How Much Vegetable Yield Do Vegetable Plants Produce?

I was surprised to see some rather lackluster estimations for how much production you should be expecting from your vegetable garden. Blog after blog seems to just copy and paste the same numbers. It seems clear to me that many of these writers have never really bothered to track the amount of vegetables from each vegetable plant in their garden.

Of course, if they've never even grown the crop, then I suppose it's not much of a surprise after all. Well, I've been documenting my real life harvests from just a few plants in my urban garden. Here are some REAL numbers that can more accurately predict the potential for growing veggies at home!

How Many Pounds of Produce
Do Vegetable Plants Produce?

What factors impact how much yield one can plant produce?

From one season to another, you may find extreme variability in your crop yields. You might grow the same basic vegetable type. You might grow it in the exact spot as previous years. But some years might be more productive. What are some reasons for this variability? Take tomatoes as an example.

Tomatoes are an extremely popular homegrown vegetable. Whether grown for fresh eating or for canned sauces, growing your own tomatoes can save you quite a lot of money on your groceries. But how many plants should you get? And how big will the harvest be? There are many factors that will impact your yield.

VARIETY: There are two basic types of tomatoes: determinates and indeterminates. The determinate types of tomatoes grow to a set size and then ripen their fruit all at once. But after that, the crop is generally finished. Indeterminate tomatoes will continually grow as long as they are exposed to favorable conditions. And once they begin to produce fruit they will continue to do so right up until the plants die.

In addition, you also have various sizes and cultivars. On one end of the spectrum, there are cherry tomatoes which can produce hundreds and hundreds of tiny fruits. On the other end, beefsteak type tomatoes a large and meaty easily reaching one to even two pounds in size. You'll get less tomatoes, but the total crop size can still be impressive. In the middle range, there are also Roma or paste tomatoes which can produce a bumper crop.

ENVIRONMENT: Two growers can grow the exact same tomato variety, but they may get very different harvest sizes. Generally speaking, tomatoes love the heat and can grow quite large if given the right conditions. To get the best yield, tomatoes should be grown in a warm climate, given full sunlight. Of course, as our planet is seeing record breaking temperatures, there can be a point when it's just TOO hot, even for tomatoes. When the temps are too high, the flowers may fail to pollinate, causing them to simply drop off.

It's also important to supply your plants with lots of water. Whether it's drip irrigation or a wicking bed, you should have some sort of system in place. Good soil and plenty of nutrients are also vital for optimal results. Just be careful not to apply too much nitrogen or you might get massive plants that have very little fruit on them.

CULTIVATION: To further enhance production, tomato growers will employ a variety of techniques to tweak the growth of their plants. At a minimum your tomatoes should be staked or caged to offer structural support. Many people prefer to snip off suckers as they emerge to discourage bushy vegetative growth. It's common to clip off low hanging leaves that touch the soil. This reduces disease transmission. Some growers will train their tomatoes vertically, wrapping them along twine much like a vining plant. Excess leaves might be completely pruned off in the belief that this will emphasize fruit production. All of these things can influence your yield.

PESTS & PATHOGENS: Far too often, the full harvestable potential of a crop is never realized due to insect pests or plant disease. Some insects like mites or aphids can slowly suck resources from your plant. Others can bore directly into the plant stems, completely killing the plant in just a few days. Various bacterial or fungal diseases can also cause devastating effects. These factors may even work hand in hand. Insects may act as vectors by spreading and infecting a plant with viruses. Some virus can significantly stunt a plant's yield.

KEYS TO SUCCESS: With all of these variables at play, what can you do to optimize yield? Select vigorous, disease resistant plant strains. Give them plenty of space and lots of good light. Give them adequate nutrients along with a steady supply of water. SIPs are a great option! This all results in healthy plants, which are best equipped to fight of pests and diseases.

How many pounds of tomatoes can one plant produce?

Tomato Plants Grown in SIP Bed + Harvested Tomatoes
My tomato plants exploded with tomatoes when grown in this self-watering planter!

MY RESULTS: The internet claims that tomatoes can produce between 10 to 12 pounds. I suppose that's true for some. But I've seen that tomatoes can product much, MUCH more than that! In 2022 I only grew two tomato plants (Amish Paste and Marianna's Peace). The plants grew 12 inches apart in the corner of one of my sub-irrigated planters.

I had a 3 month harvest window which ended abruptly due to a freeze warning. Before the freeze warning, I had harvested 74.3 pounds of tomatoes. Then I pulled all remaining tomatoes and ripened them inside, which added 26 pounds to my harvest. The grand total came to 100 pounds from just the two plants. So for me, a tomato can easily produce 50 pounds of fruit per plant!

