Calculating how much food to grow

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Kristin
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I’m creating a master plan for our garden, and one of the goals with it is to be able to grow all our own food for the year, using both greenhouses and outdoor space. At this point we don’t have an interest to sell produce (though I could see myself making food products sometime in the future to sell). I have a couple questions:

- Does anyone have a recommendation on how to calculate what the average family of two would need? I’ve found a few resources on the web but curious to get ideas from your brilliant minds.

- I would like it to be a beautiful space and realizing that we might have more space than we need for our goals (is this ever a thing? haha). We have approx 6300 sq ft to work with. Any other considerations I should take in to account? I’m already thinking about a washing station and storage.

- I’ve loved the design pieces of the course so far, and am curious about whether design also increases plant success/taste? Eg something trellised to provide shade for another crop, etc.
Danoost
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These are great questions and as you already mentioned, some of this will be dealt with in the design portion of the course.

A great garden design can improve efficiency and productivity. By addressing one principle of the course you'll automatically be addressing two or three others. For example, a good design helps create microclimates that increase carbon sequestration in the garden and therefore helps feed the community of life in the soil increasing fertility. Improving fertility grows healthier plants and reduces pest pressure.

Answering the question about how much area is needed to feed a family is challenging because it depends on multiple factors. I'm interested to hear if anyone in the course is able to feed themselves entirely from their own garden. And if so, how much space is required. Also how much time is this taking up?

You're doing the right thing by creating a master plan.

Take lots of pictures and show your progression through the year.

best!
PeasIntheRain
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Hi Kristin,
These are such good questions and I'm looking forward to seeing the responses of others.

I'm not 'there' yet on producing everything that our household needs from the garden, and there's only two of us! But figuring out what your household needs is so dependent on what you want to eat. I have a friend who had two potato plants and felt she had enough potatoes for the year. I grew 50 potato plants last season (moderately productive; purple majesty and Russian fingerling) and finally feel like we have 'enough': as in, enough to give away at least 15 pounds to friends, enough to save seed for next year, and enough to eat through the winter.

Roughly one and a half packet's worth of carrot seeds (I'm not fully confident on that because they were seeds I saved) produced 15 pounds of carrots last season, and we have maybe two dinner's worth left at the start of January. I'm finding that the idea of buying one packet and expecting that to be enough for a year is insufficient. However, one of the reasons I'm taking this course is to help the soil and boost productivity as many of the seeds I put in don't reach a satisfactory harvest size...

I'd love to hear about the resources you've found, as you test things out and plan.

Yes, design can increase individual plant success. I need to learn a lot about this but I already see glimmers of it in improved productivity depending on layout and luck. I've had plants very close to each other have extraordinarily different results, which must be related to microconditions, shading from neighbour plants, and so on.

As far as where to start with 'too much' space, I'm also dealing with this and am relying on a core principle from invasive species management: work the edges. Better to have a small, well-managed space than islands of attempts where you are battling all of the problems (soil issues, weeds, etc.) from all of the edges. Build outward from success.
And a permaculture principle: concentrate the high-demand plants/areas in the high-traffic part of your garden, but put low-demand ones out where you go less, have to walk further to get to them, etc.

Spare space to leave 'wild' and overseed native plants is a wonderful luxury and should help the productivity of the food spaces in the long term. I always love it when I see a garden with tall remnants, dead wood, and all the wonderful ecosystem bits left in place, and it can be attractively done... That said, I have a present neighbour who openly expressed her despise for native elderberry (which she misidentified as mountain ash). :)
Gryphon
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Hi Kristin,
I recently read a rather good article on this subject. I tried to copy the web address: https://melissaknorris.com/podcast/how- ... d9A7F3A%3D If this doesn't work go to melissaknorris.com Then from the toolbar click on Podcast. Scroll down a little way and click on Raising Your Own Food. Go to the second page of this category and the Feature Article is "How Much to Plant Per Person for a Years Worth of Food". I hope you can navigate to this and that you find it useful. Sorry for the convoluted route.
Kristin
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Hi everyone,
Thanks for the leads and conversation! You’re right, there will be quite a bit of trial and error and depends on taste. I would definitely need on the higher side of potato plants! I’ll also plan for an experimental garden of fun things I want to try.

