How Much Should I Plant To Feed My Family For A Year?

*This article has been edited and updated since it’s original posting in 2009.

When you really start thinking about gardening in terms of raising enough food to sustain yourself and your loved ones throughout an entire year, it can be hard to comprehend just how much you should plan on planting. Most of us have no idea what a year’s worth of home-grown food even looks like.

Unfortunately, if you’re looking for a very specific and exact answer, I’m afraid you just won’t find it. Every family’s needs and eating habits are different. And some foods may not grow well in your region, so each of you needs to tailor your garden accordingly. But I do have a list here for you to refer to, and it’s a great starting point.

As you learn more about what suits your family’s needs you can adjust the amounts appropriately. Keep a garden journal, and do your best to remember to write in it how many plants you planted, how many pounds of food you harvested, and how long it lasted before you ran out. This information will help you gauge for your family’s particular requirements.

How Much Should I Plant To Feed My Family For A Year?

Here are a few recommendations mostly found in the book Reader’s Digest Back to Basics. Some of these amounts may be way off for your family, but like I said it’s at least a good general idea.

Asparagus: about 10-15 plants per person

Beans (Bush): about 15 plants per person

Beans (Pole): 2-4 poles of beans per person (each pole with the four strongest seedlings growing)

Beets: about 36 plants per person.

Broccoli: 3-5 plants per person

Cabbage: 2-3 plants per person

Cantaloupe: figure on about 4 fruits per plant (estimate how much your family would eat)

Carrots: about 100 seeds per person (1/4 oz would be plenty for a family of six)

Cauliflower: 2-3 plants per person

Collards: about 5 plants per person

Corn: start out with 1/2 lb. seeds for the family and adjust as needed

Cucumbers: 3-6 plants per family

Eggplant: 3-6 plants per family

Lettuce: 4-5 plants per person

Okra: 3-4 plants per person

Onions: 12-15 plants per person

Parsnips: 12-15 plants per person

Peas: about 120 plants per person

Peppers: 3-5 plants per person

Spinach: about 15 plants per person

Squash (including Zucchini): about 10 per family

Sweet Potatoes: about 75 plants per family

Tomatoes: about 20 plants per family

Turnips: about 1/4 lb seeds per family

Watermelon: about 1/2 oz. seeds per family

If you are an experienced gardener, and have a good suggestion for planting amounts, or want to share what works for your family, I’d love to hear from you!

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About Kendra 1123 Articles
A city girl learning to homestead on an acre of land in the country. Wife and homeschooling mother of four. Enjoying life, and everything that has to do with self sufficient living.


  1. The list does not say “zucchini”. It says 10 squash plants per family. If I planted 2-3 summer squash (zucchini/yellow) and 7-8 winter squash (pumpkin, acorn, butternut) I would feel like I needed a few more for my small family. Thank you so much for sharing the list!

  2. Hi – I’ve not read through all the comments so apologies if this has been said already, but one thing that jumped out of me from the list was that is way too few onions – so many recipes need onions and then there are chutneys and pickles. However that said if space is short and as onions are cheap maybe grow a few large Spanish onions and use the space saved for other crops.

  3. Some of these are so way off for us – 10-15 onions per person per year?!! More like 20 times that amount! 120 pea plants per person?! I’m not sure I’ve even got room for 120 pea plants per person – that it left me open mouthed and a bit bemused, wondering what sort of diet people have that these quantities would be about right. I guess we’re all so very different that any kind of list like this is largely meaningless. For me, it would be more useful to have a list of how much average yield you can expect off each plant species.

    To gauge how much I need to plant, I just think about my weekly shopping list through the seasons. How much of everything do I generally buy in a week to feed the family? Then I remove anything that won’t grow in my location, multiply the rest by the number of weeks I’d expect to be buying those fruits/vegetables per season/year, add on an extra 30-50% to allow for germination failures and feeding some garden critters along the way, and plant up to yield roughly those amounts. But that’s just a starting point because with growing you can let your imagination wander way beyond the limited range of produce agribusiness deems suitable for our consumption, so I curl up with a good seed catalogue (open pollinated and heritage varieties are a must if you want to save your own seed or even develop your own local varieties) and add all the things that look really interesting to try. And then, rather than tearing my hair out if one particular crop doesn’t do well one year, we just adapt our diet to what’s available in the garden, including wild edibles.

  4. Our zucchini plant last year produced a lot of zucchini so what we did is froze it in 2 cup increments ( our favorite zucchini bread recipe) and placed it in our garage deep freezer that doesn’t get open as much. We have been enjoying zucchini all year long. So you cant have to much zucchini. You can also look for other ways to make your harvest up. I am constantly looking up new ideas on how to use things.

  5. Curious how to store mass quantity’s of food like that if I was to plant it. I can and freeze but don’t have enough space. Root cellar or an out building on my farm but I don’t know how to store them.

