How Many Vegetables Can A Garden Produce? What Is The Expected Vegetable Garden Yield? Knowing The Answer Means We Know What & When To Sow & Plant. Here’s My Answer.
Crop yields can be unpredictable but having an answer to How Many Vegetables Can A Garden Produce will act as a guide to how many to grow and what yield to expect. This article can be read in conjunction with my What to Sow in [month] articles.
Yields are fickle. And we all have different expectations. I frequently see people stating how much crop they’ve harvested and sometimes I think that’s a good yield and other times I think don’t they realise how much more they could grow for the same effort and cost? I have to remind myself it’s their garden or allotment and if they are happy that’s all that matters.
The examples I give in this article are drawn from my commercial experience where we scrupulously recorded all the harvests. Though commercial, what we learnt applies to gardens and allotments. Plots can be very productive if handled correctly and most gardeners only achieve a fraction of what’s possible. There is no need to use agrochemicals to achieve high yielding tasty crops. It just needs good gardening common sense.
Improved Vegetable Yields Are Important
Having said the yields are up to the individual there is another perspective. Food prices are soaring and the lack of labour to harvest farm crops is leading to shortages. So the more we can each produce the better.
Over the next year or so I can see more people gardening and almost everyone wanting better yields as well as great flavours. It is possible to have both. High yields don’t mean poor flavour or nutrition.
How To Improve Vegetable Crop Yield … How Many Vegetables Can A Garden Produce?
Gardeners can’t be expected to produce the same yields as professional gardeners and farmers. Or can they? I know several gardeners producing more per square yard than any professional that works on a field scale.
We can improve yields in several ways:-
There is an optimum planting distance for any crop. Think of it this way, if you only planted one cabbage in your garden the best you could harvest would be one cabbage. But if you planted 100 cabbage you’d could harvest as many as 100. But of course if they were too close together they wouldn’t have space to grow so not a single one would produce a head. So the answer is to plant at the right distance. A good guide to this is to see what the books say. I’m not a great believer in following books but it’s a good starting point in this case. But remember different cabbage grow to differing sizes. Those that cattle farmers used to grow for cattle food weighed in at a good 50lb a head. They needed loads of space and would be planted around a yard apart in either direction whilst if I’m growing Hispi cabbage I tend to plant 12 inches (30cm) apart in both directions. That means I get nine Hispi in the space one cow cabbage needs. The cow cabbage would give a bigger yield but I prefer Hispi!
Another point to consider here that even within optimal spacing its possible vary a bit with the seasons and varieties. My autumn greenhouse lettuce spacing was 9×9 inches. In spring it was 8×8.5 inches. That might not sound much difference but calculate the numbers for a half acre greenhouse and the difference is huge. Spring lettuce are denser and heavier so can be planted closer together.
I sometimes see gardeners grow a crop and leave the plot bare the rest of the year. Successional cropping means its easy to get 2-3 crops a year from most beds. Commercially I grew three crops on all areas with the exception of where I grew leeks. Leeks are on the ground for 9-10 months after transplanting, depending on variety and seasonality.
Further down the page I show my yields from the three crop successions I frequently grew.
As demonstrated by my cabbage example above, some varieties grow very big and some are bred to be small. Choose the variety that suits you and your growing method. And don’t forget to consider flavour as well as yield, though most will give good yields for their type.
Pest and Weed Control
If your cabbage crop is decimated by cabbage whites your yield is going to be nil. It’s obvious really but we often do nothing about protecting crops until the damage is done.
Weeds can also decimate crops. In fact, more than decimate the crop, a lot of weeds can totally destroy a crop. So keeping on top of weeds is essential. Doing it at least once a week might sound a lot of work but it is the best way and takes no time when the weed is small. Battling with huge weeds is both time consuming and soul destroying.
One of the reasons I prefer No Dig is that it is so easy to pull the odd weed seedling before they get rooted in deep.
We should forget that weeds also compete with our crops for moisture and light. So removing weeds early makes perfect sense.
What Yield Can I Expect? How Many Veg Do I Need To Grow?
In his Wikipedia profile Charles Dowding is stated as producing 100 kg of produce from each 10sqm plot. Clearly Charles has been gardening professionally for many years so perhaps his yields are very high for many of us.
But remember Charles is not growing purely for yield, he clearly wants good yields but he also wants a wide range of crops and some yield far better than others. So his figure of 100 kg is not so unobtainable if we have a smaller plot and go for the highest yielding crops.
As a comparison I’ve just looked at my own commercial yields. I grew a lot of heritage varieties, not the highest yielding, But I didn’t grow the wide range that Charles does. And I had half an acre of glass and half an acre of polytunnels. They give much higher yields. So my yields were often higher per given area. But it also depends on the vegetable type and the succession of crops I grew.
My tomatoes were my highest yielding crop. I only grew cold grown tomato crops and planted after a spring lettuce crop. I then grew a late lettuce crop, giving me my three crops per year per greenhouse.
The toms were normally only grown to give me six trusses and a modest yield per truss would be one pound per truss. So six pounds per plant with lettuce before and after each year.
Toms were planted at a density of 3.25 plants per square yard. And the lettuce at a density of roughly 9 per square yard but see the above where I show they were planted denser in spring. Spring lettuce weigh a lot more than autumn lettuce. We’d harvest around 4.8 lb of lettuce per sq yard in autumn but 6.5 lb in spring (of course we sold them per box of 12 lettuce but there are minimum weight standards which vary with the season).
The total weight of the two lettuce and a tomato crop was around 31 lb (14kg) per square yard.
In polytunnels where I grew lettuce followed by peppers I obtained a yield of seven pound of peppers per plant (22 lb per square yard) which with the lettuce was equal to around 29 lb (13.26 kg) per square yard.
Three crops of outdoor lettuce in an annual cropping succession produced around 11 lb (5 kg) per square yard.
Does your plot produce as much as it could?
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