There are many reasons why a hobby gardener wants to grow his own vegetables. The list of the resulting advantages is long and ranges from a sensible leisure activity to a noticeable relief in the household budget. If you don’t just tackle this project for the fun of it, but want to benefit yourself and your family from it, you can’t avoid learning the basics of growing vegetables in the garden beforehand. These are by no means highly scientific findings that require days of study. Rather, it is about seeing the self-cultivation of vegetables in the overall context of people, animals and plants with the aim of creating a natural cycle. The existing resources in your own garden are used in such a way that they bring in the maximum yield. A largely self-regulating system is created that requires only a minimum of time for directional interventions.

Set the premises

The available cultivation area in the home garden is naturally limited. The dimensions are fixed and act as one of the key cornerstones when planning the cultivation of vegetables in the garden. Another possible variable is the possibility of cultivating one or the other type of vegetable in a tub or flower box, which can be neglected in the basic analysis or regarded as an ecological ‘reserve bank’. The list of available resources therefore includes:

  • The available cultivation area.
  • The vegetable needs to be met.
  • The expected crop quantity.
  • The possibilities for processing and storage.
  • The available working time in the vegetable garden.
  • The actual soil quality.

As the Society for Consumer Research (GfK) determined, the per capita consumption of fresh vegetables in 2012 was 70.3 kg per year. In 2009, this value was still 63.9 kg, which can be seen as proof of the increasingly health-conscious diet of the German population.

Cultivated area and vegetable requirements

If you want to grow all the vegetables you need yourself, you need a cultivation area of ​​40 square meters per family member, not counting children under the age of 10. If less space is available, you have to choose which types of vegetables to grow and which to buy. The decision as to which types of vegetables are grown and in what quantities is of course subject to individual preferences and needs. If you don’t like beans but love carrots more than anything, you will adjust the weighting accordingly. The following average figures from GfK serve as a guide:

  • Potatoes 25 kg
  • Tomatoes 5 kg
  • carrots 3.6 kg
  • Cucumbers 3.5 kg
  • Onions 3.5 kg
  • Peas 3 kg
  • beans 3 kg
  • Paprika 2.5 kg
  • Iceberg lettuce 1.8 kg
  • Cauliflower 1.5 kg
  • Asparagus 1 kg
  • Leek 0.5 kg
  • White cabbage 0.8 kg

It should be noted that these figures exclusively relate to the consumption of fresh vegetables. In the case of potatoes, for example, the total per capita requirement in Germany is more than 65 kg per year, because this also includes finished products such as French fries or crisps. For the hobby gardener who plans to grow vegetables in the garden, however, only the quantities of fresh vegetables are of interest. When evaluating the statistical figures, it should be borne in mind that some vegetables are not eaten because they are particularly expensive at the moment. If it were in the garden, it would be on the table much more often, such as asparagus, peppers or iceberg lettuce.

Estimate harvest quantities

In this regard, only estimates can be made, because there are too many imponderables involved:

  • The variety used.
  • The climatic conditions.
  • occurrence of pests and diseases.
  • Complete maintenance of the cultures.
  • Late frosts in spring.
  • Early onset of winter with snow and cold.

Gardening enthusiasts who consult lists of crop yields for vegetables are therefore usually given mean values ​​because exact predictions are simply not possible.

processing and storage

Even if a cultivation area of ​​40 square meters is available per person, this requirement alone is not enough to generate the entire annual requirement for fresh vegetables from home cultivation. The required harvest quantities are only achieved if at least 2/3 of the cultivated area is used several times a year. This is not possible without detailed planning. The logical consequence of this is that some vegetables, such as carrots or cucumbers, are canned; others can be stored in a cool, airy basement and still others can be frozen in a large freezer. A complete supply from your own vegetable cultivation without any additional purchases is undoubtedly a full-time job for the housewife or the househusband and requires one or the other investment, for example in a large freezer,

If either the corresponding area is not available or there is not enough time for a full supply, 20 square meters of bed space per person is sufficient to ensure a fresh supply. In this case, the vegetable growing in the garden is planned in such a way that the harvest is essentially consumed fresh and only a small proportion is canned, stored or frozen.

An even smaller garden area still has the capacity to allow garden herbs, tomatoes and lettuce to thrive. In this case, the previously neglected reserves of tubs and flower boxes also come into play.

The soil quality

No matter how large the available cultivation area may be; if the soil is of inferior quality, this goes beyond the entire planning framework in no time at all. Garden soils can be structured in completely different ways. Home gardeners who are faced with a mainly light and sandy soil will have no problem growing root vegetables and asparagus. Cabbage varieties will thrive in heavy garden soil. Since the wish list for growing vegetables in the garden is certainly much longer, the preparation of the soil for the individual crops will be complex and time-consuming. Gardeners who have garden soil of average quality fared better. In principle, all types of vegetables can be grown here with a little help. For heavy consumers, such as kale, The soil is enriched with compost for Brussels sprouts or broccoli, and weak consumers such as lamb’s lettuce, horseradish and peas follow later. The following factors make a good, productive garden soil:

  • The earth is loose.
  • She smells fresh.
  • The structure is finely crumbly and stable.
  • Richly populated with microorganisms.