  6. I’m not sure where those few people got the idea that you said to plant 50 zucchini/squash plants. I see it says 10 per FAMILY, not per person. I’ve found 1 zucchini plant per person to be plenty for fresh eating, two if you want to freeze and/or make bread from it. Winter squash however we love, so I could plant 10 of those alone! I like you list very much it seems right on the mark for me … one question though, when you say “per family” how many people does that include?

  7. We plant on a commercial basis so I’m not too sure as we just eat from the market garden but I find this a useful tool to pass onto others who often ask me what they need to plant.Thanks for the info.

  8. I would love to see a list for us in the Northern areas.. I live in the PNW.. West of Seattle.. and Melons aren’t possible and longer warm weather crops can be a bust on a bad summer. lucky to be 60 days of warmth some years. Suggestions?

  9. with compact gardening such as square foot gardening, has anyone seen a good chart for how much to grow? Also, I’m not a huge fan of plain beets, but I love pickled beets. 🙂

  10. I would like to thank you Kendra for you good advice. I followed you tips on how much to plant and so far this summer I have been doing a lot of canning. Guaranteed already I believe I have enough to last a year but with 2 growing boys at home of course you could never tell. Thank you for saving me a lot of money.

  11. back on the farm, we would measure the distance between rows for cultivating space. Usually with a stake and twine to keep them straight. afterward we would leave the empty seed package on the stake to show and remind us just what was planted in each row.

  12. Home canned beets taste nothing like the store bought canned beets. They don’t taste like dirt anymore but have an aroma of mild, sweet, …beet? taste. I don’t know how to describe GOOD beet flavor, sorry. But they are way, way different when you grow your own. Good luck growing y’all!

  13. University of Kentucky’s Ag Extension has a great general gardening resource (in PDF), and near the top is a basic layout.

    If I remember right, using simple row plantings, a family of four can get by on about an acre of food (with some leftover for barter). Intensive gardening’s come a long way since this was written (just look at the folks who can grow a couple tons of food in their front- and backyards).

    Anyhow, here’s a link to UK’s resource. Hope others find it as helpful as I did!

  14. Each year as I grew up on the farm we planted the equivilant of 2 town sized gardens and a large truckpatch, about an acre total. My advice would be to only plant the things your family will eat and lots of it. We were poor folks and had to depend upon what we growed for survival and many years it still wasn’t enough due to bad weather or other conditions. We also supplemented our gardens with fruit trees, wild berries and general foraging. My family would usually can between 300-500 quarts of fruit and veggies per year depending upon how good the harvest was, plus lots of potatoes in cool storage. Our hope was to always have more than what we could eat to tide us over through the lean years.

    In later years we installed electricity in the old house and found a low priced freezer and that decreased our need to can so much. Boy, I sure miss those days. That was some of the best food I ever ate!

  15. If you really want to learn to be a self reliant, join SeedSavers. They teach you how to plant and save your own seeds. Also, add potato’s to your list. They store easy and are easy to grow. Just finished weeding them yesterday. Should have a great crop this year. Sweet potato’s are better for warm weather.

  16. Now, I like zucchini more than most, but for 10 plants that better be a huge patch and a big family 🙂 Each plant will be easily 4×4 feet.

    In addition to just food, they’re also great at shading out weeds. Think “next year’s new bed” or “drying up and weed control on a ‘damp’ septic field”. Just be prepared to pick a couple times a day. They can grow nearly as fast as kudzu, and quickly go from edible to ‘log’ size fast.

    If you don’t like beets, try this: Get fresh ones, quarter them and roast w/a little olive oil, salt and pepper at about 375^ until the get caramelized. Enjoy. (and, yes, even home-canned ones taste pretty much like cr*p). Also, if you like spinach or Swiss Chard, the greens are the best part. Just don’t boil ’em all day like great-grandma did.

  17. I like that you don’t give a cookie cutter answer and explain how it depends on climate and diet. I don’t like that you jump right into listing how many plants, which is basically a cookie cutter answer. Perhaps list expected yields or even better, previous yields. Then people can judge how many plants they need to roughly get the yields they want. They still have to deal with climate issues but that’s gonna be the case for almost any asnwer they find on the internet.

  18. I have a small garden due to where we live, but I’ve been researching and experimenting how to get the most out of it for years. For total self-sufficiency, figure at least 1 acre of produce per person. Only plant what you use. Onions and carrots are in hundreds of recipes, can or freeze your tomatoes, plant not only green beans but beans to dry as well – so that Reader’s Digest count is very low for beans.

    Save your grocery receipts for a year & keep a log. That will show you how many pounds of which vegetables you use. If you already have a garden, add your home-grown to the log to figure in what you’re not buying. Log when you eat out – not necessary *what* you eat, but that you’re missing a meal at home. It’s a bit of math, but it will save you money in the long run (and seeing any impulse or junk food buys will help too).

