Estimating Yields in a Survival Garden

Recently, average U.S. commercial yields for corn reached an all-time high of 9,576 lbs (171 bushels) per acre. Can you obtain a similar, scaled-down yield in your survival garden? And we might ask the same question for many other crops. How will your yields compare to commercial yields for various crops?

It is possible for a well-fertilized irrigated well-tended garden plot to produce more food than the average commercial yield for the same crop. The time the backyard gardener spends caring for each plant cannot be matched by the commercial farmer. Some plants, like amaranth, do particularly well in the garden. On the other hand, a survival garden must provide a substantial amount of food. This limits the time we can spend, and so limits yields. Overall, I suggest using very conservative estimates of yield, when planning a survival garden.

The U.S. agricultural system uses about 335 million acres of cropland to feed 322 million persons, which is about 1.04 acres per person. Can you grow a survival diet on 1 acre per person? Perhaps. But unless you have experience growing each crop, on the very same land, you may need more than one acre per person. Crop failures occur even for experienced commercial farmers, and they are much more likely for the inexperienced gardener.

My suggestions:

1. Estimate yields based mainly on past performance of your own garden.

2. Keep track of yields for each crop, based on harvested crop weight per area of land

3. If you are an inexperienced gardener, do not depend on your garden for survival. Consider the food from the garden to be entirely supplemental to food that you store and buy.

4. Devote at least one third of your garden to grow extra food in case of crop failure.

5. Do not depend on only one main crop (e.g. corn, potato) for most of your calories. Grow several staple crops in case one crop fails.

6. Do not waste your time planting crops in unprepared or poorly prepared soil. Double dig the garden bed. Amend the soil heavily with compost. And add fertilizer. Only well-prepared fertile soil can produce a high yield.

7. Unless you live in a place with reliable and plentiful rainfall, irrigation your garden (about 1/4 inch of water per day).

– Thoreau

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