Growing a vegetable garden to feed your family provides fresh produce brimming with vitamins and minerals and bursting with flavor. Deciding which vegetables to grow and how much of each you need to feed the family requires evaluating the personal preferences of all family members and your desired use of each vegetable. Consideration of the age and appetite of each family member is vital to making an informed decision on how many plants of each type you should plant in your garden.
Make a list of your family’s favorite vegetables. Include vegetables your family eats on a regular basis as well as those they enjoy on occasion. If beans are a commonly served vegetable, but you enjoy Brussels sprouts on occasion, note this in your list.
Note how many family members like each vegetable. Although you may be growing food for a family of four, if two members dislike peas, plan to grow enough peas for two people instead of four.
Write down the expected use of each vegetable. If you plan to pickle beets or cucumbers for winter storage, note this now before you decide how much to grow. Typically, you will need to grow twice as much if you intend to preserve vegetables.
Consult a chart for the yield of specific vegetables (see resources) to determine the amount of each vegetable you should grow. Seed catalogs often contain the yield of specific vegetables in their planting guides. Charts typically indicate the amount an average family member will consume fresh during the gardening season and do not allow for canning or freezing excess vegetables. If you have small children, the numbers on the chart may not accurately reflect the needs of your family.
Adjust the number of plants to match the needs of your family. According to the Virginia Cooperative Extension, 10 feet of beets spaced 2 to 3 inches apart provides enough beets for one person. If all four family members want beets, a 40-foot row should provide enough beets for the family. To grow beets for canning or pickling, double the recommended amount.