  19. Wow! I wish I had space for all of that. For beets I recommend the gold variety .They are like oven candy when roasted. Not even a hint of dirt flavor. And don’t skip the greens! With a little oil, garlic, lemon juice and parmigiana, they are even better than the beets themselves!!

  20. Ha, I don’t like beets too much either but they’re quite nice baked with generous amount of blue cheese. Also among roast veggies they will do along with carrots, parsnips and potatoes. One should eat purple plants and with blue cheese: yes, please for me! !

  21. It takes alot of work to get to the point that you can really list it off. Great job! I’m slowly learning too… you’re a few steps ahead of me!

    • So glad I might have been able to help a little, Karen 🙂 It’s tough to know where to start. I think any kind of list like this that can be modified to your own tastes is better than having absolutely nothing to go by in the beginning.

  22. I love the comment about the beets above, because my family LOVES sweet fresh roasted beets. I can’t grow them fast enough in the summer. Twelve 2-3″ beets make us a side dish with no leftovers, and we’ll sautée the greens sometimes, too. I have to plant them successively through the season, and we still can’t get enough. I guess everyone has their favorites! 🙂 (We like Detroit dark red, if you want to try that variety, btw.)

  23. Beets? 36 plants per person? are you nuts?:0
    I can’t stand beets, they taste like dirt, so even if I liked them I couldn’t image what 36 plants per person would create!
    I visualize someone next year drowning in beets, shaking a fist and yelling Kendra!!!

    I know you must mean 3-6 plants per person. lol

    • Anonymous,

      LOL!! Hey, I didn’t make this list up, hahaha 😉 I don’t like beets either, but if it was for survival I’m sure I could manage to find a way to eat them. Especially because they’re pretty easy to grow, at least where I live 🙂

  24. It’s great to have a plan like this before you get started on your garden in the spring. I always start with a plan and then somewhere around halfway through planting, the plan goes out the window. 😉

    I try to plant in succession, so there will be several harvests of leaf lettuce, spinach, and bunching onions in the spring and then a second harvest of peas, lettuce, and spinach in the fall. It can be tough to choreograph all of this and I lose track of how much I plant, as far as paying attention to # of plants.

    It is a good idea to plant more than you think you need of everything that you like. New veggies you’re not sure of, plant just a few. Just don’t plant more than you can take care of or all of your hard work will go up in weeds!

    • VERY true, Lisa Lynn 🙂 I’m the same way. I try to be all organized, but halfway through the season not much is really the way I planned. Some crops don’t do well, so I end up putting something else in to fill the bare spot, and I lose track of a lot of what I planted and how much I harvested. One of these days I’ll get it right 😉

  25. I would think this also assumes the family will be preserving some of the harvest. 🙂

    Nice starting point though! Thanks for sharing.

  26. That’s a good starting point! I noticed last year that I had all too little onions. Now I planted more. But still all too little carrots! I plant at least 40 salads and we eat it all. Guess we eat alot! A great way to use zucchinis we can’t consume ourselves is to grate them and give to chickens. Tomatoes I have 28 plants for 6. But as they’re not in the greenhouse, the production is not huge.

    • Taina,

      Yeah, I would lean toward planting a lot more tomatoes than you think you’ll need. We don’t realize how much we put tomatoes in: ketchup, spaghetti sauce, tomato paste, diced tomatoes, salsa, etc. More is better in my opinion 🙂

  27. if you want to see what types of plants will thrive in your area try i just came across it today. 🙂

  28. My advice?

    Know what will and won’t work in your climate. Or if you do know that something won’t work, that you need to be stubborn about attempting to make it work (like watermelons in my short season climate!).

    And have a backup plan. If the birds get all your strawberries or you forgot that garlic and pole beans hate each other so you get dismal crops, it’s nice to have a farmer a few miles away with an acre of beans and another one with 5 acres of strawberries you can go take care of business. 😀

    It all takes practice though, that’s for sure. I have my master list of what I want to can/freeze/dehydrate/root cellar for the year, and we’ll see how close I get by the time it frosts. 🙂

  29. This guide made me laugh. The 50 squash/zucc plants will be enouigh to feed a village! We plant 3 zucc plants every year and have enoigh to make bread, make bags of breaded zucc for the freezer, use some in a home made V8 juice, puree some for home made spaghetti sauce and sell a bunch.

  30. Be careful with the squash and zucchini. We planted six plants of each last year and we had so much that it took over the garden and we couldn’t eat it fast enough.
    We did plant our onions yesterday!!!

  31. Thank you so much Kendra, this is very helpful, now I can go order my seeds. We are having a snow storm today, so I have plenty of time before we begin planting. Blessings

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