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Food, food security, glorious food!

How much space do you need to grow food?

In their book The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden, Clive Blazey and Jane Varkulevicius use a 12-metre by 9-metre plot to demonstrate the production potential of an urban backyard food garden, which is based on the average 640m2 block.  But backyard space is becoming smaller with more recent prolific subdivision models. And that space is now a premium as it competes with other socialising needs. Not everyone can afford 108m2 for food production, which according to the authors is capable of producing 254 kilos of fruit and vegetables per annum.

Angelo Eliades of Deep Green Permaculture who has bee keeping an annual record of his harvest for the last four years, consistently averages 175kg per year of fruit and vegetable, which is about 14kg per month. And his food growing area is roughly 64m2. His result is comparable to my own data. I am into my third year of annual harvest record keeping. The previous two years average 197kg per year with a monthly average of 16kg of fruit and vegetable.  My plot is roughly 60m2.

Size does not matter all that much when it comes to growing your own backyard food. My research reveals no direct correlation between plot size and yield.

Plot size (sq.m.) 12-week yield in kg.
46 39.46
80 50.22
60 27.17
55 22.52
70 7.95
20 35.01
145 39.99
48 27.21
45 16.02
16 40.64
24 12.58
80 11.75
250 5.42
150 47.47
7 5.27
Total: 1096 Total: 388.72

But more and more of us are opting for high-rise apartment living. What and how much can you grow from a balcony? Broadcaster Indira Naidoo documents her experience of growing food on her 13th storey 20m2 balcony in Sydney in her book The Edible Balcony.  Even in that compact space she manages to cultivate more than 40 varieties of herbs and vegetables with an impressive annual yield of 72kg.

It goes to show that you can grown some of your own food regardless of space.


About Urban permaculturist

I have an interest in sustainability; from food security to renewable energy. I am also a keen food gardener and vegetarian cook. For more information, check out my blog at:


6 thoughts on “How much space do you need to grow food?

  1. Great stuff! Info like this should be made more popular. I’d love to find similar data for my own climate zone. In the meanwhile, I’ll just collect my own. 😉

    Posted by Omnipleasant | April 1, 2014, 12:46 am
    • Hi David,

      The information in the book that I mentioned in my blog (The Australian Fruit & Vegetable Garden) covers all climate. Yes, it is produced here in Australia and all the trials were done here too. Australia is such a big country and we have all climatic condition from tropical to cold climate and everything in between including dry desert like condition. Where I am based here in Melbourne, our climate is similar to the mediterranean region. Thanks to Greek and Italian migrations, we have courgette, eggplant, capsicum, figs, olives, etc.

      And let me know how it goes with your own data. I am curious. My feeling is regardless of location, I think the potential for urban food production is huge and it is something that hasn’t been fully explored or look into. Urban backyard food production in combination with market gardens and community gardens have the capacity to meet at least 50 to 60 per cent of any city fruit and vegetable needs if not more. Granted, grains and cereals will me more of a challenge. But if we can be self-sufficient in our fruit and vegetable, this will free our land in surrounding area for grains.

      Anyway, I enjoy your blog.

      Posted by Urban permaculturist | April 1, 2014, 10:30 am
  2. I share your utopian vision. I do have to learn a great deal though. I’m starting a local community garden with other newbies. I’m very curious what will come out of it. And thanks for the booktip! I’m currently reading “Organic gardening” by Charles Dowding: Who practices “no-dig gardening”.
    Also: cool that you like my blog. The feeling is mutual. 🙂

    Posted by Omnipleasant | April 6, 2014, 5:02 pm
  3. Fabulous post thanks Zainil. I just measured my balcony, 1m x 4m or thereabouts and I now have, in the height of summer, 20 varieties of edible plants and 4 flowering plants….still waiting to flower. And a lot of things didn’t survive the heat as I face due East and have morning sun till noon. We use some ikea blinds to provide filtered light and protection. I am planting many more varieties of veggie seeds in late August so hope for a bumper crop in the months to come. As you know autumn is rather nice here in HK and lots of food should grow well then. Thanks for the Edible Balcony reference, must source this book.
    best wishes

    Posted by Angie | July 11, 2014, 6:45 pm
    • That is a decent size. Herbs and tomatoes do well on balconies. I used to grow most of my own herbs on my tiny balcony on Cheung Chau. Silver beets and rainbow chards are shade tolerant. Let me know if you can’t get any seeds in HK. I can mail you some. And do check out Indira’s book. She gets about 70kgs per annum from her balcony garden in Sydney. Her book is available from all ABC shops in Australia. Let me know if you can’t find it online.

      Cheers Angie.

      Posted by Urban permaculturist | July 11, 2014, 8:55 pm

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