How Many Tomatoes Should I plant?
That answer is going to change based on how many red sauces your family eats. I am going to break down what my family eats and work backward from my own gardening and canning experience. It’s never too early to plan. If you are following this series live, you know that it is a couple months early to actually start planting, but it is the perfect time to start figuring out meal plans and to set goals for the red sauces (tomato based).
I have a family of six that eat like wild beasts. I would be very happy if I could cook with a red sauce once per week. Maybe it’s a spaghetti, or a lasagna, or a pizza. Some of these meals will use a pint, other will use two quarts, but on average, I expect to consume approximately one quart per week of red sauces (marinara, pizza, spaghetti, etc…). In addition, we average 1 pint of ketchup per week and 10 quarts of salsa to keep us in salsa out of the gardening season. But most importantly we will need 30 quarts of tomato juice for Bloody Mary’s. Because something has to keep us going, right?!
To summarize, we need:
- 52 quarts red sauces (marinara, spaghetti, pizza, etc…)
- 52 pints ketchup
- 30 quarts of tomato juice
- 10 quarts of salsa
Based on what we cooked and grew last year:
- 1 tomato plant will produce about 20 pounds of tomatoes
- 1 straw bale will host two tomato plants
- Red sauces, juice, and salsa use 3.75 pounds of tomatoes per quart
- Ketchup requires 4.3 pounds of tomatoes per pint.
So, what does that come down to?
- The red sauces, juice and salsa total 92 quarts, for a need of 345 pounds of tomatoes.
- The ketchup totals 52 pints, for a need of 225 pounds (rounded) of tomatoes.
When all is added up, I will need a total of 570 pounds of tomatoes to feed my family for the year. With a plant producing 20 pounds of tomatoes on average, I will need 28.5 (we’ll just round up to 29) tomato plants. Planning for the garden, I need to put aside 14 straw bales just for these plants.
I will also plan on having 3-5 heriloom tomato plants to eat fresh during the summer. To save money, I will be starting seeds in late March or early April so my plants are ready to go into the straw bales by mid May. By the way, if you have heirloom tomatoes, you can use the seeds from the previous year so you can get a crop year after year without purchasing anything! For the regular tomatoes, it shouldn’t cost more than $5 to buy the seeds for my plants to produce 570 pounds. That is a cost of $0.008 per pound. Isn’t that awesome! We’re eating healthy, organic, and saving tons of money (and enjoying endless Bloody Mary’s made from fresh juice).
Stay tuned for more posts on our 2016 Grow Your Own Challenge!