What size garden for 4 people?

Discussion in 'Gardening' started by redfurmom, Feb 7, 2017.

  1. redfurmom

    redfurmom Hatching

    Feb 7, 2017
    How much square footage for a garden to feed a family of 4 all year? We'll be growing various veggies and fruit. Thanks!
    Last edited: Feb 7, 2017

  2. lazy gardener

    lazy gardener Crossing the Road

    Nov 7, 2012
    I'm guessing you are new to gardening? Let's look at your situation. What growing zone are you in? Do you have a yard with lots of natural sunlight? Good soil? Good drainage? Do both you and hubby work? How much time do you have to tend to your garden each day and each week of the summer?

    How will you be preserving your produce? Canning, drying? Have a pressure canner? Freezing? Room to store all that produce once it is processed?

    IMO, the real question is a time factor. Time to manage the garden, harvest it, process it. Figure out how much time you have available and WANT to spend managing your garden. Those green beans are not going to pick themselves. And when you've worked all day, and the kids want to go swimming, and it's going to be 80* on Saturday, and rain all day Sunday, you have to pick those beans and get them processed before Monday, or you might just as well toss them on the compost pile. Most crops need to be picked about every other day, or the produce will get overgrown and woody, and the plants will shut down, and you will not get further harvest from them.

    Then, there's the weeds. You can do much to avoid issues with weeds by adopting a permanent mulch in your garden. The mulch prevents the weed seeds from sprouting, and also keeps the soil evenly moist so you have less issues with drought and even less issues with the soil being too wet. It also keeps the frost from going so deep in the winter. It results in the soil being thawed, and of a good tilth, so all you have to do is pull the mulch back loosen the soil just a bit, and sow your seeds in the spring. I'm planting my well mulched garden on average a month before my neighbors and friends who have a naked soil garden. While they wait for their soil to be dry enough to till, I'm eating salads from my garden! I have a lovely tiller, but only use it when busting up new hard pan soil, most often for a building project or to plant some trees. My garden is in such good shape after years of deep mulch that I can manage the whole thing with a garden fork.

    Check out the following topics/authors: Elliot Coleman (he's a year round gardening guru) Ruth Stout (long since passed, but she was a pioneer of deep mulch gardening, with hay, no less!) Any of her books are worth a read. And then, watch this video.

    After all this, I didn't answer your question, did I? I'd suggest that you start small, perhaps 2 - 4 beds that are about 4' x 8' each.

    Got bad soil? check out Lasagna or hay/straw bale gardening. Good lighting is your most important factor, in addition to soil that is not invaded by tree roots.
    1 person likes this.
  3. Hi, welcome to BYC! [​IMG]

    I have 4, 4W x 12L x 12 in, high raised beds. 2 of them have 50 strawberry plants each, both with different ripening times. Not less than 3 hours per week spent harvest and maintaining during growing season, by myself. They estimate 50 plants will supply a family of 4. We eat strawberries form may through October and have plenty to share with neighbors, or for freezing to serve on hot cakes or use in recipes and plenty for making jam as well. And I don't have to replant them every year. Which brings up another good suggestion.... planting fruit trees is a great idea if your climate will support them. Before we moved north, I had a constant supply of oranges, tangerines, peaches, nectarines, plums, Asian pears... just by planting varieties that ripen at a different time of the season.... as harvest for those usually only last 2 weeks. But even off semi dwarf trees (because space is prime) I got 100# each peach tree! And I prefer to grow varieties that don't or can't make it to market, which often happen to be very pricey if they do somehow make it to market. So I recommend researching varieties to see what their flavor characteristics are and what will suit your purpose best, be it fresh eating or canning. I've discovered there is a good reason they often can't make it to market... they don't travel well. Another thing I like to do is plant trees where their shade will be useful in the summer but only deciduous where we need sun in winter.

    Tomatoes took up too much space in those beds, so those get their own individual used tire raised bed. And since I am finding it a little difficult to reach my centers for weeding, may make my beds only 3 feet wide in the future. And have you heard of the 3 sisters? That is planting corn, a climbing bean, and a squash all at the same location. The bean climbs the corn stalk and the squash shades the roots as you direct the growth into a circle around the base. I believe this is common in Mexico.

    One good way to decide how much space you need... is decide first what you want to grow and see how much space is required per plant. And try not to over crowd as I think it gives bugs, rot, and disease a place to hide. Also some fruit trees require a certain amount of chill hours in order to produce... or time the weather will be below a certain temperature that is.

    And be sure to do planting every couple weeks to prolong your harvest... for example on the green beans.

    And it's good to know the sunlight pattern throughout the different seasons.. or where the shade ends up. Some parts of my property never see the sun during a certain season. Some things like broccoli take up more space than I would think, while others like carrots aren't worth the time or effort (so far) compared to just buying.

    The more farming type things I do... the more I understand why food isn't cheap... it takes work, land, water, time... and much more to make it to harvest... And it still all depends on the weather (and bugs).

    But that can't account for the improvement in my physical and mental health that comes from being out in nature, breathing the fresh air, digging my fingers through the dirt and having the chickens race me to the next location I am going to turn a shovel of dirt. [​IMG]

    So I guess I haven't answered your question either! [​IMG]

    It's a very personal thing with so many variables, just like chicken rearing. Nothing is set in stone. [​IMG] Start with what you think you can manage and you can always go up from there. I had to buy my lumber for the beds which costed me $75 each. That is an investment.

    Our growing season is short so I must start most things indoors. And our weather is cool, so if I don't use raised beds it is difficult to anything to ripen. Plus we are invaded by gophers, so I use hardware cloth on the bottom of my beds. No intrusion so far. Forgot to but a basket type thing around the base of my fresh planted trees last year and the little buggers demolished 1 apple tree already. [​IMG] Probably dig the other one up while it's still small and try to prevent that from happening again.

    Sometimes it's work. Most the time I enjoy myself.... and there is NO COMPARISON to super market quality! [​IMG][​IMG]

    Happy planting/harvesting! [​IMG]
    1 person likes this.
  4. rosemarythyme

    rosemarythyme Crowing

    Jul 3, 2016
    Pac NW
    My Coop
    The other posters covered a ton of things to think about, so I'll go for the simple answer.

    If you really haven't done much gardening I would start small but also keep room to expand. Right now I have two 8'x4'x12" tall raised garden beds. That was a good place to start (this spring will be my first real foray into veggie gardening in years... I did a late fall planting but we already ate everything that grew from that), but I've already realized it's not enough room to grow what I'd use for 2 people, as I go through a lot of veggies. I'm planning to add another bed for larger or bushier plants and will also plant a few things in the flower bed flanking the driveway, like tomatoes, as I don't want my chickens eating the leaves.

    So if you eat a lot of vegetables, I'd say at least one 8x4 sized plot per person.
    Last edited: Feb 13, 2017

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