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How Big Do I Really Need?  RSS feed

 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 270
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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I'm pre-planning my farm and will need to designate a certain portion of my land to the garden. I've read different opinions about how much space it would take for a garden to support a family, anywhere from 3000 sq ft to a quarter acre. I've not even decide what all I'll be growing but would like to grow enough to provide all the vegetables, grains and fruits that my 4 to 6 person family might possibly need. This won't be my only source of calories as there will be meat on the farm too. I also don't want it to be too big that the food would spoil because I really don't intend to sell any of it but might give it away to my parents (which would make the family size 6 instead of 4). Here in North Texas we get plenty of rain, so I suppose yields would be pretty good. So how big of an area do I really need?
 
Tyler Ludens
pollinator
Posts: 9741
Location: Central Texas USA Latitude 30 Zone 8
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Personally I think it is best to start small and enlarge the garden as you get better at growing. My garden was at first too large and too far from the house and it ultimately failed. So I suggest starting small and near the house, and enlarging over time. Maybe start with 500 square feet per person but plan to enlarge to 1000 to 2000 square feet or more per person, depending on how much grain you want to grow. Grain takes a tremendous amount of space compared to any other crop. Spoiling food isn't a problem if you have chickens or goats, as they will eat any extras you don't want.

References: "How to Grow More Vegetable" by John Jeavons, "One Circle" by David Duhon http://growbiointensive.org/
 
R Scott
Posts: 3351
Location: Kansas Zone 6a
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The numbers vary so much because productivity varies so much. Rain, soil, sun, temperature, growing season.

Start several small gardens spread around to see which areas are better than others.
 
Jeanine Gurley Jacildone
pollinator
Posts: 1422
Location: Midlands, South Carolina Zone 7b/8a
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So many of the videos I have watched and farms I have visited seem to only grown intesively on one acre - no matter how many acres they actually own.

That is one of the first things I try to find out from the small (1-3 people) farms I study -- How big is the area they are actually working? usually one acre or less even when they have 5 or more acres available.

So that tells me that I should be able to re-create thier success on my small plot if I use my space wisely.
 
Brenda Groth
pollinator
Posts: 4437
Location: North Central Michigan
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IF you have the room plant enough fruit trees of each type that you enjoy eating to pollinate each other (check varieties)..you can plant only one tree per type if they are self pollinating but if not you need at least 2 varieties..if the room is small put in dwarfs or even frankentrees with different types grafted on one tree trunk ( i have a few of those).

use your brambles for hedges and mix in some other food bearing plants in those hedges..and put some perennials under the fruit trees to use that space..(gaia's garden by Toby Hemenway is a good book to read on this subject)..

I would not think so much about how much are but where you can put things..I put a lot of dwarf fruit trees right in the perimeter beds around my house..vines climbing up arbors or decking rails, some things as privacy screens or windbreaks..use your FOOD as your landscaping
 
John Polk
steward
Posts: 8019
Location: Currently in Lake Stevens, WA. Home in Spokane
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I think a big key to eliminating trips to the supermarket is to grow a large variety of crops.
If it is too limited, everybody soon gets bored eating the same things all season.
By the same token, I feel it is a waste of land, time and seeds to grow things you don't particularly care for.
(I know a guy who grows +/- 2-300 sq ft of kale, but only eats it one meal per year.)

Don't forget, each year you will probably have a few crops that do poorly, while others outperform your wildest imagination.
Your local squirrels and rabbits can decimate a kitchen garden if not controlled.
As mentioned above, pigs and chickens can convert surplus veggies into protein rich meat.
(In days of old, that's all they got...kitchen scraps, and excess fruits/veggies.)

Good luck.
 
Jason Matthew
Posts: 66
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Survival blog recently had an article on this topic. Around WWII the published guildelines for a family of four plus one extra required 5400 odd feet of row to provide all of the required produce for a family. I think you need at least 10,000 square feet to reach that number and possibly more depending upon the quality of your soil. I think 20,000 square feet for vegetables, fruits, nuts, and brambles is reasonable.

I'm working with 5000 square feet of red clay right now and it has been tough going. I'd start small, mulch heavily, and build out my garden if I were you.