2023 UPDATE (BIGGEST TOMATO HARVEST YET!): Here in the northeastern US, I've heard many friends and family tell me that it wasn't a good year for tomatoes. I'm not sure what they were talking about because I had my best year ever! Once again, I grew 2 tomato plants in the same corner of my SIP raised bed. Of course I grew my tried and true Amish Paste. However, this year I tried an F1 hybrid known as BlushingStar. I was promised "higher yields," but I was not too impressed. This beefsteak was not as productive as my 2022 Marianna's Peace yield (44 lbs). Instead I only got a measly 30 pounds from the BlushingStar.

Gardener Harvesting Large Crop of Tomatoes from Large Plants
The Amish Paste tomatoes produced a steady flow of tomatoes all season long.

So why am I so excited??? Because the good ol' Amish Paste pumped out a whopping 99 pounds of fruit!!! I grew 99 pounds of tomatoes on a SINGLE plant. And that plant was intertwined with a 2nd plant. But this year the cage was a little taller. And I also implemented a liquid feeding regimen, starting mid-summer. Combine that with a growing season that lasted 3 weeks longer due to a late Fall frost, and you have a recipe for a massive harvest.

This significantly raises the bar for what a single indeterminate tomato can produce. I've now seen firsthand that, depending on the variety, a single tomato plant can yield nearly 100 pounds of tomatoes!

How many pounds of sweet peppers do you get per plant?

Bell peppers are quite expensive. If you grow them yourself, you can save quite a bit of money. I'll eat some fresh in the Summer. I'll also roast peppers and then batch cook and freeze roasted red pepper soup. You can also dice up peppers and freeze them for soup and chili recipes. This makes it worth growing as many as you can use.

VARIETY: Bell peppers are not the only option if you're looking for sweet peppers. You can also try growing Cubanelle or Italian Marconi. These types of peppers are long and tapered. The plants grow taller and produce more prolifically than many bell varieties. They are perfect for roasting.

Pepper Plants Grown in SIP Bed + Harvested Peppers
In this self-watering planter, my pepper plants generate a high yield.

MY RESULTS: In 2021 I grew 4 orange bell peppers (Orange Sun). I harvested 11 fully ripened peppers per plant. The average yield was 3.7 pounds per pepper plant. For my red Marconi sweet peppers, my plants averaged 31 peppers per plant. Each pepper plant produced 6.3 pounds of ripe peppers on average. In addition, I pulled 60 green peppers from both types of pepper plants for a total harvest of 10.8 pounds. The harvest window lasted 3 months and all of the plants were squeezed into a 40" x 30" area in an SIP bed. Based on these results sweet peppers should produce 4 to 8 pounds of peppers per plant, depending on variety and cultivation method.

How many pounds of zucchini are produced per plant?

Many sites claim that the average zucchini plant can produce either "3 to 9" or "3 to 10" pounds of produce. Have these writers actually grown zucchini!? Supposedly zucchini plants will continue to produce zucchinis into the Fall until the cold weather kills the plant. I've never retained my plants for that long, but I can tell you that zucchinis can pump out MUCH more than 9 or 10 pounds of fruit.

CULTIVATION: From what I've seen, the biggest enemy to a zucchini plant's longevity is pests and disease. Squash vine borers can be devastating to the plant if you don't keep them at bay. The larvae can chew through plant stems, working their way to the center of the plant. Then there is powdery mildew, which may show up on leaves as a white powdery coating, eventually spreading to the whole plant. Both problems may cause plants quickly decline or even die. But the solution to both is the same: Cut off old, wilting, or diseases leaves near the trunk of the plant. If you're quick to spot pest and disease issues, you may be able to greatly extend your zucchini plant's lifespan, which in turn, will increase your yield.

Zucchini Plants Grown in SIP Bed + Harvested Zucchinis
My two zucchini plants, grown in a self-watering planter, generate lots and lots of zucchinis.

MY RESULTS: I get excellent results growing Cashflow zucchini in my self-watering raised bed. In 2022 my two plants yielded 30 pounds within a 30 day window. That's 15 pounds of zucchini per plant in 1 month! Clearly you could expect to get more than just 9 or 10 pounds. In case you're wondering, each zucchini plant produced 18 fruit averaging 13.5 oz in size.

How many pounds of cucumbers can a plant produce?

Here again, I've read some very underwhelming estimates for how many cucumbers you can expect to get per plant. The average cucumber yield is supposed to be a mere 10 fruits per plant at 6 ounces each (3.75 pounds total). My personal experience shows this to be a gross underestimate.

Cucumber Plants Grown in SIP Box + Harvested Cucumbers
The cucumber plants in this self-watering box pump out dozens of quality cucumbers.

MY RESULTS: I've been growing two cucumber plants in my elevated SIP garden box, on a fairly short trellis. In 1 month my cucumber plants ("Homemade Pickles") produced 60 fruit, weighing a total of 22 pounds! I was picking them at an average size of 5.2 ounces. This means a well cared for cucumber plant can easily produce 30 cucumbers totaling 11 pounds, perfect for pickling recipes!