To Potager or Not to Potager....

farmer_at_heartMarch 21, 2007

What a silly question!

Hello all, I've been lurking here for awhile catching up on good info, and dreaming of Spring. Well, today is the first day of Spring... yippee!

My question is, do any of you have a second row style vegetable garden in addition to your potager? I was watching the Square Foot Gardening video the other day, and he says "we are brought up to believe we need a small farm in our backyards, and that isn't true." Well, he's both right and wrong. We have been brought up to think we can be weekend farmers, but I DO want a small farm in my backyard. I have a row style garden where I grow beans and corn etc, but I always find myself bringing my favorite vegetables up by the house and planting them in the warm south bed up against the brown shingled back wall. I think this qualifies as a beginner potager since I haven't fully committed to a formal potager. I do love design, and the close planting style, but I keep going back to my row roots.

Vegetables have always been neck and neck with actual flowers in my heart. I always have my heirloom tomatoes, and eggplants, and other unique veggies like Patty Pan squash and Bright Lights Chard in my special garden. What varieties are your favorites?

Good to meet you all,

Brita "farmer at heart"

from snow covered Western NY

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thistle5(z7 VA)

Glad you're celebrating the first day of spring!-I think you should try everything-rows & small ornamental beds, the closest I've gotten to this is to plant ornamental herbs in my beds-I don't know what I'd do without purple fennel. As far as veggies go, tomatoes & hot peppers are great, this is the first year I'm trying squash & nasturtium, I think it will be a great spring!

    Bookmark   March 21, 2007 at 8:46PM
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southshoregardener(z7 NY)

Years and 5 houses/states ago, I started out with four raised beds and did square foot gardening. I now have a huge potager and can grow anything I want. I still use concepts from square foot gardening. I think that I get better yields that way. I love the formality of potagers and the combination of herbs, flowers and vegetables. I have dedicated beds for asparagus and strawberries. I think that you should expand on your baby potager. Not only will it yield great treats, but soothing for the soul and the eye. Good luck and Happy Spring!
SSG

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 7:38PM
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boondoggle(9Sunset20)

I don't have an additional row-style garden, but I am finding myself putting the herbs in pots near the kitchen door. They've been taking over valuable garden space. Also, since my garden is behind my detatched garage and at the rear of my property, it's kind tough to wonder back there in the dark and find some last minute-parsely for a late dinner. It makes sense to have the quick -grab stuff near the back door.

    Bookmark   March 22, 2007 at 11:57PM
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manzomecorvus(Austin TX 8B)

I think a lot of this comes down to your life - or in my case, lack of it!

In 98, it became clear that I was going to hafta rip out the pathetic remains of the landscaping that was here when we bought the house and start completely over. Somewhere in my readings, I stumbled across the idea of zones - essentially, creating zones from the house outward - each zone being (hopefully) a little less work.

Since I work full time, and have several volunteer commitments as well, this system has worked really well. So my potager directly behind the house is my high maintenance area. The other pocket gardens around our property are designed by zones, so they need a lot less care (and water! very important down here in Texas!).

The downside is that although we have a decent lot, I simply can't grow everything I want to. Every spring i struggle to find some way to resist buying out the local nurseries!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 10:01AM
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farmer_at_heart

My Baby Potager is in a perfect spot. It is right behind the house, 15 feet from the most used door, and on the way to both the garden shed and the water spigot. The only potential disadvantage is a Lilac bush on the western edge, but some things prefer filtered sunlight, and I might even incorporate it into the garden.
I had planned a spot for a potager, in the hard to mow area between the door and the driveway, but my husband offered to put a deck there. That won't be a problem, because I'll just go around the corner, and have the potager next to the deck. Now I'll have to decide on a fencing solution because although I do have the deer under control right now, I can just see them loafing on the new deck and nibbling on the tomatoes!

    Bookmark   March 23, 2007 at 11:36AM
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happyintexas(z7 TX)

I have had large row type gardens and I miss them sometimes now. When we lived on the farm I canned, perserved, and froze everything possible. :0) Our row gardens could be a hundred yards long. Row gardens are easy to cultivate and water. Rows mean everything gets it's own space. I tend to think of rows as a LARGE garden concept, great for green beans, corn, and black-eyed peas. There never seems to be enough room in my potager for those to really produce.

These days I don't have to put up quite so much fresh food, but still enjoy the fruits of our labor all winter.

The potager came about in our lives because I needed raised beds to keep the tomatoes out of the swampland we call our yard after a heavy rain. From there, pretty become a goal. lol

So, yes, I'd still love to have a huge row garden in addition to the potager.

Greedy, I know. :0)

    Bookmark   March 26, 2007 at 10:12PM
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boondoggle(9Sunset20)

I think secretly, or maybe not so secretly, my potager really wants to be a row garden. I would just love to grow corn and have looked into that subject in the square-foot forum. But realistically, it's something I just don't have room for.

    Bookmark   March 30, 2007 at 12:16AM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Could you make room for both if you had enough space?
I built a raised bed potager in front of the property we purchased next door. I do not plan on keeping it there forever. Some day I dream of a walled vegetable garden. I'd like a maze of raised beds in unusual shapes, and different sizes for different functions. At the back I would like one long bed for planting crops that enjoy growing in rows. Along one side I would like one narrow row to plant muscadines along a trellis above the wall.
I think it can be done. It just takes space and careful planning.
Right now I really enjoy the raised beds that were put in last year. They are two fence pickets high, and I planted them in blocks of 1' squares this spring. There is a pattern to the vegetables: a block of red lettuce, a block of green, a block of a different red...and so on to make a checkerboard. When it comes time to planting beans, they will go in blocks too, as I make supports which fit into 1' squares as well. The garlic has been planted in rows though, and so are the radish. They tend to like that more.