For the design, does that mean within row beds or how beds are shaped overall? We’re considering traditional rows because it’s the best use of space, but I’m not sure if that’s the best design- and if that’s specifically what we’re talking about.

Thanks,
Kristin
PeasIntheRain
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Kristin wrote: Fri 07-Jan-2022, 19:56 Hi everyone,
Thanks for the leads and conversation! You’re right, there will be quite a bit of trial and error and depends on taste. I would definitely need on the higher side of potato plants! I’ll also plan for an experimental garden of fun things I want to try.

For the design, does that mean within row beds or how beds are shaped overall? We’re considering traditional rows because it’s the best use of space, but I’m not sure if that’s the best design- and if that’s specifically what we’re talking about.

Thanks,
Kristin
Yes, good point. Design means both bed design and layout in the yard as well as layout within a given bed. I've seen hugely variable results of the same type of plant even within a given bed.

...but there isn't a single right answer in terms of layout structure. I had the opportunity to regularly see the gardens of two master gardeners who each fed their family and friends from backyard garden spaces. One woman was from the south of China and had rigorously straight rows, disciplined beans, a garden you could imagine being laid out with a ruler and protractor. One woman was from Costa Rica and had nothing straight anywhere, managed to make celery look like a jungle plant in among the rest of the riot. Both gardens were healthy and fantastically productive. Follow your joy!
TomF
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Kristin wrote: Sat 01-Jan-2022, 09:54 - I would like it to be a beautiful space and realizing that we might have more space than we need for our goals (is this ever a thing? haha). We have approx 6300 sq ft to work with. Any other considerations I should take in to account? I’m already thinking about a washing station and storage.

- I’ve loved the design pieces of the course so far, and am curious about whether design also increases plant success/taste? Eg something trellised to provide shade for another crop, etc.
Danoost wrote: Sat 01-Jan-2022, 13:02 A great garden design can improve efficiency and productivity. By addressing one principle of the course you'll automatically be addressing two or three others. For example, a good design helps create microclimates that increase carbon sequestration in the garden and therefore helps feed the community of life in the soil increasing fertility. Improving fertility grows healthier plants and reduces pest pressure.

Answering the question about how much area is needed to feed a family is challenging because it depends on multiple factors. I'm interested to hear if anyone in the course is able to feed themselves entirely from their own garden. And if so, how much space is required. Also how much time is this taking up?
Dr Elaine Ingham and the Soilfoodweb school did a soil regenerative summit last march (another one this march too) and she had Graham Bell as one of the lectures, He has a home permaculture garden that feeds his family and much more. Now it is fully developed and has a ton in it too all developed over a long period of time. If you have 6300 sq feet, you should get a lot in there with fruit trees, berries, perennial crops and the annals too if you went full permaculture design.
https://grahambell.org
Toby Hemming in another person you might want to look up and get his book, Gaia's Garden. He passed away recently but I have his book on my read list. Jack may have it in his library.
https://www.resilience.org/stories/2014 ... maculture/
https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca/ho ... internal=1 (I had to put in the indigo link in, sorry, not an amazon fan)

Another thing to consider is the plant's biology needs from a fungal:bacterial biomass needs from a plant succession perspective. A lot of brassicas like a bacterial dominated soil, a lot of the veggies are more of a 1:1 fungi to bacteria ratio and the woodier, perennial plants for fruits, structure, etc are more fungal dominated. So your plants do best when they are with other plants of similar fungi:bacteria needs.
https://miro.medium.com/max/4800/1*3HN- ... dbaJQ.jpeg
ElysseG
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I can’t seem to upload the file I have for a production calculator so I have sent it off to Dan/Damien to hopefully have them upload it :) :)
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