If you are new to gardening or homesteading, the question of “What do I plant in my vegetable garden?” has been bouncing around your head all winter. So while the soil is still too cold in most of the US, let’s get to figuring out what you like, how much you like it, and how much space you have.
I found Southern Dreams Homestead to have a great article for beginners and their gardens. They have a ton of great information and it’s really helpful if you don’t know what you’re doing. Learning and Yearning also has a great article about getting started with organic gardening.
What fruits and vegetables do you like?
This is a very serious question that people usually get tripped up on. I despise raw tomatoes. I do not want it anywhere near my hamburger or salad. BUT I absolutely love salsa, ketchup, BBQ sauce, and more. That means I should probably not plant a ton of slicing tomatoes and plant more sauce or paste tomatoes. While, yes, Jared loves to eat raw tomatoes, he is the only one. So it doesn’t make a lot of sense to plant an entire row of slicers just for him.
As a rule, none of us like cabbage. Why would we plant it if we don’t like it? But a lot of people are under the impression that to be a true garden, you must have certain veggies in it: Tomatoes, Cucumbers, Zucchini, and the like. Well, if you don’t like it, don’t waste your time, money or space on it.
How Much to Plant?
Again this one is pretty simple, it comes down to space and what you like. Going back to my tomato example, out of the three of us, Jared is the only one that likes raw tomatoes. I’m not going to take up an entire row of space for slicers. But what I will do is plant a couple slicers and grape tomatoes so that he has something to snack on. The majority of my tomato space will be taken up with Roma’s and Bonnie’s Best.
But how much to plant? After doing research, I know that tomatoes have an average yield of 8-10#. What I do is figure up how many pounds I need. For example, I know I need 52 quarts of tomato sauce so here’s the formula I use.
A quart of tomato sauce is approximately 3# of tomatoes.
3# x 52 quarts= 156 pounds of tomatoes. But because of tomato math we round to 200#.
Each plant will yield approximately 8-10# of tomatoes.
200# / 8= 25 plants which we will round to 30 because of tomato math.
What is tomato math?
Well, it’s the same as chicken and goat math. If I need two eggs a day for breakfast, I need at least ten chickens. That is chicken math. No, it doesn’t make any sense which is the point. Goat math is a little different because you start with two and then end up with nine and I’m still not really sure how that happened. Tomato math is simply thinking that 25 plants is not nearly enough to sustain my family’s tomato needs and you end up with 150 plants and a ton of tomatoes. Not to mention trying to figure out what your going to do with 1,2000+ pounds of tomatoes.
The best way to figure out how much you need to plant is simple.
Figure out what the average yield for the type of plant: tomatoes are 8-10# per plant, peas are about 30 plants per person, potatoes are 5-10# per plant and so on. Then figure out how many pounds you need. I know we will go through about 100# per person for potatoes per year for cubed, shredded, whole, and fries. So I need 400#.
Then divide the number of pounds the plant yields to the number pounds you need;
Potatoes- 400/5=80 potato plants.
If you don’t know how many pounds you need, estimate and write down what you planted. When you harvest, write down the weight. Keep an eye on how much you are using and when it’s gone, figure up how many days until your next harvest.
Try not to get overwhelmed
I know that is way easier said than done. At the end of the day, even planting one tomato plant is better than doing nothing at all. So don’t sweat it, just get out there and start digging in the dirt and enjoy the wonder of growing your own food.
If you decide to start seeds instead of buying plants, which I highly recommend, The Homesteading RD has a great guide for starting pepper plants. Since my own pepper starts didn’t do so well, I will be using some of these tips next year.
You can start big or small, it’s totally up to you. What you need to remember is that just by planting something you are doing something to decrease your dependency on the grocery store. It doesn’t matter that you didn’t harvest thousands of pounds of food. The reality is that you tried.
If your garden doesn’t produce a ton like you wanted it to, try again. I found these articles helpful for fall planting or just helping your soil through fall. Though Georgia doesn’t have much of a fall, more of a HOT, not so hot, freezing, hot…. you get the picture.
Other Helpful Tips and Tricks
Over at Vintage Homestead, you can figure out how to take a soil samples. This is great for figuring out if you need extra nitrogen, fertilizer, or other materials added to your garden. Once you’ve taken your samples and have your results you can head over to Learning and Yearning to figure out how to add materials to your soil naturally.
If you’re anything like me and you want to know which plants like rhubarb and help them, head over to The Homesteading RD to take a look at what they have to say.
I am guilty of wanting to mulch everything in the garden and Learning and Yearning has a great article on how to avoid those pitfalls that comes with it.
And Bear and I are proud of you for that.