What Size Garden Do I Need?

Wild Lettuce

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Starting a new garden and wondering what size garden do I need? Whether you’re a beginner gardener or an old hand, getting your vegetable garden planning right from the very start, will give you the best chance to grow a very productive garden.

Careful Vegetable Garden Planning:

  • Cuts down on hard work
  • Eliminates mistakes
  • Maximizes Yields
  • Saves you money
  • Allows you to garden organically with ease
  • Lets you enjoy your garden!
  • Puts lots of food on your table
  • Gives you a garden to be proud of


Planning Garden Size


What Size Should Your Garden Be?

It is actually fairly straight forward to work out what size garden you should grow. But this isn’t a situation where you can expect to find a one size fits all solution. To get this figured out you need to take a few things in to account.

  • How big is your family? Five people eat more than three.
  • Is your family mostly grown, or are the children still small? Adults and fast growing teens eat a lot more food than tiny tots.
  • How long is your growing season? A longer season gives you the opportunity to harvest more food from a given area. If your season is short, you will need a bigger garden plot, so that you can grow lots of things at once and then preserve them in some way.
  • Can you extend your growing season at all? Every grower will benefit from a green house or poly tunnel/hoop house. You’ll be able to have some fresh food all year round and they make a lovely place to sit when the weather is grungy.
  • What food do you want to grow? Do you want the basics – potatoes, carrots, peas, onions, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, cucumber. Or do you want to have squash, beetroot, parsnips, peppers, herbs, fruit bushes and trees?

Make A Crop List

Make a list of the foods that you want to be able to eat from your garden.

You’ll find producing enough food a lot easier if you eat seasonally. For example – Pole beans (a legume) only grow when it’s warm. If you want to eat them all year round, you’ll need to grow a larger amount and freeze or can your extra produce, to eat over the cooler months.

BUT – if you grow snap peas/mange tout, (a different legume), during the cooler spring and fall/autumn months, then you won’t need to grow or preserve anywhere near as many beans over the summer.

Also keep in mind that it’s easier to grow non heading lettuces that just keep growing, so you can keep picking leaves from them all season.

The same goes for a plant like kale. Twelve East Friesian Palm Kale plants will give a family more green leafy veg than they know what to do with, and they are much easier to grow than cabbages. We plant 12 more during the summer for picking over winter.

Try fast growing veggies like Pak/Bok Choi. It’s a fast grower and it tastes wonderful.

Work out a rough idea of how many pounds/kilos of each food you generally consume as a family. Remember to include any vegetables that you will be growing for pickles, relishes, sauces etc.

Make A Vegetable Garden Planner

Now you’re ready to plan out your own garden and figure out how much space is needed to grow your veg. Sit down and make a sketch of your garden area on graph paper (the kind with the little squares). You can use some cut-outs to place your different veges and other plants on the graph.

First, start to draw in some garden beds in the planner. If you want to make raised garden beds like we do here, remember to make the width of your beds no wider than 1.2m with 50cm paths in between.

Then drop the cut-outs of your veggies and fruits that you want to grow, on to the beds. Check all of the spacing’s, that they are worked out well.

Play around with your new tool, and see what you can fit where. Don’t forget that you can inter-plant some crops. For example, lettuce can be planted in the space between tomato plants where it will benefit from the shade of the taller plants during the heat of summer. This shade will help prevent your lettuce from turning bitter.

Or you can purchase a ready-made Garden Planning Kit like the one pictured below. It is quite a time saver.

Taking the time to plan your garden is essential for

  • Making the most of the vegetable plot that you have
  • Making sure that you get the maximum yield from a vegetable garden
  • Making sure that you can manage the garden efficiently

And please do remember that growing food takes practice. You can read books and websites until you’re blue in the face, but you won’t know how your garden is going to work out until you’ve actually gone through a season.

The yields that you get from your garden will depend on the length of your growing season and more importantly whether you got planting as soon as your zone allows.

Some years the weather will cooperate with you, some years it won’t. Following long range weather forecasters like James Madden at ExactaWeather.com is a good idea.

The plant varieties that you choose will determine how much produce you get to pick. For example, early cropping tomatoes are great if you have a short season, but they don’t produce as heavily as main crop varieties. So plan accordingly.

Remember to make good use of vertical space too.

Keep a Gardening Diary

Important! Take notes on how well your plants are doing, how much produce you got from a planting and any problems that you encountered. It’s so easy to forget what happened in your garden last season. If you’ve taken notes you can plan better next time.

You might find that several types of insect caused you trouble, so you’ll want to incorporate companion plants into next years garden to deal with them. Or maybe mice ran off with your direct sown seeds, so next time you’ll sow in modules.

Your notes should also include produce that you didn’t eat, so that you don’t waste time, and space on so many plants next year. Some plants will surprise you with just how much they produce.

Author: This article was written for Self Sufficiency HQ by Caroline Taylor of Klamath Falls, Oregon.

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