R. Ann Parris on The “Pro’s” of Planting Guides


“Pro’s” of Planting Guides by R. Ann Parris

I tend to take a somewhat skeptical view of any guide that tells us exactly how much of something to get, do, or have. Garden planting guides are no different, whether they’re geared toward fresh eating over summer for one person, or a year’s worth for a family.

However, they’re not without their uses.

Over on the associated forum, there’s a topic thread that includes some guides to use as starting points for how much we might expect to eat if we wanted to eat off a veggie garden. (https://preppergroups.com/forum/index.php?topic=949.0If you’re not already a member of the forum, you’ll have to sign up for it, too. It’s an automated process. Most of us just use the same “handle” in both places to streamline things.)

There’s a few key words I want to pull out of that last ‘graph. “Starting point” is one. “Might” is another. And, most of all, the one I’ve already repeated several times: “guide”. As in, guideline. AKA: general or average expectation and rule.

We know that rules come with exceptions and caveats. We know that averages are compiled from all the highs and lows to create a middle-road number. We know that a starting point is just that, where we start. Where we end up is usually different. And, we know that “might” means “maybe”, as in, “not for-sure”.

Even so, planting guides are a good starting point.

If we can find rec’s based on our area, specifically, better yet. Even better if we can also use local university or garden-guru guides that touch on regionally successful varieties for different gardening and crop-plot methods – no-till, dryland, raised bed/containers, traditional/conventional till and irrigated crops, the less-common river/pond raft systems, aquaponics, hydroponics, or aeroponics.

Even without them, those guides still have some handy uses.

We get a minimum number of plants that need to make it to harvest.
Now, we still have to apply some critical thinking, and check the workloads a max harvest would yield. We also have to remember that our seed may not produce a plant, and our plant may not yield as prolifically as somebody else’s.

For the most part, though, having a harvest-plant ratio to gauge off helps keeps people from being disappointed by planting ten pea and six corn plants for a family of five.

We sometimes get harvest estimates.
Some guides not only give us how many plants a family/person “should” use/need, they also tell us how many pounds/gallons that number of plants would yield. Some go even further and tell us about how much that would be if we canned it.

That lets us look at those pints and quarts, and compare it to our fresh, frozen, and canned food use. We can then adjust higher or lower for what we want to produce to impact our reliance on supermarkets.

We get minimum seed amounts.
This is huge. This is mega-huge. Granted, most of what guides suggest need to be evaluated and reorganized to fit our specific location, capabilities, and eating desires, but knowing how much seed it takes to get – if all goes well – a certain amount of plants and harvest is enormous.

Especially for people who order seed kits/vaults, knowing the best-case potential yield from those seeds included can help preppers decide what they need for augmenting their seeds.

It also applies once we’re further along and trying to establish how many plants we would need to produce just to get another round of seed for planting.

We also sometimes to regularly get area estimates.
Although both crop variety and growing method makes a big difference in how much space plants are going to take up, but having a starting point still helps.

It’s especially beneficial if we’re starting with containers or beds, or have only a small area to work with. Combined with potential harvest estimates, it can help hugely in determining which crops make the most sense for us.

There are other tidbits we can take from planting guides.

Sometimes we get preservation goals that give us X servings by day/week. Other times we may get planting charts we can adjust based on open-air and row-cover options for our specific planting zones and frost dates. Some will note different crop types – like pole vs. half-runner vs. bush bean yields – which can help us pick what we want to focus on based on the space-yield ratios.

Planting guides can also serve as the basis for our crop assessments and garden journals, matching the information by variety so we can hone in on the best cultivar for our area/purpose.

We do have to apply some additional research and some critical thinking when it comes to planting guides. We want to ensure we have enough planted for a worthwhile harvest, while balancing hungry/thirsty, large, high-yielding, pest-fodder, and labor-intensive crops to avoid being overwhelmed. Even so, those guides give us some hugely beneficial starting points.