The microorganisms are the main actors in this system and must be nurtured, cared for and protected accordingly. Since they do not tolerate large fluctuations in temperature and humidity, regular mulching is of great importance. In addition, food is made available to them in this way. If a bed is fallow for a while or is subject to a break in cultivation, the gardener sows green manure to maintain the balance of the microorganisms. It follows that a large part of the work in the vegetable garden is devoted to maintaining the soil level. Proven plants for green manure are:

  • Perserklee
  • marigold
  • Sommerwicke
  • Tagetes
  • Phacelia
  • Saatmischungen

The result is living soil, packed with active microorganisms that ensure its fertility is maintained.

Basics of planning

Once all premises have been examined, all decisions have been made and the prerequisites have been created, the actual planning can be tackled. One of the essential basics, so that the cultivation of vegetables in the garden is crowned with satisfactory success, is the management of the beds within the framework of a pre-, a main and a post-culture. Observing sensible crop rotations over the years is just as important as crop rotation on a bed within a year. Since the exact dimensions of the cultivation area have already been determined, the garden lover can choose from three variants with regard to the arrangement of the beds:

  • doubt economy
  • Rollplan
  • mixed culture

Whichever version the hobby gardener chooses, the dimensions once decided remain fixed. In addition, compost heaps and tool sheds should be planned in the immediate vicinity.

doubt economy

Garden lovers who aim for a full supply by growing vegetables in the garden will favor this variant. Each of the two fields is divided into beds. The field for the heavy feeders is fertilized with stable manure or compost in autumn, because these types of vegetables have a high nutrient requirement.
Common heavy feeders are:

The second field is intended for medium and weak consumers. Although the preparatory incorporation of manure or compost is dispensed with here, the necessary nutrients such as potassium, magnesium and calcium are not dispensed with entirely. Some classic medium and weak consumers are:

  • Borretsch
  • Dill
  • Endive
  • fennel
  • lettuce
  • spring onion
  • carrot
  • Parsely
  • pick lettuce
  • Beetroot
  • chives
  • Spinach
  • onion
  • broad bean
  • basil
  • savory
  • peas
  • Lamb’s lettuce
  • garden cress
  • Kapuzinerkresse
  • marjoram
  • horseradish
  • runner bean

The management of the fields now changes from year to year, with the bed arrangement within the fields also changing at the same time.


This cultivation concept for private vegetable cultivation in the garden sounds quite uncomplicated, but has its pitfalls and prevents the use of thorough knowledge in the field of permaculture. The largely static concept assumes that the cultivation area is divided into 8 beds of equal size. Sufficiently large paths must not be neglected in order to be able to reach the plants easily. A main path that can be used with a wheelbarrow is also essential. Each of the 8 beds is planted with vegetables that have the same planting and harvest times and have similar nutrient requirements. The following year, each of the beds moves one step further, so that it is only planted with the same types of vegetables again after 8 years. Here is an example:

1 year:

  • 1st bed: root and tuber vegetables
  • 2nd bed: Onion vegetables
  • 3rd bed: legumes
  • 4th bed: strawberries
  • 5th bed: potatoes
  • 6th bed: leafy greens
  • 7th bed: fruit vegetables
  • 8. Beet: Herbs

2 years:

  • Beetroot: Herbs
  • 2nd bed: root and tuber vegetables
  • 3rd bed: onion vegetables
  • 4th bed: legumes
  • 5th bed: strawberries
  • 6th bed: potatoes
  • 7th bed: leafy greens
  • 8th bed: fruit vegetables

The rolling plan is easy to implement, especially for gardeners who are just starting to grow their own vegetables. The disadvantage is that because all the beds are the same size, larger areas will lie fallow in a few years. The need for onions of a family of three is already covered with an area of ​​3 square meters, whereas the annual need for potatoes can only be covered by a 20 square meter bed.

mixed culture

This form of cultivation concept comes very close to the natural principle of diversity. The area under cultivation is only divided into four beds in which different types of vegetables are planted side by side because they complement each other better. A typical example is carrots and onions. The onion drives away the carrot fly and the carrot keeps the onion fly away from its neighbour. Good neighborliness also develops among types of vegetables that have different roots or ripen at different times. The division into four beds is based on the fact that even in a mixed culture, the planting should roll so that the garden soil does not leach out and species-specific diseases and pests can establish themselves. To illustrate, here are a few examples of successful mixed cultures:

  • Carrots, dill, peas, garlic, lettuce, leeks, lettuce, radishes, celery, tomatoes, onions
  • Potatoes, French beans, beetroot, nasturtium, garlic, kohlrabi, lettuce, spinach
  • Tomatoes, cabbage, kohlrabi, lettuce, leeks, corn, carrots, parsley, celery radishes, zucchini

If you want to grow your own vegetables in a mixed culture, you should already have experience. Therefore, it is advisable to start with the doubt economy or roll plan first.

Time-consuming and demotivating beginner mistakes are prevented in this way, because despite all the work, the project should give pleasure to hobby gardening in close connection with nature.

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