GGG

    Bookmark   March 31, 2007 at 7:43AM
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farmer_at_heart

I am obviously insane for tackling such a large garden (50x68) this year! My husband and the neighbor who is sharing the row garden helped this weekend, and we got a lot of work done, but I ache all over! There is still so much to do. Particularly driving fence posts. Besides using pavers to make a walkway across the garden, we hauled 3 sizeable loads of composted horse manure from my mother's house and threw that over the garden. I mounded up four 4x4 raised areas for onions and garlic/chives/scallions (which was just plain hard labor) and mixed in 10-10-10 fertilizer so its ready to plant. I am having to cope with adapting my careful grid work to real life dimensions! The peas got planted, and I'll start on the onion plants tonight. This stuff must be done in realistic sections, but two more evenings of work ought to get me caught up. I keep gazing longingly at my little potager area behind the house with it's neat little clumps of herbs... so much easier!

    Bookmark   April 23, 2007 at 10:04AM
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myoneandonly(z7VA)

I am so envious of all of you. I dreamed for years of having a potager and soon we will have all the space we need, but will we have the energy? You speak of garden sizes that are overwhelming to a container gardener. I once had a wooden wine box that I secretly called my potager. It had green and red lettuces in an X. I was pretty darned pleased with it and myself to tell the truth. I guess I'll have to think in terms of a 4'x8' wine box to start so it's not too overwhelming. Sounds tres petit. I will be back here for inspiration, so please keep the dialogue going and more pictures, please.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2007 at 6:47PM
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farmer_at_heart

It is so easy to get overwhelmed. Afterall, I have a full time job, and when I get home at night I have dinner to cook and housework to catch up on, and I do want so relaxation time... But I find that I get a renewed burst of energy when I have half an hour to garden. Here are my little tricks for staying on top of gardening....

1. Prep Time. When dinner is simmering on the stove, I pour a glass of wine and go to the garden for 10 minutes to pull a couple of weeds, plant a pack of seeds, or pick a few veggies... as the season demands. This is when I notice what needs doing most after dinner.

2. After Dinner Drink. When the dishes are done, I set aside half an hour for watering or another project like pruning, digging in compost or planting something I bought on the drive home.

3. Rescue. I always keep a watering can full of water nearby for quick rescues on the way to work, or when I first arrive home and find the eggplants wilting.

4. Prioritize. If I can fit a bigger project into one evening, I make sure I have supplies and a list of priorities handy. This means you have to plan ahead to have a bale of peat moss etc. but when there are 10 things that needs to be done yesterday, keeping a list helps get me started quickly when I have a moment instead of wandering aimlessly thinking how hopeless it all is!

5. Procrastinate. Save big projects like fencing, freezing/canning or major weeding for the weekend. You just won't get them done in one evening, so use that time for something else.

So... for the most part, gardening can be handled in 30-45 minutes a day plus 4 hours each weekend. If things still get out of control, They do sell veggies at farmstands and you can always use your efforts for compost!!!

    Bookmark   April 25, 2007 at 2:59PM
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boondoggle(9Sunset20)

Good advice, Farmer. That Prep Time thing could be dangerous around here, though. A few minutes in the garden, and I forget myself. I could end up having roasted kitchen for dinner!

    Bookmark   April 26, 2007 at 12:04AM
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gardengalrn(5KS)

I'm so glad I checked in here and found this thread. I am moving shortly and will have a much larger area to garden with. I have had a suburban backyard garden in the row style and always found myself breaking it up when I could for visual diversity and always lots of flowers. Little did I know I was striving for a potager, LOL. Some of my goals for the new place is a potager or kitchen garden near the side door (I plan to use this entrance the most)of perhaps my herbs, garlic and flowering shrubs or fruiting shrubs, flowers. I am a tomato lover and a bit obsessed so I thought to have a row garden as well to accomodate those types of things that need more room and I do can/preserve so I plan a sizable one. My last garden was about 20 x 60 with another plot I tilled up that was about 15 x 20. Since I will have the room, I had hoped for other projects as time and enthusiasm allowed ;) I won't be there in time to start the actual growing but I can attempt beds and work on those for the rest of the summer. Lori

    Bookmark   May 3, 2007 at 1:15AM
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manzomecorvus(Austin TX 8B)

I also work full time, juggle two volunteer commitments and still run a small (31x29) potager.

Heres some other ideas to think about when it comes to lowering the time cost of a potager:

1. Take the time to fix up a water system that works. My spigot is connected to pvc that runs to two 4-way connectors. I generally run the water system in the morning as I get ready for work - it only takes a few seconds to step outside and turn on or off the sections that needs water.

2. Newspaper and black pastic. We have horrible prairie grass that is very invasive. If I have a weed problem, I scrape back the hay and mulch and lay a thick layer of newspaper around my plants. Then I cover them back up. Or take the area "off line" and put a black trash bag over it and some bricks, and let it solarize for a few weeks. After 6 years of this, I spend maybe 30 minutes weeding each week.

3. change the rules to fit your needs. I build a 4x4 cage of bamboo each year and plant 4 tomato plants in it. I pinch the tops and the occaisonal side runners, but I don't stake. Sure its a bit messy looking, but its low maintenance and that mass of leaves protects my tomatoes from frying in the texas sun. I would love to grow more tomatoes, but just four is workable for me!

4. Use natives and heirlooms that work for your area. Most colonial American heirlooms hate my garden, but Italian heirlooms love heat and drought. And I have had poor success with cosmos, so I now use blanketflower instead.

I am sure there are others out there with tips on making things easier!

    Bookmark   May 5, 2007 at 9:21AM
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