub!) into unconventional planters, you can maximize a small space and produce more food than you thought was possible.

2. What does your family like to eat?

It goes without saying that you should grow the fruits and vegetables that your family likes to eat, and plant only one or two of each variety that you want to try.

Be honest and realistic about what your typical meals look like, and how much time you actually have to use or cook what you grow. It’s all too easy to get dazzled by the incredible selection of seeds you find in seed catalogs. (Yep, been there.)

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If rhubarb is something you only use for the occasional pie or cobbler, you might be better off just buying it.

If green smoothies are a regular part of your morning routine, you might want to grow more spinach and carrots than suggested.

And if you absolutely lovebeets, you could succession plant 5 to 10 plants per person every couple of weeks, instead of a single crop all at once.

3. How old is each person in your family? What is that person’s lifestyle like?

A toddler will obviously eat less than a teenager, and family members who stay home all day will likely eat more than those who commute to work and eat out often.

Keep the ages and lifestyles of each member in mind as you plan your garden, and adjust the number of plantings to suit everyone’s needs and likes.

If you raise chickens or make your own dog food at home, you might want to add a few more plants for them, too.

4. Do you like to eat in season or preserve excess harvests for later use?

The chart below (I call it my Grow Enough Food! chart) lists the number of plants needed for fresh consumption.

But what if canning is a hobby you enjoy? What if you love to make several batches of homemade tomato sauce every summer?

If you plan to preserve any of your fruits and vegetables, you’ll probably want to grow more than what is suggested.

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A general rule of thumb—depending on the type of vegetable preserved, how it’s preserved (drying? fermenting?), and how much you actually want to store—is to quadruple the number of plants suggested in the chart.

5. What can you grow successfully in your climate?

Different soil and weather conditions, even year to year, can affect the yields from your vegetable crops.

Related: Find First and Last Frost Dates Accurately with This Custom Planting Calendar

Some plants are more prolific in warmer climates than they are in cooler climates, or they may have a shorter life cycle dictated by summer heat or fall frost.

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Ultimately, the number of plants you grow may vary based on how productive your garden and growing climate are.

How much to plant in a vegetable garden to feed a family

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These amounts are taken from my own personal experience and the average yields of common vegetables in a home garden.

They don’t take succession planting into account. So for example, if you need to plant 20 carrots per person, you could plant 10 at the start of the season and 10 in the middle of the season for a continuous harvest.

All amounts are based on fresh eating, so adjust accordingly if you want to preserve any of your harvests or you have an extra long growing season.

Garden Betty’s “Grow Enough Food” Chart

Download printable PDF version
CropNumber of Plants to Grow
Artichoke1 to 2 per person
Arugula5 per person
Asparagus5 to 10 per person
Bean (bush)5 to 10 per person
Bean (fava)4 to 8 per person
Bean (pole)3 to 5 per person
Beet5 to 10 per person
Bok choy1 to 3 per person
Broccoli2 to 4 per person
Brussels sprout1 to 2 per person
Cabbage2 to 4 per person
Carrot10 to 20 per person
Cauliflower2 to 4 per person
Celery2 to 6 per person
Chard2 to 3 per person
Collard2 to 3 per person
Corn (sweet)6 to 12 per person
Cucumber2 to 4 per person
Daikon3 to 6 per person
Eggplant1 to 2 per person
Garlic10 to 15 per person
Kale3 to 5 per person
Kohlrabi4 to 8 per person
Leek10 per person
Lettuce5 per person
Melon2 to 3 per person
Mustard green5 to 10 per person
Okra2 to 3 per person
Onion (bulb)10 to 20 per person
Onion (scallion)15 to 25 per person
Onion (shallot)10 to 20 per person
Parsnip5 to 10 per person
Pea (shelling)15 to 30 per person
Pea (snap or snow)3 to 5 per person
Pepper (sweet)3 to 5 per person
Pepper (hot)1 to 2 per person
Potato5 to 10 per person
Radish (spring)15 to 25 per person
Radish (winter)5 to 10 per person
Rhubarb1 to 2 per person
Spinach5 to 10 per person
Squash (summer)1 to 2 per person
Squash (winter)1 to 2 per person
Sweet potato5 per person
Tomatillo1 to 2 per person
Tomato (cherry)1 per person
Tomato (slicing)2 to 4 per person
Turnip5 to 10 per person

Keep track of how much you grow

Ultimate Garden Diary

This printable PDF includes loads of charts and logs to help you stay organized all season long.

Track what you planted, when and how much you harvested from each crop, and keep your notes in one simple-to-use system that can be reprinted and “refilled” year after year.

Common questions about planting enough food

How much land do you need to feed a family?

In general, you’ll need 150 to 200 square feet of garden space per person in order to feed everyone in your family year-round. So for the average family of four, a plot that is 600 to 800 square feet (20×30 to 20×40) should do the trick.

But even if you’re on a smaller suburban lot and lack the amount of land necessary for this type of growing, all is not lost. You can find many creative ways to maximize the space youdohave, such asgrowing in containersaround your yard, growing vertically up fences and trellises, followingintensive planting methods, utilizing dead spaces like hellstrips, interplanting your front yard landscape, andmulching with edible plants.

How many vegetables do you need to plant for preserving?

Use myGrow Enough Food! chartas a starting point for determining how many plants to grow per person, and quadruple the figures listed if you want to ferment, dehydrate, can, pickle, or preserve these vegetables in addition to eating them fresh.

How much food can you grow in a garden?

With good soil and good growing practices, you can count on a conservative estimate of about 1 pound of food per square foot in a raised bed garden.

