Question by Mr. Camron:
I just discovered this site last night, and spent hours reading it. I am excited to have found a place online that echoes my sentiments exactly!
This spring I expanded my little backyard garden. We replaced four 4’x4′ raised beds with four 3’x8′ beds arranged along the back fence where they will get maximum sunlight. This gives me almost 100 square feet of plantable area.
I have read a number of books on gardening, and searched online as well, but I haven’t been able to get a clear picture of how much I can grow in this amount of space.
If I use some season-extending techniques and plan everything just right, I should be able to get three crops a year, cool season vegetables in the spring and fall, and warm season vegetables in between.
Do you know of a ‘formula’ for calculating how much a person can expect to get per square foot, or per 100 square feet?
I’m trying to decide if what I have is enough to grow all of my own vegetables, or if I need to expand.
It sounds like you did a great job of redoing the garden beds—siting them for maximum sun and making the beds larger definitely gives you greater odds of a successful and abundant garden.
A 100 square feet of garden space will produce quite a lot. You may want to live with that for a year or so and then evaluate how much more (or not) you need from there.
There are so many variables on what you can expect to produce—what you grow for instance—because some crops produce very little for an awful lot of real estate used.
Weather, water availability, soil condition and structure, how intensively you are able to plant, and how skilled you are with season extension and crop succession planning, are all factors that affect how much a given area can produce.
I am an advocate of using your own experience to guide what needs to happen next. However, if you really are looking for some guidelines on size of gardens and self-sufficient food production—John Jeavon’s “How to Grow More Vegetables” is a very good book to have in your library, and in the last section of the book he provides garden plans for self-sufficiency which are based on growing using the described bio-intensive techniques in the book.
The amount of garden area needed for one person is 380 square feet including pathways and includes some fruit production too. Each person then adds the same amount more to the overall garden size.
This rings fairly accurate for me as my garden size is 1,192 square feet (including all growing areas I use) and it was able to feed a family of three (2 adults and1 teenager/adult) 100%for our vegetable needs and about 40% on our fruit needs.
I could have done better on fruit production if we had more sun availability on our property.
We are down to two of us now (daughter is away to college), and I have been increasing the amount of fruit planted in the garden hoping to use that same square footage to continue to feed us 100% on vegetables, but also a greater proportion of our fruit needs too.
Thank you for the informative and helpful response. It is encouraging to read that my goal of growing most of my own vegetables is feasible, even in my small backyard.
My son will be moving out soon so it will be just me, though I’d like to have extra to give away and so I can cook big meals when people come over. I will see how much these beds produce this year, and next year I may add a couple of more.
Currently I have one bed planted with melons for the summer, but otherwise it’s mostly vegetables. If I add two more beds I’d like to plant one in strawberries.
I did plant three highbush blueberry bushes in front of my house this spring (trying a little bit of edible landscaping) but it will be a while before they are producing much fruit.
I’m planning to add some thornless blackberries along the side fence in the back yard next year, and possibly a couple of hardy kiwis growing over a seating area for shade. I’d love to try some dwarf tree fruits but have read that they don’t do well in our area.
What kinds of fruit do you grow?
We grow the following (but some of these are young plantings and not producing or not producing much quite yet):
Ultra Dwarf apple trees
Bush pie cherries
We do not have any locations left on the property that are not already filled with garden—that gets adequate sun for any fruit trees.
I have opted to work a few bush pie cherries and bush berries and ultra dwarfed apple trees into the regular garden area—but that is realistically all I am going to be able to do with this property, unless we cut down our woodlot and that is just not going to happen.
I too am on this journey. Every year we are getting fewer, bigger gardens. I think my advice to anyone starting this is to enjoy the process.
Gardening is about a lot more than the product. It is a journey. I love the challenges and the thought that go into the everyday tasks. It can be frustrating but very rewarding.