Thursday, February 3, 2011

The making of a potager - Part 1

I know it’s tough to think about gardening with two feet of snow on the ground (I hope you all have survived Snowmageddon 2011!), but now is actually a great time to plan your vegetable garden.
So, what is a potager anyway? It’s an ornamental vegetable or kitchen garden - but potager sounds much more romantic.  A well-designed potager can provide food, herbs, and cut flowers for the home, and can also be a gorgeous landscape feature that increases the home’s property value.
Bed layout plan
I’ll admit it, I recently had to look up how to pronounce the French word, potager (I studied Spanish in high school!) and you can click here to hear it pronounced by what sounds like a real life French person!
I’m in the process of designing an 800 square foot potager for my backyard. There are some standard elements that define a potager.
1.   Enclosure. Your potager can be enclosed by a fence, shrubs, a wall, or if you’re really ambitious, espaliered fruit trees. I plan to use a white picket fence, and may install some rabbit fencing on the inside to keep the critters out.
2.   Paths. The potager should have paths between the beds. These can be as simple as grass or mulch paths, but I plan to use a hardscape that is maintenance free and won’t get muddy. A friend has a bunch of old bricks she’d like to get rid of, so I’d like to repurpose those as garden paths.
3.   Borders. Inside the fencing, the planting beds look better with borders. If you’re using a hardscaping material like brick or stone pavers, you can build these up to form your raised beds. Wood can also be used, but be sure to select an untreated, weather resistant wood like cedar, and never use old railroad ties (these are soaked with oil and contaminants that can leach into the soil and your vegetables). I like composite plastic/wood lumber, it will last forever and requires no maintenance.
4.   Structure. These are the vertical elements, like fences, gates, arbors, trellises, or trees. These items provide winter interest when the plants have all died back.
5.   Order. Think – geometric shapes and complimentary plantings. A rectangular shape, with greens growing on the edges, and coneflowers rising in the center, for example.
6.   Focal point. A seating area, arbor, fountain, or birdbath in the center of the potager is a nice focal point. I plan to use two or three columnar apple trees, which will take up less space than a traditional tree, and will cast less shade on the rest of the garden.
I’ve designed the layout of the beds, which I’ll have put in sometime in March. The next step is to plan where the veggies will go, and select some annuals and perennials to plant to attract the bees that will pollinate the vegetable blooms. I’ll share this final plan with you in Part 2.

For a roundup of beautiful potager gardens from around the web, click here.

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1 comment:

  1. This looks like it's going to be really fancy.