Help with designing Potager

venusruizFebruary 10, 2009


this past fall i covered an area 12X31 in my front yard to create a potager. Im sort of a loss of how to make it nice looking and not just a collection of squares. Please any ideas would be appreciated.


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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I would recommend two books to you.
Designing the New Kitchen Garden by Jennifer R. Bartley (if you can only have one, get this one)
The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord.

The first emphasizes design more. The second is an overview of design AND wonderful information on growing vegetables, herbs, and fruit. The author is British so you get alot of information on plants that you might never have considered before. I got both books on Amazon.

You will do well to draw your site to scale on graph paper (one little square equals one square foot) and then dream and draw beds on it until you like what you see. You don't have to use just squares. You can use rectangles, ovals, L shaped beds, U shaped beds, and any combination thereof.

Be sure to keep an eye on the sun. Your second picture looks like your potager will get some shade. If that's just late afternoon, no problem. If it's a good part of the day, it is a problem.

There are several ways to keep your potager looking nice year round, and the first begins with structure: an attractive arrangement of beds, good-looking bed edges, paths, and fence, if applicable.

You can incorporate some evergreens either around the edges of your beds, or around the edge of the entire area Boxwood is traditional, but there's no reason you couldn't use others: flowering shrubs, fruiting shrubs, etc.

You can put one bed in the very center and put a big, eye catching urn (flowerpot), or arch, or pergola, a fountain, a bird bath, a statue, or even a bean teepee as a focal point.

Since your potager will be out front, I'd encourage you to be highly committed to weeding, pruning, and keeping your plantings healthy and neat. No one will enjoy squash vines running onto the sidewalk.

I would also encourage you to get a cohesive vision so that you don't end up with a mishmash of materials and colors. You may not be able to complete the entire project at once, but with a good vision in the beginning, it will eventually look like you did.

Like I said, get some books for ideas, do some drawing, and get a good solid plan before you start building. You'll be much happier with the result if you do.

    Bookmark   February 11, 2009 at 6:20PM
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thanks for the book ideas. I ordered the one by Jennifer Bartley, I will look into the other one.

this is the design i have come up so far. It turns out to be quite a bit of space, im actually having a hard time figuring out how to fill it up. What do you suggests. Again thanks so much.

    Bookmark   February 13, 2009 at 4:11PM
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Looks like a nice plan to me. I think the corn in a circle is a great idea since it will germinate better than two skinny rows.

I am anxious to start on my potager. Still waiting on the snow to go away. Had another two inches last night.


    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 9:21AM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

I love your design! I may just copy your little bench area in my new garden. That's a wonderful idea.

I think you have all the basics covered as far as summer veggies are concerned. A traditional potager would also plan for an early spring season planting: onions, leeks, potatoes, cabbages, etc. and a late fall garden: cabbage, broccoli, etc. I don't know how long your growing season is there, but three gardens are a real possibility for me. That's why you don't need such a large space: you are continually planting and replanting small crops, and you just supply your table with what's in season.

Some other plants you might want to consider incorporating for beauty's sake, as well as the table: basil (greens and purples), purple or yellow pole beans, calendulas, Marigolds (supposedly an insect repellant for tomatoes).

You're on the right track. Good luck!

    Bookmark   February 14, 2009 at 2:11PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

venus, I thought I would also suggest that you consider ornamental peppers as some of your edging plants. Black Pearl is a truly beautiful plant. The foliage is so purple it's nearly black and as the black peppers ripen, they turn a brilliant red. I just ordered seed for it for this purpose in my garden.

    Bookmark   February 18, 2009 at 2:31PM
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hi Donna,

I love peppers and so far i have selected 8 varieties. How tall does black pearl gets? I have come to the conclusion that my new bed is quite large. I already have two other beds, one with herbs (thyme (2 kinds), sage (2 kinds), rosemary, lavendar, chives, parsley, oregano and space for basil. The other one is where i had my tomatoes last year but it's a bit shaded so this year i want to plant the broccoli, lettuces and some spinach there. I will included lots of flowers for cutting like dalias and sunflowers. I will update once the raised beds get in. Im driving my DH crazy. Today im ordering my blueberries. It's so exciting planning a new garden. Would love to see some pics of yours. Thanks for all the advice.

    Bookmark   February 26, 2009 at 2:00PM
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I suggest that you reconsider the area you have for blueberries. My mother has two mature blueberry bushes (about 4' diameter) and they produce more than enough for her to preserve--she even gives some to her 4 kids.

If you only planted 2 or 3 blueberries, you would have enough room to include dwarf peaches or dwarf apples.

    Bookmark   March 1, 2009 at 10:43PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

Hi, Venus! I know just what you mean. I am like a caged tiger wanting to get outside and get planting. It has been so wet this past month, that I have done virtually nothing and I'm not much fun to live with:)
Black Pearl gets about 10 to 14 inches tall and wide. It has a lovely mounding shape. Really ideal for edging. You should be able to get plenty of info on it as it won a big national award a couple of years ago. (ARS? AARS? Oh, brother! I miss my mind!)I got my seed from Park Seed. Check it out. :)

Lord willing, I will start my seeds this week. Spring is well underway here: daffodils, snowflakes, hellebores, even woodland phlox are beginning to bloom. My plum trees are in full glorious bloom, so naturally, it's supposed to drop to 21 tonight. ANOTHER year with no fruit. Oh, well. It won't be much longer now.

Susan from Florida has a good point. If northern blueberries are like southern ones, 2 or 3 bushes will, indeed, give you way more than you want. I planted some apple trees this year myself. (More fruit to cry over when we get a late freeze. :)

I am going to try to take pictures as I go in this project. My brother wants me to write it up for his blog. IF I can figure out how to get them online, I'll post them here. That's a whole lot bigger challenge than building this new garden. :)

    Bookmark   March 2, 2009 at 7:11PM
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