New gardeners and veterans like me ask many of the same questions when growing a food plant for the first time. If space is available and you like the crop, it’s wise to ask, “How much do I plant?” The answer, like so much in gardening and in life, depends on you. If space is limited, the best idea may be to fill it up with your favorites of the season and plan to put up some to savor later. It takes about 100 square feet of garden bed, or slightly more for traditional row gardens, to feed the average couple all the vegetables they could eat in a season. That’s two raised beds, each 5’ wide and 10’ long, or an equal geometry arranged as you desire. Double that for a family of four, but know that the results are often more than twice as much produce.
Succession planting helps, but if you plant too much at a time, it hardly matters. Trust me, a 30’ row of zucchini produces more than you and 3 other adults can eat, freeze and give away. My own monster garden of 1974 began with 3 zucchini plants in March, followed by 3 more each week for total of 15 plants. By late June, we were completely sated, having eaten every zucchini recipe imaginable and some that should not be repeated. By Independence Day, the neighbors were sated and, I swear, some turned away when they saw me coming, basket in hand. Each plant yielded at least 30 lovely zucchini and by late July, I almost hoped for squash vine borers! 2 hills of any squash is enough for the average family of four, maybe 3 for true fans and those who want to freeze. In their various seasons, here’s what will usually satisfy that family of four: 6 cauliflower plants, 12’ of turnip greens, 3-4 poles of beans, 10-15 feet of sweet corn. But if everyone loves tomatoes, can there ever be enough?
At our house, it’s the broccoli. We’re eating collards tonight, and they’ll keep on making for weeks yet. We planted 30 plants, or 10 for each of the adults here, and we’ll have 2 cauliflowers each, but all of us are serious broccoli fans. The 15 plants are in three stages, and we’ll make the first picking by the end of this week. If I’ve planned right, we’ll have some new heads plus the regrowth of those already picked, well into December. But will there be enough for the freezer, too?
The best news for me is that we have a separate little garden that we’re growing for the Farmer’s Market. If I must, I’ll raid that to have enough broccoli, once delightfully called ‘little trees’ by a friend who was learning to speak English. There’s plenty there, but will the freezer be big enough? Stay tuned, it all depends on you.