 
Ed Colmar
Posts: 47
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I would second the idea of starting small and learning - especially if this is your first time gardening. You will make mistakes. You will learn how to improve your process. You will learn more about the natural cycles and how you can support them.

On my property I allocated half of the property to growing annuals, which was mostly experimentation. The other half was closely observed, and slowly designed/planned/implemented into a forest garden permaculture. The lessons learned in the forest half are slowly integrated into the annual half. Eventually, there will be a smaller area maybe 1/4 to 1/8 of the total allocated to annuals, with the majority reaching a stable perennial forest state.

Also I would add that choice in annual produce is critical for a small garden. Choose wisely, and consider product per sq foot as well as costs/benefits to the soil. Get nitrogen fixers, mulch crops, and native flowers going sooner rather than later.

Keep us posted with pics and plans as you develop them!
 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 270
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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I'll definitely be starting small, but as I develop my land, I must plan everything because my space is limited. For example if I need a half acre garden, then I'll need to build my house smaller or possibly clear trees or make my pond smaller etc.

I appreciate everyone's input. I'll certainly be on this forum a lot consulting with you guys as I go through the process. Next step will be choose which vegetable to choose
 
Alder Burns
pollinator
Posts: 1378
Location: northern California
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If you have plans for fruit or other trees, and even bush fruits, whether in an orchard or scattered about, consider starting areas of garden where the trees, etc. are going to go and planting the trees among your vegetables. You will have several years to grow there, and can always be slowly adding more shade-tolerant perennials up under the trees as they grow. The trees will benefit hugely from the soil preparation, water and attention given primarily to the annuals. When the area is mostly shaded, you will have succeeded the area to perennials or perhaps groundcover or pasture, and moved the annual garden elsewhere. This is one way to utilize succession and stacking functions. You can keep doing this until all of your perennial plants are established and by then you will have a much better idea of where and how big your permanent annual garden area will need to be....
 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 270
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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Alder Burns wrote:If you have plans for fruit or other trees, and even bush fruits, whether in an orchard or scattered about, consider starting areas of garden where the trees, etc. are going to go and planting the trees among your vegetables. You will have several years to grow there, and can always be slowly adding more shade-tolerant perennials up under the trees as they grow. The trees will benefit hugely from the soil preparation, water and attention given primarily to the annuals. When the area is mostly shaded, you will have succeeded the area to perennials or perhaps groundcover or pasture, and moved the annual garden elsewhere. This is one way to utilize succession and stacking functions. You can keep doing this until all of your perennial plants are established and by then you will have a much better idea of where and how big your permanent annual garden area will need to be....


I really never even thought about that. Thanks for pointing me in the right direction!
 
Ken Peavey
steward
Posts: 2524
Location: FL
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Working the garden alone, your first garden, in untried soil, with nothing set up, using storebought seed, in the middle of a drought, it is important to not overdo it. Think small at the start. There is much work to do, and if you try to do it all, it's likely nothing is going to work, and you give up in frustration. I use 4x50, 200 square foot beds. 5 of them is 1000 square feet. For your first adventure, this would be a pretty big space, but is doable without overreaching, and there is a fine chance that you might have something on your plate to show for all your hard work. Figure on a day or two to get each bed put together, if you have all the materials on hand, and a half hour to an hour each week for tending.

Ultimately, you can figure on 2000-10k sqft per person. Variables include soil fertility, selected cultivars, water, storms and climate, bugs, time, even the tools you use.

You mentioned in another post your rainwater harvesting operation. Sounds like you are taking on a pretty big project. You'll find this forum to be useful to you in getting nature to do some of the work for you. Time management will be an important aspect of your plan. You'll find some things take a whole lot longer than you planned on. Some of your projects will need attention regularly. If you don't have the time, neglect can lay waste some of your projects.
 
Paul Overton
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Brandon, I just posted a homestead land size analysis which may help answer your questions. I referred to Jeavons' book and some other data to get a more concrete idea how much land is truly needed.
 
Brandon Greer
Posts: 270
Location: 1 Hour Northeast Of Dallas
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My plan is for sure a big project, but I'm taking it in strides. It's more like a 5 year plan. I'll probably start with something like 100 to 200 sq ft just to get my thumb green
 
Paul Overton
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I'm thinking the same thing, Brandon.
 
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