For many gardeners, the most enjoyable--but also time-consuming--step in creating a family vegetable garden is the planning process. With a myriad of vegetable species and varieties to choose from, you may get overwhelmed quickly, especially if you’re planning a gardening space for a family of five. Not only will a garden plan save time and money, but it also allows you to make the best use of the garden space you have for your family. Start planning your family vegetable garden ahead of time--ideally at least two to three months before you need to start seeds or break garden soil.
Sit down for a family meeting to discuss your gardening goals. Do you plan to grow just a few vegetables or do you want your garden to be your sole source of vegetables for the entire year? If possible, try to use your garden to provide food for your family just during the growing season, at least until you’re more familiar with the work involved in harvesting and preserving the vegetables.
Decide who will help with the various gardening chores, including planting, weeding and harvesting. Make a family commitment for your vegetable garden to be a family project, with designated chore assignments, or else you’ll soon find all the chores falling on one person’s shoulders.
Select a vegetable garden site. Look for well-draining soil that gets at least six hours of sunlight each day to provide the best growing conditions for your family vegetable garden. Miranda Smith, author of “Complete Home Gardening,” suggests that families start with a vegetable garden that measures 20 by 30 feet or smaller to minimize burn-out; with careful vegetable selection, you should be able to feed your family of five throughout the summer on a garden of this size, as well as have a bit of extra produce to can for the winter.
Choose vegetables for your family garden. With a family of five, you should limit the vegetables to those species that at least three family members like. Calculate how many pounds of each vegetable your family consumes in an average week and use that amount to help guide you in determining the number of seeds to plant. For example, according to Smith, 1 foot in the average garden row produces approximately 1 pound of carrots; depending upon how many pounds of carrots your family of five consumes each week, you may need to plant as little as 20 feet of carrots or as many as 100 feet of carrots to provide enough carrots for your family for the entire year.
Sketch a scaled plan of your vegetable garden on graph paper. Group your vegetables into families to minimize insect and disease problems; for example, place beans and peas in one area, but group tomatoes, potatoes, okra and pepper in another section. Refer to your sketch when the time comes to plant; use it the following growing year to guide you in rotating your vegetable species to different areas of the garden.