Ever wondered how many of each plant you’ll need in your vegetable garden to actually feed your family through the summer? What about for your home canning needs? Depending on what type of fruit and veg your loved ones eat the most, it can be more than you think. I’ve compiled this handy chart to help you plan your seed starting or plant shopping, and below you’ll find tips on how to use it well.
|Crop (number of plants per square foot)||Number of plants per person||Number of plants for a family of 4|
|Asparagus (1 plant)||5-10||20-40|
|Beans (8 to 10 bush)||12-15||48-60|
|Beets (thin to 9 seedlings)||15-30||60-120|
|Cucumber (2 bush)||2||4|
|Carrots (thin to 16 seedlings)||48||192|
|Corn (4 plants)||10-15||40-60|
|Kale (1 plant)||2-7||8-28|
|Leaf Lettuce (6 plants)||24||96|
|Melon (1/2 plant or 2 squares per 1 plant)||1-2||4-8|
|Onion (9 bunching)||12-20||48-80|
|Peas (9 plants)||15-20||60-80|
|Pepper (1 plant)||3-5||12-20|
|Potato (4 plants)||10||40|
|Radish (thin to 16 seedlings)||10-15||40-60|
|Spinach (9 plants)||3-6||12-16|
|Summer Squash (1 bush)||1-2||4-8|
|Tomato (1 plant)||2-4||8-16|
|Winter Squash (1 bush)||1-2||4-8|
|Zucchini (1 bush)||1-2||4-8|
You’ll find many charts of this type online, although a lot of them won’t include any kind of information about what’s behind these numbers!
The first thing to note when using this chart is that it’s mainly for fresh eating. It’s also just a guideline. If your kids really love to eat zucchini, you may want to plant one or two extra bushes. The same goes for the opposite result – if your spouse doesn’t like home-grown tomatoes,
file for divorce reduce the number of tomato starts you plant out.
Secondly, what does this chart mean for your home canning needs? If you’re just starting out and you want some extra produce to play around with, you probably won’t need any additional plants. But if you want to put up a substantial amount of food for the winter months you may need to increase or even double your harvest. I’ll use tomatoes as an example because they’re a popular canning product.
The average tomato plant will produce around 8 pounds in a season. A full canner load of whole or halved tomatoes, or 7 quart jars, requires about 20 pounds of fresh tomatoes. That means you’ll have to grow an extra 2-3 plants for your canning needs for each load of jars you process. For a family of 6 that needs 30 pints of processed tomatoes, that can be a ton of tomatoes – not literally, but dang! That’s a lot of plants, and a lot of garden space, especially if you’re urban gardening.
You can do all the planning in the world and you’ll probably still need to make some adjustments to your numbers each year. This is a fabulous reason to keep a garden journal! You can keep record of how many plants you had each year and if you had too little (or way too much) of a crop.
Keep in mind that even if you can’t fulfill your family’s food needs for the entire winter (or through a summer of fresh eating for that matter) every step you take to supplement your groceries is a step in the right direction. A few fresh salads and squash are enough to warrant a celebration because you have made the decision to start gardening for food supply, and that’s a great accomplishment. So use these types of info-graphics as a guideline, not a hard rule.
For the 2022 season I’m planning on growing a lot more paste tomatoes rather than slicing, because my husband doesn’t favor beefsteaks and I’m shifting my focus to canning for winter food supply. If you need a resource for heirloom tomato seeds, TomatoFest is my go-to every year! They have an amazing selection of heirloom tomatoes of all kinds and I’ve always had fantastic results from their seeds. Gary Ibsen, the owner, is an experienced breeder and has written one of my favorite books, The Great Tomato Book. I can’t wait to receive my order of new-to-me paste tomato varieties!
Let me know in the comments what vegetable you’re most looking forward to growing this year!