One of the primary reasons I garden is to fill my pantry with canned fruits and vegetables that are free of bpa and pesticides. Of all the different things I preserve, tomatoes are far and away the most-used ingredient in my household; it seems I’m constantly pulling a jar of some sort of tomato product or another out of the pantry. It makes sense that growing tomatoes to stock my larder is top of my garden to-do list.
Since tomatoes are the crop I like to grow the most of, let’s take a look at what makes sense for my family. Obviously, a single tomato plant won’t suffice.Past experience in a hot summer region leads me to believe that a single tomato plant can yield as much as 20-30 pounds per season. Since I’m gardening in a region that’s notorious for being hard to grow tomatoes in, let’s assume I can get 10-15 pounds of tomatoes from each plant. (Note: this differs from the chart below. I’m using numbers that I’ve seen in my own garden.)
In a year’s time, my family of four (myself and three grown men) will eat:
- 26 quarts of pizza sauce (in 52 pint sized jars)
- 23 quarts of marinara sauce
- 35 quarts of salsa (I use salsa in chili recipes and Mexican dishes in addition to snacking)
That’s 84 quarts of tomatoes (more or less, as there will be other ingredients tossed in with the tomatoes). It takes about 21 pounds of tomatoes to yield seven quarts of crushed tomatoes, which is a full canner load. [source] So for the sake of mathematics, that’s about three pounds of tomatoes per quart jar. In order to stock my pantry with the tomato products we eat regularly, I’ll need to grow 252 pounds of tomatoes (Roma tomatoes are meatier). That means I’ll need between 17-25 tomato plants in order to accommodate my family’s needs. Since growing tomatoes is a priority for my family, I’ll make sure to get enough planted.
What to plant for your family
Every household differs, of course. Knowing what produce your family loves (and what they’ll only tolerate!) will help you decide what and how much to plant. Questions to ask yourself when figuring out how much your family would use:
- Will we eat this vegetable fresh from the garden?
- Do we use this vegetable frequently in cooking? Or in baking?
- Will we pickle or preserve or ferment this vegetable for winter storage?
- How much would we like to share with neighbors and friends?
Vegetable garden yields
Knowing the approximate yield of vegetable crops will help you determine how much of each crop to plant. (Approximate because there are so many variables, from local conditions to plant varieties.)
Yield (in pounds) per ten foot row.
- Beets – 10 pounds (roots)
- Bush beans – 8 pounds
- Broccoli – 7 pounds
- Carrots – 10 pounds
- Cucumbers – 12 pounds
- Eggplant – 7 pounds
- Green onions – 10 pounds
- Kale – 7 pounds
- Lettuce (leaf) – 5 pounds
- Melon – 10 melons
- Onions – 10 pounds
- Peas (snap) – 2 pounds
- Squash (summer) – 20 pounds
- Tomatoes – 15 pounds
- Peppers – 5 pounds
- Turnips – 5 pounds (roots)
Source: Planting a Successful Home Vegetable Garden, Montana State University
More to read about growing food
- Growing Yacon: Plant it and Forget it
- Homesteading in the City – Live Your Dream Life Where You Are NOW
- The (Almost) Fail-Proof Vegetable Garden for Beginners
- Organic Pest Control Methods
- Growing Vegetables in a Container Garden