Planning Next Year's Garden -
What Can We Produce
by Jim Kennard, President,
Food For Everyone Foundation
Many people arrive at the end of the gardening season and wish they had planned their garden better. Often there is wasted space, and sometimes we find we have grown things that were not used, and perhaps couldn't even be given away.
Now is a good time to begin planning for next year's garden - to make sure you realize the greatest benefit from your valuable time and available space, and that you make the most of those precious 6 months of growing which nature provides us.
First you should decide what your garden is used for. Is it for casual use, with just a few things grown for fun, or do you depend on it as a major source of your family's food? Next, decide what kinds of things are best to grow - juicy tomatoes, or that new triple-sweet corn. And then plan for how much of each thing you will grow.
How your garden is used depends on 1) whether or not you're able or willing to devote serious effort to your garden, 2) whether you expect to feed your family just during the growing season or for the entire year, 3) what things your family likes to eat, 4) will there be supplementation from other sources, or will you be depending on your garden completely, and 5) do you want or expect to earn money from the sale of your produce.
An excellent and inexpensive database of commonly grown vegetables, with when, where, and how they can be grown, as well as how much they will produce, is contained on the Garden Wizard and Garden Master CD's. These are wonderful resources for the serious family gardener, and can be found at www.growfood.com under Software.
I recommend growing high-value ever-bearing crops, such as tomatoes, peppers, eggplant, cucumbers, pole beans, zucchini, etc., to maximize your yield in the minimum space, for the least cost and effort.
I will assume that you have a large family whom you want to feed from your garden, and that you have 1/8th of an acre that can be used for this purpose. I'll give examples of what can be grown in 30'-long soil-beds.
In 1/8th of an acre you should be able to grow thirty two 30'-long soil-beds that are 18" wide, with 3 ½' interior aisles and 5' end aisles.
Using vertical growing with the Mittleider Method, five beds of indeterminate tomatoes should produce 2,000-4,000# of tomatoes from July through October.
Two beds of sweet peppers should produce 500-1,000 peppers.
Two beds of eggplant - grown vertically - should produce 500-1,000 eggplant.
Two beds of cucumber - grown vertically - should produce 750-1,500 cucumbers.
Three beds of pole beans should produce 400-800# of beans.
Two beds of zucchini should produce 500-1,000# of zucchini.
So far, we've only used 1/2 of the garden, and you have more than enough of those vegetables to feed the family during the growing season, and excess to sell or give away. Doubling the space of these 6 crops could provide income to buy other food staples, and/or provide sufficient to dry or bottle food for the winter months.
Growing easily stored food in the other half of your garden, such as potatoes, cabbage, beets, onions, and carrots can provide the family fresh food during the winter. Care must be taken to provide proper cold storage, and these can be usable for 6 months.
Two beds of carrots should produce 200-400# of carrots
Two beds of cabbage should produce 200-400# of cabbage.
One bed of beets should produce 100-200# of beets.
Two beds of onions should produce 200-400# of onions.
Five beds of potatoes should produce 500-1,000# of potatoes.
The carrots, cabbage and beet crops can often be doubled by growing an early and late crop in the same space, which make these more valuable for the serious grower.
In this scenario you have four beds left to plant. Crops like corn, large squash, and watermelon should only be grown if you have ample EXTRA space, because they take much space for the yield they produce. For example one bed of corn should produce about 90-100 ears of corn - all within about 2 weeks, whereas a bed of tomatoes should produce 400-800 POUNDS of tomatoes spaced over 4 months.
Take the time now for this important planning exercise: Have your family decide what they want to eat, then calculate the amounts of each vegetable needed, and then plan your space so you can grow at least that much in your garden.
Jim Kennard, President, Food For Everyone Foundation - www.foodforeveryone.org "Teaching the world to grow food one family at a time."