How much?

May 22, 2010


In my previous article I discussed when we’re planting different crops.  In this article I will discuss how much we’re planting.

We determined how much of each crop to plant by first estimating how much of each crop we’d eat.  Using information in Virginia Cooperative Extension Publication 426-331, we were able to calculate the number of plants and area required to meet all our household’s vegetable desires.  We then scaled the crop quantities by the amount of available garden space.  The garden has enough space to feed 1.66 persons (give or take a hundreth of a person), or, neglecting Lucy’s small vegetable consumption, 41.5% of each of us; we decided to not build another garden space because of time restrictions.  Unfortunately, since we are not even feeding ourselves this year, we probably will not be selling anything at the local farmer’s market.  That’s OK, though; we’re learning.  People a space can feed is a little abstract, so here are some more tangible garden figures:

  • total garden area: 570 ft2 (0.0131 acres)
  • total number of plants: 1220
  • expected yield of garden: 517 lb.

For perspective Kristin and I had one tomato plant, one pepper plant, and five carrot plants on our balcony last year.  This is a big increase for us.  However, it’s pretty small compared to the commercial vegetable farm at which I work.  Roundabout Farm has about 15 acres and, considering pepper plants alone, about two-thousand plants.  It’s even smaller compared to a modern corn, soybean, and wheat farm.  Warren, if you’re comfortable sharing:  How much area do you farm?  About how many plants does your crop typically consist of?  And what’s your total yield in pounds (or in bushels if the weight isn’t available)?

Below is a plot showing the amount of space we’ll actually be using in the garden throughout the growing season.  There is a sharp increase in garden area after the last frost date.  About the same number of items come out of the garden as go in during the middle of the season.  Note that at maximum approximately 80% of the garden is used.  We could grow more produce using the remaining 20% of the space, but the fragments are hard to use as successive crops are moved in and out.  Crops are gradually harvested later in the growing season until area use drops to zero at the first frost date.

bell-like curve showing utilization of garden area with respect to time in the growing season


Howdy folks, We farm a mere 1650 acres (not large in our area) Here’s the breakdown for 2009 production:
corn – 925 acres
29,600,000 plants
9,997,400 lbs grain

beans – 565 acres
84,750,000 plants
1,993,320 lbs grain

wheat – 160 acres
192,000,000 plants
945,600 lbs grain

Hope this helps.

Warren Sancken — May 23, 2010