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Time2's avatar

How much land and work do you think it would take to grow your own food, if you only eat fruit and vegetables?

Asked by Time2 (130points) February 15th, 2011

This is assuming that you’re only growing it to feed yourself, and not trying to make any money off of it. How much land would you need? And how much time, without using any mechanical equipment?

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24 Answers

meiosis's avatar

I’ve read than half a hectare (around 1.25 acres) is enough for self-sufficiency, though it obviously depends on where that land is and what sort of soil and aspect you have. Without mechanical equipment, it’s likely to be a time consuming job.

laureth's avatar

What @meiosis said, although there are ways to do it with less land. I recommend this book. It takes time, though. Big honkin’ row-farms of nothing but one crop for as far as the eye can see are that way because it’s easier for machines to do it. Smaller intensively planted, hand-tended farms are more productive per acre, but that’s pretty much what you’d be doing with your life.

SmashTheState's avatar

In Walden, Thoreau indicates he grew everything he needed to survive on a plot of land about 10 feet by 20 feet. Of course, he also supplemented his diet with fish, and with what visitors would bring him, but given my own experiences growing things like radishes and tomatoes in very sub-optimal soil during Kanada’s brief growing season, I don’t find it hard to believe. In fact, I’ve even read a book on micro-farming which insists it’s possible to not only be self-sufficient, but to grow a cash crop on as little as a quarter-acre of land. That’s not much more than a large suburban lawn.

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Adirondackwannabe's avatar

A small garden (say 30’X30’) is a lot of work, but it would suffice with proper management. You could use intensive growing practices, such as the three sisters, interplanting, etc.

LuckyGuy's avatar

The answer depend upon where you live. Do you have a 3 month growing season with the ground covered in snow for 6 months or do you have sunshine and water all year?
Are you going to use chemicals – herbicides for weeds , insecticides, or go ‘au naturel’?
Do you have to compete with other animals? Will you use repellents or Electric fence or .22?
Will you do it all by hand or use a 6–8 hp Troy Bilt rototiller?
Up here, a one acre garden, (4000 sq meter), using an 8 hp Troy Bilt, electric fence, .22, Roundup herbicide, will take 3–4 hours per day. Plus, you will spend 1 solid week in soil prep. 2 solid weeks planting, 1–2 solid weeks canning, and putting food in storage.
Read the book The $64 Tomato . It is a bit over the top but some parts are realistic.

Farm markets are the best deal around.

Coloma's avatar

I have had gardens that average 20×12 and they produced more than enough for a family of 3 and plenty of extras to give away.

I grew primarily tomatoes, several varieties of squash, fingerling potatoes, cantalopes, peppers, swiss chard, cucumbers and pole beans.

The first year the total cost of start up with fencing, soil amenities, seeds, plants and tools was about $500

While I love gardening I no longer grow a big garden, a lot of work for what you yield, although it is very rewarding in an aesthetic and personal way and I believe a must have experience if raising kids.

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Coloma I agree the education factor for kids is priceless.

We grow potatoes, cucumbers, tomatoes, pumpkins, corn, peppers, beans, ... More than we can eat. However, if you consider my total calorie intake over the year, the garden is a small portion. 10–15%? For example, today for breakfast I had green tea, toast and cheese. None from my garden. Last night’s restaurant dinner (and today’s lunch) was prime rib, shrimp, etc. The dessert was a fancy chocolate and ice cream concoction. If I look back at all last week, I’d really have to think what was home grown. Oh, I got it. Cabbage! We are still eating coleslaw. That is the only thing from our garden.
It is a lot of work and responsibility. If you take a trip, you need to have the neighbors baby sit. It is almost as bad as having kids. ;-).

Coloma's avatar


Yep, goose sitters, cat sitters, plant sitters, garden sitters.
Going away for a week in the summer completely cancels out any savings from growing a garden.

Now the tables have turned and last year I garden sat for my neighbors and harvested all I wanted during the 2 weeks they were gone, plus all the eggs from their hens.. A fine arrangement. ;-)

LuckyGuy's avatar

@Coloma Oh my! Animals are a lot of extra work. I assumed the OP was asking as a way to save money. Clearly at our latitude we would get a much higher cash payback by working at McDs. But that is not the point, is it?

mattbrowne's avatar

There are interesting ideas trying to minimize the land and think in 3 dimensions i.e. greenhouse food towers several stories high. See

“Progress has been rapid, and results obtained in various countries have proved it to be thoroughly practical and to have very definite advantages over conventional methods of horticulture. The two chief merits of the soil-less cultivation of plants are, first, much higher crop yields, and second, hydroponics can be used in places where in-ground agriculture or gardening is not possible.”

Hobbes's avatar

A hydroponic, multi-level greenhouse would require a much larger initial investment though, I’d imagine.

mattbrowne's avatar

Today, yes. But this might change in the future. Large cities at some point could use local multi-level greenhouse towers. Land use would be minimal.

Hobbes's avatar

Let’s hope so.

Adirondackwannabe's avatar

@mattbrowne One of our NY Indian Nations is working on some greenhouse designs based on geodesic domes to provide year round growing space. There was an article a few weeks back in the newspaper.

12Oaks's avatar

Assuming canning and other types of preservation is legal in this game, maybe a ¼ acre, at most. I sure hope I’m allowed to salt these veggies.

Coloma's avatar

It doesn’t take much.
6 tomato plants and 6 squash alone will bombard you with fruit til you run out of ideas of what to do with it.

But corn and potatos weren’t really worth it to me for the work involved and the yield.

It depends on what you choose to grow.

You will get many more pounds of tomatoes, beans and squash out of a smaller space than corn and potatos.

Potatos & corn are a novelty item IMO if you arn’t going to grow a huge plot of both.

bkcunningham's avatar

@mattbrowne I’ve seen this twice in the past two months at the Experimental Prototype City of Tomorrow in Florida. Really amazing. We even ate some of the veggies.

Neizvestnaya's avatar

I could do it comfortably on ¼ acre. Fruit trees aren’t as intensive to grow and harvest as a vegetable garden is though. Vegies take daily diligence. bah.

mattbrowne's avatar

It is amazing. First of all, it’s also a great social program for young people in trouble hotspots with proven reduction of crime and drug usage. Watching real plants grow gives people pride and satisfaction. Starting with roofs and unused land in cities is a good idea. Why have Wal-Mart trucks drive so many vegetables for thousands of miles? Lots of potential. Greenhouse towers might be next.

Hobbes's avatar

@mattbrowne – Could you possibly provide some links to info about this stuff?

mattbrowne's avatar

@Hobbes – There’s plenty when you google for social programs and gardening in cities. For example

“A case study published in the 2010 Journal of Natural Resources and Life Sciences Education by professors at Washington State University studies the challenges one organization faced in maintaining an urban market garden. The journal is published by the American Society of Agronomy. Since 1995, Seattle Youth Garden Works (SYGW) has employed young homeless individuals or those involved in the juvenile justice system. SYGW offers teens and young adults the opportunity to work, develop social skills, and eventually find stable employment or return to school. Uniting social programs and urban agriculture has been used in many cities with the aim of reducing poverty and increasing food security.”

laureth's avatar

Here’s an interesting piece about re-ruralizing Detroit. I live about an hour from there; I hope it happens.

Another article.

naresh28's avatar

not a lot. a small yard space around the back is good.

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