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Self Sufficient Gardening

Feeding a family of four from the garden
With good soil, good weather and some experience, a space about the size of a two car garage will feed a family for a year


In the latest issue someone said you need two acres of garden to grow all your food for a year.
Are there any guidelines for this? What to plant, how much seed, how many rows of each, for a family of four? Elliott Reynolds, New, York

I don't recall any reference to two acres of garden... and I'd dispute it if I did. Unless, possibly, your rows are so far apart you're cultivating between each one with a horse or tractor! But few homesteaders today use such old-fashioned methods.

With any type of intensive planting and well-built-up soil fertility, a half-acre or less should suffice for most families of four. Under ideal conditions, and with experience, much less. (John Jeavons, in How to Get More Vegetables (than you ever thought possible on less land that you can Imagine), (Ten Speed Press, Berkeley,, Calif.,first edition, 1974 and still in print) claims you can feed a family of four with a garden of 1,302 square feet including paths! (An acre is 43,560 square feet, or almost 35 times as much.) This, of course, requires some very intensive gardening, and enough experience to make it work.

We might also point out, once again, that small gardens frequently produce more than large ones. The reason is simple: Smaller gardens are likely to get better care, while large ones, especially those planted by beginners, often become overwhelming and by July are lost in weeds and neglect.

But these variables suggest already -even before getting into the more difficult part of your question - why we have always disliked presenting such information even as "guidelines." How fertile is your soil? What are you going to plant (or what do you like to eat)? What varieties? What is your climate like? How much you know about intensive planting?

And when we get into things like weather that varies from year to year, pests and diseases that also vary, timing of plantings (another big variable in our gardens, depending on weather and other projects and priorities)... that's why we always say asking a question like this is like asking " How long is a piece of string?"

Really. The only substitute for experience is beginner's luck. And experience alone is no guarantee. When we moved 250 miles north it took three years to learn how to garden all over again

With these disclaimers (and many others we could add), here are some of the "guidelines" so many people are asking for.

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