Sunday, February 23, 2014

How Many Should I Plant? a basic guide for vegetable planting

I had way too many tomatoes last summer.  Too many to eat fresh.  Too many to can.  Too many to give away.  I love tomatoes, but I just planted way too many!  But, green beans... I could have used double the harvest.  Part of that was due to a nearly complete crop failure in one of my garden boxes.

If you ever wondered, "How many should I plant?" I put together this list of common home garden vegetables that I like to help both of us!  Remember, if you love, love, love a variety, plant more of it!  These figures are based on the gardener wanting a harvest a few times per week for fresh eating, not canning. 

Beans (green) - 8 plants per person.  I grew mostly pole beans last year, but am planting only bush beans this year.  I find they are more reliable in my yard. They can also be tucked into most any empty space in the garden. I like to grow them in the holes in my cinder block beds!  Just make sure to water them more frequently than if they were in a bed. I will be devoting an entire 4x8 raised bed to bush beans, for eating, and freezing. 

Jade bush bean growing in cinder block hole -  July 2013
Carrots - 30 plants per person.  Sounds like a lot, but plant them in succession, every 3 weeks is good, so you don't have 90 carrots ready to harvest all at once for a family of three!  Remember you can eat the small carrots you pull when you thin them.  I found a terrific new recipe the other day for teeny carrots, which includes the tops!
Celery - 5 plants per person.  Harvest an average of 6 stalks per plant.  I have never tried growing celery, but plan to give it a go in a container.
Chard -5 plants should be sufficient for a family of 4.  Harvest the outer leaves and let the others keep growing, you'll have chard all season.
Corn - 15-20 plants per person.  You can replant every 10 days for a continuous harvest.  I love corn! But, corn is not cost affective for me to grow.  When I can buy it 10/$1.00 at the peak of the season, why bother to grow my own?  Did you know that you only get 1 ear per corn plant?  ONE!  Not worth my time or garden space, but suit yourself!
Cucumbers - 4-6 plants per person.  I grow lemon cucumbers on a trellis.  I plant 6 for the two family members who like them, and always have plenty.

lemon cucumbers - -August -2013
Eggplant - 1-2 plants per person.  Unless you plan on cooking many eggplant dishes over the summer, you won't need a lot of plants.  My one plant would ripen 3 fruits at a time, with 4 harvests over the summer.

Dusky eggplant - July 2013
Lettuce - This is a hard one!  Do you like a lot of salads, or just want a leaf or two for sandwiches?  I suggest you plant 4 plants per person, and plant 4 more in succession every 2 weeks. I love the mixed lettuces, and pull up the baby plants to make a colorful salad.

mixed lettuce - April 2013
Melons - 1 or 2 plants per person. Most melons produce 2 or 3 fruits per plant.  I won't be growing melons this year. 
Peas - The more the merrier in my family!  Plant lots, 30 per person isn't excessive.  I plant only Cascadia snap peas.  We eat the small pods, as well as letting some mature for shell peas.  I will be planting my peas later today, in a 4x4 raised bed. 

Cascadia pea - May 2013
Peppers - 2 plants per person.  I like California Wonder.  I don't use a lot of peppers, so I will be planting 2 for my family. 
Pumpkins -  1 or 2 plants per person should be fine.  Ask yourself what you will be using the pumpkins for when you choose a variety.  Cinderella is wonderful for eating/freezing, but not so suitable for carving into Jack-o-lanterns.  Cinderella seeds cost more, but the walls are thick so there is more food value to them.

Cinderella pumpkins - September 2012 (grown in manure bags)
Spinach - 10 plants per person, plant every week for a continuous harvest. I do not have success with spinach! 
Squash (summer or winter) -  1 -2 plants per person.  Plant more winter squash if you plan to store it for winter use.  My family does not like summer squash, so I do not grow it. I grow winter squash only to use in pumpkin recipes.  Last year my squash were all volunteers in the compost heap!  I have high hopes for the same this year. 

acorn squash - August 2013
Tomatoes - for fresh, slicing use plant 1 plant per person.  Of course, if you can plant many more of a suitable canning variety.  I will be planting a Sungold cherry, an Ace, and a Yellow Brandywine (keeping my fingers crossed I can find one).  Those three are the ones I have found to be the most productive, and most importantly, the most flavorful. 

Sungold cherry tomato - July 2013
Planting the right number of plants is rather like The Three Bears.  "Too much!"  "Too little!"  Hopefully this year I have figured out just how many plants will be "Just right!" 





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