As we work towards the ongoing chore of planning and planting the 2017 garden, that semi-crazy idea of growing enough food to sustain ourselves comes to mind once again. In reality, we don't have the space, nor the time, it would take to be truly 100% sustainable, so we (more or less) plant enough food to supplement our trips to the grocery store, and certainly lower the grocery bills.
|So much zucchini! 2013 was the year of |
more zucchini than I ever cared to see,
some of them almost reaching the
width of baseball bats!
It all boils down to how much should I plant? I've been asked this question multiple times, and in reality, it all comes down to trial and error. We started off using advice from the internet by simply Googling "how much to plant" paired with some common sense to figure out how much to plant the first year. From there, we started to expand upon what we needed more of based upon how quickly certain crops were used up. Here's three tips to get you started that go beyond Googling "how much to plant":
Sit down and calculate what you actually use over the course of a year.
Below is an example of what we preserve for consumption later. (Items that are crossed out means we are using up our current stock and do not plan to can or otherwise preserve them again in the coming year. Items that are in parenthesis means that we plan on adding them in the coming year if our harvest permits.)
Apple Barbecue Sauce
Apple Pie Filling
Apple Pie Jam
Blueberry Pie Filling
Bread and Butter Pickles
Carrot Cake Jam
Hot Pepper Jam
Mixed Berry Jam
Peach Honey Butter
Peach Pie Filling
Raspberry Lemonade Concentrate
Rhubarb Sunshine Concentrate
Roasted Red Pepper Spread
Strawberry Lemonade Concentrate
Strawberry Rhubarb Jam
Strawberry Rhubarb Pie Filling
Sweet 'N' Sour Sauce
Sweet Pickle Relish
Chili Peppers, diced
Corn on the Cob
Jalapeno Peppers, diced
Patty Pan Squash, sliced
Sweet Peppers, sliced
Tomatoes, whole cherry
Wax Peppers, diced
Yellow Squash, coined
Prepared Frozen Foods
Apple Dumpling Roll-ups
*We keep chicken scraps
frozen to feed them over
the winter to supplement
their diets when there is
Frozen Produce Surplus
left from previous years
Basil, multiple varieties
Hutterite Soup Beans
Mangals - chicken feed
Onions, multiple varieties
Potatoes, multiple varieties
Scarlet Runner Beans
Sugar Beets - chicken feed
Now after reading that list you are probably feeling a little overwhelmed, or perhaps proclaiming "ain't nobody got time for that!" (Which I wholeheartedly agree with.) Again, this is an example of how calculating what we use over a course of a year works for us. It is certainly not meant to be what your family will do because every family has different tastes.
|You plant it, you preserve it! Processing tomatoes is always|
the biggest chore around here because there are so many of
them! This is an evening's worth of cutting tomatoes in 2014
to go through the processor and start canning in the morning.
Write It Down!
Every year you plant you should keep records to help you determine how much you need to plant in subsequent years. Although you swear you'll remember, in the midst of a crazy harvest season, it's a lot easier to just write it down and look it up than wrack through your already nerve-wracked brain. We use a cheap produce scale (it's not even digital) and white board that's attached to the side of the fridge to record weight totals as the produce comes in. Once the white board gets filled, I input the totals and dates the items were harvested into an Excel spreadsheet that will calculate our total produce amount over the season.
Having records that tell you how much you planted, and how much you yielded are helpful in averaging how much you will get from each plant in your particular growing location. Keep in mind, just because you planted ten tomato plants one year and got x-amount of pounds of tomatoes, it does not mean you will get the same amount of tomatoes the following year.
After looking back through your records you'll get an idea with how much you should plant. Here's three examples from our garden, which we are only feeding two from:
Lima Beans - 38" double row (about 150 seeds).
This gives us enough to eat fresh, freeze some for use throughout the year, and also enough to dry as seeds for planting next year. (What happens if we get too much? If we end up with too many Lima beans, succotash will be added to the menu more often.)
Peas (Hull or Shell) - 38" double row (about 400 seeds) - single planting
This gives us enough to eat fresh and freeze some for use throughout the year; however, we do not have (at this point) enough to save seeds as well. We hope with a double planting in the spring and fall this coming year, there will be enough to save dried peas for seeds the following year. (What happens if we get too much? Looks like Sheppard's pie will have extra peas in!)
Potatoes - three 38" rows (about 10lbs of seed potatoes).
This gives us enough to eat fresh, store for use throughout the year, and about 10lbs worth to use as seed potatoes for the following year; however, we do need to supplement potatoes from planting until harvesting (about four months) from the grocery store. Our on-going struggles with the Colorado Potato Beetle and blight also limits the crop that comes out of the ground during harvest. (What happens if we get too much? We'll let you know when it happens... ;) We eat a lot of potatoes!)
Don't be afraid to re-evaluate each year.
There is ALWAYS next year!