How to Plan a Garden to Feed your Family

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Winter on the farm is not all soups, blankets and books. As early as January it is time to start planning the garden. And when you plan on growing enough food to sustain your family all year long it takes some serious planning indeed. But not to be discouraged, there are lots of resources to make it a snap!First thing is first…

How much food do you need to grow to feed your family?

We are more of a grow as much as we have time and space for. Of course that is not for everyone. If you are working with a finite amount of space then that will determine how much food you can grow. Either way here is a good link for calculating how much food you would need to grow if that is your thing.

What do I want to grow?

This is the most fun part. When it is -15 outside I love browsing through seed catalogs and daydreaming of sweating barefoot picking weeds. Nothing like a Nebraska winter to make you wish you were pulling weeds. One of my favorite seed catalogs is Annie’s Heirloom Seeds. Heirloom seeds have never been genetically modified. They have better taste, better nutrition and are part of a sustainable food system. Plus, if you are going to go through all of the trouble of growing your own vegetables, why make them look like something out of the grocery store? Click here for the list of what we will be growing in our garden in 2015.

Gather info

Here is what you need to know about what you are growing to start planning…
1. Your frost dates
2. What plants you want to start indoors vs direct seed
3. Plant spacing for all of the vegetables you want to grow
4. Days to harvest for each variety

Map it out

We like to garden by the lunar phases. Which is great because Farmers Almanac has a great online tool where you just enter your zone and it tells you when to either transplant or direct seed any kind of vegetable.

I like to take all of this info and plug it into a spreadsheet with these columns: Vegetable, Start Indoors, Harden off, Transplant, Direct Sow, Harvest, Fall Sowing, Notes. And I starting plugging it all in.

Map out your garden. Where you start depends on whether you have a finite space or an open lot. We have raised beds and just plan to fill them up, extras are great. Either way, get some graph paper and draw your garden to scale. Where to put what is like a fun jigsaw puzzle. If you are low on space try succession planting. Another fun component is companion planting which I always like to keep in mind. You will probably be doing a lot of arranging and rearranging so I like to have the garden drawn out in pen and I write the vegetables in pencil.

As you can see, all of this planning does take some time. But I am a firm believer that it will save you tons of stress and time in the future. Especially in spring when it is busy busy!

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