Grow what you’re going to sell

Part 3 in my Plan Your Growing Season series.

(Part 1 is here and Part 2 is here)

You set a Sales Goal and figured out how to sell your crops to hit that Goal.

Now, let’s look at how you’re going to grow enough crops to bring to market (or CSA, or however you sell your vegetables.)

There are 1000 questions you might have about growing techniques, land access and whether it’s ok to use plastic mulch. For this activity, we’re going to stick to these 2 questions:

1 When do you need to plant your crops?
2 How much do you need to plant for each crop?

The answers to both questions is Let’s do some MATH!

1 To figure out when to plant, start with when you want to harvest a crop and then count back by the DTM.

DTM? This is your Days To Maturity. Most seed catalogs supply this information. It is how long a crop takes from planting to harvest. It is definitely an approximation and varies from farm to farm, by bioregion, and by time of year but it’s a great starting point to plan main season crops!!!

To harvest carrots on July 1 with 56 DTM, you need to plant on May 6.

You can probably harvest the same carrot planting for 2 weeks, so plant enough carrots on May 6 to cover the weeks of July 1 and July 8.

  1. How much to plant?

The key here is your YIELD. How much of a crop do you get from 1 bedfoot?

If you don’t have your own harvest data yet, you can find estimates in seed catalogs or your favourite farming reference books. Look at a few references to get a feeling for how conservative the yields estimates are .

Don’t forget a Safety Factor (SF).

Groundhogs, aphids, heat waves, and disease will make sure you don’t harvest everything you grow. Aim to grow extra to offset these losses.

A 1.3 SF is a safe bet. That means you plan on growing 30% more than you expect to harvest.

To harvest 150 bunches of carrots: multiply by 1.3 SF and divide by 1.5 bunches per bedft. The math gives you 130 bedft.

Rinse and repeat for each harvest date of each crop.

You can do this on paper, but a spreadsheet might speed things up a bit.

After this exercise, you’ll have a schedule to guide your growing season.

Next up, we’ll jump into the nursery to plan for what you want to plant!

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