My grandmother was a very frugal woman who often told me “if you will mind your pennies your dollars will mind themselves.” I hope to share here some of her wisdom and the wisdom of others I have learned over the years

Friday, May 24, 2013


This is a huge question for any gardener.  How much do I plant? 

According to intensive gardening guru John Jeavons you need 4,000 square feet PER PERSON to grow all the vegetables and soft fruits you would need for one year.  Let’s be honest, most people don’t have that much space.  For our family of three that would be 12,000 square foot of medium production rate garden space.  Or a large intensively planted garden of roughly 30 x 400 feet.  While we have sufficient land to put in that much garden.  It would entail a whole lot more work to prep the land for it than I was willing to do this spring.

However, with that being said there are a lot of other factors to consider. Like what you plant, when you plant it, succession planting, seasonal changes, pests, cut and come again crops and similar factors.  Also is not including the possibility of year round gardening, which I’ll go more into in the future. 

Basically with the year round gardening you eat with the seasons, so then the whole numbers game changes.

If you subscribe to Mel Barthlomew’s Square Foot GardeningMethod then you are probably familiar with his plan that includes 16 square feet (4 x 4) of salad greens, 16 square feet of dinner vegetables and 16 square feet of additional to preserve per person.   So to do that method for our family of three would mean nine 4 x 4 gardens.  This may be a better alternative for others, but my gardens are already set up, more or less.  So I need to look more at planting rows of food, rather than squares of food.  That does not mean I cannot include some of his intensive methods in the garden.  It simply means I need to plan my layout differently.
I, therefore, am looking at combining the thoughts of both gentlemn with the ideas of the Dervaes Family of California that live on one tenth of an acre city lot in the middle of Pasadena, CA and produce 6,000 pounds of food a year, to simply stretch our grocery budget and feed us in a healthy manner. I will never be as intense as the Dervaes family, but I do learn from their experience.

By calculating how many square feet I have to work with for my particular garden spaces, not including flower pots and planters I can get an idea of how much planting space I do have.  Those calculations to begin with look this way:

24 x 24 = 576 square feet

24 x 8 = 192 square feet

24 x 4 = 96 square feet

8 x 8 = 64 square feet

This ideally totals to 928 square feet, so very short of the 12,000 square feet recommended by Mr. Jeavons.  The reason I say ideally is because the square footage is chopped up due to the layout of my gardens and parts of some of the gardens are already occupied with perennials that include grapes, asparagus, horseradish (maybe, more on this later), and garlic.

I can extend this square footage with the flower pots and planters I’ve previously mentioned but one step at a time. First I need to calculate exactly how much I need to plant when to feed our family this next year.  So back to the calculations.

By cruising the web I gathered information on how much seed or plants you would need per person and have created a spreadsheet of the various foods I listed in my previous post, along with several others.  This is of course based on what my family will actually eat. No two families eat identical and what grows well in one area, will not grow well in another.  Some charts on the web calculate slightly different amounts, but they all boil down to pretty similar in the amount of space if doing row planting.

Of course if you are doing square foot or Intensive gardening your amount of space will be far less.  I tend to trellis up whenever I can to save space and for safety sake.

Yes safety sake.  It’s far too easy to trip over a hidden pumpkin on a vine covered ground, or worse yet meet an unfriendly snake as you high step along.  Up is far better!

When going up you may need to make slings out of old t-shirts, panty hose or similar stretchy fabrics for heavier fruits like squash, melons and pumpkins.  We’ve “diapered” many a piece of produce with excellent results.

After I did the chart I realized that more was going to have to go into pots than I’d originally planned on, but I already had the pots so this wasn’t a problem for me. As previously stated in the 'Mater Challenge", you can grow a LOT in a flower pot.

Next to figure out what to plant where for the best sunlight, companion planting and space.

Jan who finally has the geese out of her garden and is hoping to use the Memorial Day weekend to get it all planted in OK



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