Sunday, April 19, 2020

designing a potager

A potager is a French term for an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden. The historical design precedent is from the Gardens of the French Renaissance and Baroque Garden à la française eras.

The traditional kitchen garden, also known as a potager is a space separate from the rest of the residential garden and typically located just outside the kitchen door. They are a source of herbs, vegetables and fruits, but are often also a structured garden space with a design based on repetitive geometric patterns.

Plants are chosen as much for their functionality as for their color and form. Often flowers (edible and non-edible) and herbs are planted with the vegetables to enhance the garden's beauty. Many are trained to grow upward. The goal is to make the function of providing food aesthetically joyful!

Potagers can disguise their function of providing for a home in a wide array of forms—from the carefree style of the cottage garden to the formality of a knot garden.

the carefree style of the cottage garden
the formal knot jardin potager

If you're ready to start designing, keep these ideas in mind -

Choose a plot close to the kitchen, taking into consideration the sun and direction. Most herbs, veggies, and fruits require six to eight hours of sun a day.

Consider the overall design. Any pattern is possible—spiral, checkerboard, wagon wheel, you get the idea.

Arrange beds around a central focal point; I love the idea of a fountain in the center, but a large urn, planted container or bench would be lovely.

As the season progresses and plants grow, the outlines of your beds will evolve.

Plant species you use in your cooking, but be sure to mix in some new choices.

Potagers are essentially tapestries of colors, shapes and texture. The interspersing of herbs, flowers, and fruits with vegetables requires careful placement of perennials so that they do not interfere with the growth of seasonal crops.

Plant small fruit trees at the edge of the potager, along paths and walls, with strawberries, annual herbs, or flowers planted at their feet.

Underplant with chamomiles, thymes, sweet woodruff, and ground creepers to discourage weeds from growing and, well, yum!

Border beds with chives, alpine strawberries, nasturtiums, sweet woodruff, or mini basils, making certain to contain aggressive herbs like mint or tansy.

A good design includes vertical accents. These can be temporary (a stand of corn, tomato towers, bean tepees), or permanent (berry bushes or a small apple tree).

Add pots of edible flowers -- viola, borage, calendula, and Johnny-jump-ups.

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur 

potager garden

Potager is a French term for a type of kitchen garden where vegetables, herbs and flowers are grown together in traditional rows or blocks.  The goal is to make the function of growing food aesthetically pleasing (oh how I love the French). Plants are chosen as much for their functionality as for their color and form.  A well-designed potager can provide food, as well as cut flowers and herbs for the home with very little maintenance.

With increased interest in organic and sustainable living, many people are turning to vegetable gardening as a supplemental to their family's food source. Food grown in the back yard consumes little, if any fuel and the grower can be sure of what exactly was used to grow it.

How the plan comes together

Location -  You will want to choose a flat, sunny spot. If you intend to grow vegetables, you'll need six to eight hours of direct sun a day. Shade problems? See if you can do a bit of tree pruning to allow more light to reach the beds.

A typical potager can be found at the rear of the house close to the back door. However, sun might dictate a different spot for your garden.  Check the side and front yards for continuous sun.

Design - Potagers can disguise their function of providing for a home in a wide array of forms - from the carefree style of a cottage garden to the formality of a knot garden.

The key to creating a true French feeling for your garden is to use formal lines and clearly delineated beds which will give the plants space and dignity.

Raised Beds - The raised beds are the work horse of this type of garden. Raised beds are essentially boxes without bottoms filled with topsoil and compost. The beds can be made from cedar or non pressure-treated fir planks (12' fir boards $15/each at attached at the four corners.  For efficient drainage, the beds should be at least 8 inches deep.

Dimensions - The number of beds and their length are up to you but the longer the beds, the bigger the garden. The width of each bed however, shouldn't exceed four feet-you want to be able to reach in from either side without stepping into them. Leave paths at least two feet wide between beds for wheelbarrow access.

Line the paths with pea gravel ($5 for 50 lbs at, brick, walking stones, grass or wood-chips. 

Perhaps what is best about a potager is that it needs minimal maintenance. And because the beds offer superb conditions, you can let your imagination run wild when it comes to choosing what to grow. Simply know your sun and shade conditions, and then plant what you love.

I ran across this lovely cookbook - Potager, Fresh Garden Cooking in the French Style. Currently available through Amazon, this is a wonderful cookbook for any gardener/cook seeking to create the freshest meals!

Until next time,

la chasse au bonheur