Raised bed gardening typically produces more food than traditional row cropping sinceraised beds can be planted in higher densities, do not require space between rows for walking, and are not affected by soil compaction (which can reduce yields by as much as 50 percent).

Have you started your seeds or transplanted your seedlings? Here are a few links to help you get started:

  • How Long Do Seeds Last? (Plus a Cheat Sheet on Seed Life)
  • The Beginner’s No-Fail Guide to Starting Seeds Indoors
  • Soaking Seeds to Speed Germination
  • Leggy Seedlings: What Causes Them and How to Correct Them
  • How to Harden Off Your Seedlings
  • Gardening Quick Tip: Eat Those Thinnings

This post updated from an article that originally appeared on April 24, 2018.

How Much to Plant for a Year's Worth of Food (2024)


How much space do you need to grow a year's worth of food? ›

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.

How much should I plant to feed my family for a year? ›

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.

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

In general, you'll need 150 to 200 square feet of garden space per person in order to feed everyone in your family year-round. So for the average family of four, a plot that is 600 to 800 square feet (20×30 to 20×40) should do the trick.

Is it cheaper to buy food or grow it? ›

If you have the space to grow and the time to grow and you are willing to put out the effort to grow, the you can definitely save money on the produce that you are able to grow. It will most likely taste better than store bought, be fresher than store bought, and have more nutrients than store bought, as well.

Can you grow enough food on 1 acre? ›

The truth is you can be self-sustaining on a 1-acre property but it takes work, education, dedication, and time. So, if you have an oversized lot or small acreage and want to be as sustainable as possible, here are some ideas and suggestions on how to get started creating a self-sufficient homestead.

How much food do I need for 1 year supply? ›

Long Term Food Storage Tips
Food StorageFood Per Person Per MonthFood Per Person Per Year
Grains (Wheat, Rice, Flour, etc.)32.5 lbs390 lbs
Canned or Dried Meats (Freeze Dried, Beef, Jerky, Spam, fish, chicken, etc.)1.6 lbs20 lbs
Fats and Oils (Vegetable Oil, PEanut Butter, Shortening, etc..)2 lbs25 lbs
7 more rows

What vegetables are worth growing? ›

10 Vegetables That Provide the Best Payback
  • Tomatoes. These aren't the easiest to grow, but if you can nurse tomato plants through issues such as blight, septoria leaf spot, and groundhog attacks, the payoff is huge. ...
  • Peppers. ...
  • Cucumbers. ...
  • Asparagus. ...
  • Onions, Leeks, Shallots, Garlic. ...
  • Lettuce. ...
  • Squash. ...
  • Rhubarb.

How big of a garden do you need to feed a family of 7? ›

You generally get more yield in a small space if you plant an herb, fruit, or vegetable garden in wide rows. In “How To Grow More Vegetables”, intensive gardening guru, John Jeavons, says you'll need about 200 sq. ft. per person to grow enough vegetables and soft fruits for the growing season at intermediate yields.

Can you live off growing your own food? ›

Clearly, the typical vegetable garden will not save anyone's life. Let's take a look at potatoes. They're a lot higher in calories (160 for a medium potato), very versatile, and can store for long periods of time. To live on nothing but potatoes, you would need to grow around 6000 potatoes per person in a year.

What is the best layout for a vegetable garden? ›

As a general rule, put tall veggies toward the back of the bed, mid-sized ones in the middle, and smaller plants in the front or as a border. Consider adding pollinator plants to attract beneficial insects that can not only help you get a better harvest, but will also prey on garden pests.

Is gardening worth it financially? ›

When done correctly, even the smallest backyard plot can produce copious amounts of fruits and vegetables and possibly even a significant saving to the grocery budget. However, it takes time and patience, and a small outlay of money to buy seeds, and tools, if you need them.

What's the cheapest crop to grow? ›

Top 10 Money Saving Crops
  1. Leafy Herbs. Packets of leafy herbs cost a small fortune in the shops because they are hard to store and don't travel well. ...
  2. Salad Leaves. ...
  3. Quick-growing Salad Additions. ...
  4. Climbing Beans. ...
  5. Fruiting Vegetables. ...
  6. Garlic. ...
  7. Celery. ...
  8. Zucchini.
Jan 10, 2020

What is the most efficient food to grow? ›

Which Vegetables Are Most Efficient?
Tomatoes, grown on supports9
Beets, for greens and roots6.6
Beans, bush6.5
Cucumbers, grown on supports6.5
28 more rows

How many acres do you need to be self-sufficient? ›

However, it is possible to create a more self-sufficient lifestyle on a larger piece of land. Estimates for self-sufficiency typically range from about 1 to 10 acres per person, depending on the factors mentioned above and the desired level of self-sufficiency.

How much food do you need to survive one year? ›

A one year supply for 1 adult should include: 400 lbs of Grain, 60 lbs of Legumes, 16 lbs of Powdered Milk, 10 Qts of Oil, 60 lbs of Sugar or Honey, and 8 lbs of Salt. The shelf life on these items is included in the chart below. The chart shows how much it costs for a one-year supply for 1 adult.

Can I grow my own food year round? ›

Salad leaves such as mizuna, winter lettuce and mustard, leafy greens such as chard, spinach and kale, plus carrots, parsnip, beets and leeks will grow right through the winter. In colder climates, a cold frame or greenhouse is essential to keep crops going over winter.

How much food do I need for 6 months storage? ›

You'll need about 180 cans or 720 pouches for a six-month food stash. 3 Canned Goods: Your average canned pasta, stew, and chili are more cost effective than MREs or freeze-dried food. They're typically ready to eat from the can without the need for extra water, and cans are insect and rodent proof.


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