If you’ve been following along you know by now that I’m preparing my garden for planting. However, as I take a look at my garden I’m not sure it’s the right size. My wife thinks it may be a little too big, but on the other hand I’m thinking about expanding it because I think it’s a little too small.
So, how big should my vegetable garden be? The size of your vegetable garden should be 100 square feet per person you’re trying to feed. Some variables may change this size for your specific situation, but as a general rule, the size of a vegetable garden should be 100 square feet per person you intend to feed.
|Individual||100 square feet|
|Couple||200 square feet|
|Average Family||300-500 square feet|
|Large Family (5+)||600-800 square feet|
|Religious Family (8+)||1000+ square feet|
I hope no one takes offense to the “Religious Family” category…my wife and I both come from large families of 8+.
This isn’t a number to live and die by. Of course, there could be reasons to have a smaller garden, and there could definitely be reasons to go bigger. The number one reason that 100 square feet is a good rule of thumb is simply that it’s a manageable size for an individual to garden and a garden this size will have decent production.
If you have a small yard though, you may want to go smaller, or even just have a few potted plants that you can bring inside if need be. If you’ve got a larger yard and plenty of space, and you’re not concerned with having too much produce, then by all means go for it and create a larger garden.
My garden is currently 20×20 (400 square feet). After purchasing our home my wife and I built a 15×15 garden (225 square feet) for ourselves and our two young children. After two years we had grown out of that garden and I began expanding it.
Unfortunately I was in a severe motorcycle accident and that bigger garden never actually got planted. That was a few years ago now and a lot has changed – most noticeably our family has grown…a lot! We’ve added 4 more children, which means we’re now a household of 8 instead of a household of 4. So, I think it’s time to expand the garden again, but my wife is worried about production and time commitment because we haven’t grown anything in a while.
The size of your garden should really depend on your personal needs and wants. What are you trying to accomplish with this garden and can you give the garden the time needed to accomplish your gardening goals?
Every garden needs to be cared for and the environment you live in will be a huge factor for how much time your garden needs YOU. Keep in mind that for every square foot of garden you’ll need to be sure to prep the soil, plant, space plants out, weed, water, monitor soil, and protect from adverse weather (extreme heat or extreme cold), etc.
There is a lot of time that goes into your garden. I’m not sure how much time other people spend on their garden, but my wife and I used to spend about 20 minutes a day tending to the garden….that was when it was a 15×15 space. So, a little over 1 minute per 10 square feet of garden. If you’re regularly maintaining the garden it won’t get out of hand. However, if you don’t tend to the garden daily you may find that you spend more time in the garden each time you do get out to tend to it.
For me, the garden isn’t always about the hobby so I do have to consider my family needs. We have a large family. Feeding 8 people isn’t cheap and isn’t easy, but with proper planning we can make it easier by planting our garden and maintaining it. We plan to make gardening a family event. Each child is picking out their plants and each of them is commiting time to work in the garden (we’ll see how that pans out later). The point here is that we have to evaluate our needs – how much food do we NEED to grow, as well as the practicality of growing our own food.
There is no way that we could grow EVERYTHING we need, I’m not sure I could handle that much gardening, but by using the 100 square feet per person rule we are able to manage and budget our gardening. We know what we can expect from our harvest and we know how that will help support us financially. Our needs are different than yours so be sure that you consider what it is that you need. What do you want to grow? How much will you actually consume? How much time are you willing/able to garden? How much of your harvest do you want to preserve? Etc.
What is the best size for raised vegetable garden beds?
The best size for raised vegetable garden beds depends on the space you have and how much you’ve decided you need to grow. I have a very large 20×20 raised vegetable garden bed. Something this big means that I have to walk through the garden itself in order to plant, maintain, and harvest. I’m fairly certain I’ll be building a new raised garden bed about 20×6. This is still a large garden, but it’s much more narrow so I can stand to the side of the garden and do most of what is needed to maintain the garden. It’s also much easier for my children to do their jobs in the garden when it’s this narrow.
Length and Width
For many gardeners the raised vegetable garden bed size will depend on the lumber you’re able to secure from your local home improvement store. Lumber typically comes in 8 foot lengths – which is great if you cut them in half and just do a 4×4 raised vegetable garden bed. These smaller vegetable gardens don’t require any less work, but they can be slightly easier to navigate, particularly for children.
I’ve also seen many 8×4 and 8×8 raised vegetable garden beds. Again, this is because the standard length of lumber from the home improvement store. These smaller and more narrow raised beds also lend themselves to a more appealing landscaping because you can create beautiful paths between your raised beds.
As far as depth goes I would suggest a minimum of 6-8 inches or two 2×4’s stacked on their side. My large 20×20 garden has a depth of about 2-3 feet, but the new one I’m building will only be about 8 inches deep so my children have easier access to it. I have seen numerous raised gardens with 16-24 inch depths. These heights make it easier to plant, weed, and harvest because you won’t need to bend over as much.
How many hours of full sun does a vegetable garden need?
Your vegetable garden will need 4-8 hours of full sunlight. Of course, each plant has slightly different needs, but as a general rule of thumb 4-8 hours of direct sunlight is great for a healthy garden. Every plant is different. Most leafy vegetables need the least amount of sunlight (about 4 hours will do), and your root vegetables like carrots and beets will need a good 6 hours. Your vines, melons, fruit veggies like tomatoes, cucumbers, squash, peppers, etc. will need the most sunlight.
Keep in mind that the temperature and soil conditions will also need to be considered. Four to eight hours of full sun here in the 100 degree Texas heat is different than 4-8 hours of full sun in Canada because the temperature is so different. In hot climates like Texas 4-8 hours may be a little too much and may cause the plants to burn.
How do I prepare soil for a vegetable garden?
Prepare soil for a vegetable garden by using a mixture of topsoil, compost, specialized plant growing soil amendments, and perhaps some manure. I also like to use a humus soil in my vegetable garden. As a general rule of thumb vegetables will do well in a moist soil that is well-drained and has a good amount of organic material like peat moss or compost. Simply mix your soil before planting.
I like to get a few bags of the name brand garden soil, humus soil, and manure and then I dump them all in my garden and rake them together. This has done well for me in the past and I plan to use this same mixture going forward. I personally wouldn’t recommend using peat moss in your garden.
Is it OK to use pressure treated wood in a vegetable garden?
There haven’t been enough studies done to determine if pressure treated wood has an affect on the plants you grow or their nutritional value. Stick to standard, naturally rot-resistant, un-treated wood for use in your garden. Something like red cedar, black locust, or redwood will do great and will last for a long time.
If you’re not worried about longevity and you’re okay replacing the wood every few years you can use something like a pine wood. Typically the un-treated wood is less expensive and you’ll have the peace of mind knowing that it’s not harming your plants or your body after consuming your crops.