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Gotta feed the family, but how much to plant?

 
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Location: Officially Zone 7b, according to personal obsevations I live in 7a, SW Tennessee
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I have always struggled with this question. William Horvath of Permaculture Apprentice has provided a starting place in his Crises Gardening blog post.

With the current pandemic, the damage to food production and supply chains has already been set in stone. It’s just a matter of time before the full effects of these unfortunate events trickle down to cause a shortage of food in your local area.

As a crisis gardener, you want to hedge against this by growing as many of your vegetables as possible. Ideally, you would be able to produce everything you consume within a whole year, but getting close to that ideal as much as possible is good enough.

With that in mind, in setting up your crisis garden, the first step is to have, at least, some idea about what you’ll grow, and how much of it to be able to feed yourself and your family.

Once you know this, you can then more accurately plan the right amount of seeds and transplants you’ll need and the required layout of your crisis garden. Without first crunching some numbers, you will most certainly resort to ad hoc ‘planting as you go’ all over the place, and thus growing an overabundance of some crops while being short of others.



Included in his blog is a free downloadable spreadsheet to get you started.

"...ad hoc ‘planting as you go’ all over the place..." is exactly what I have. Fortunatly, I have room to add some more garden space, if needed, after I pour over his spreadsheet!

How do you decide how much of an item to plant?
 
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"Overabundance" depends a lot on how easy it is to store or trade the surplus. I have a freezer and I can make jam, so eight blackcurrant bushes for my family of three is not a problem.  If you want to be strict with yourself over only growing what you need and everything you need, it is more difficult.  But if you have friends and family you can barter with, the system becomes more resilient in itself.  
 
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For me it's sort of a combination of:

Staples that I use
Things that are expensive or trash from the store
Things that are easy to scale

Staples for me are greens, fruit,  tomatoes, squash  potatoes,  onions, garlic,  and to a lesser extent,  herbs. Things that are expensive or horrible quality to buy even organically are things like artichokes, figs, or things like cardoon and gooseberries,  both of which are not available at all for purchase.  

It's definitely changed a lot from when I started. I find myself growing the things I like on a bigger scale,  and less of a little of this and a little of that.


Math wise I do:
100 garlic minimum per person,  which includes seed garlic for next year.
250 onions per person
5 tomato plants for people who don't live here but who I grow food for (my sisters), and 10 per person who lives here (I preserve a lot of tomatoes and use them a lot fresh)
15 hazelnut trees per person  (homesteaders did this to avoid famine)
Winter squash and potatoes I wing. As many as possible.  I always over plant to account for mortality.
Every year I expand my fall/winter garden. I think it's really undervalued in conventional gardening circles
 
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I like his focus on staple/calorie crops, nutrient crops, and everything else. I keep this idea in mind when I'm planning my garden, focusing most of the things that I know grow really well here and provide lots of calories or nutrients.

We live rurally and were used to shopping every 2 weeks, so to work out how many potatoes, bottled tomatoes, etc we need for a year I just multiply the average amount I'd buy from the shops by 26 and come up with a number that's fairly accurate. His spreadsheet will help me to work out how much to plant to get these yields, although it doesn't seem to update automatically for me when I change the desired yield bit on it.

Another thing to consider is that yields will vary a lot depending on soil fertility, water, and other factors. It's always better to plant too much rather than not enough.
 
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