Paths in the portager

t-bird(Chicago 5/6)April 19, 2010

Hey All!

I am an aspiring potager, and am designing some beds. My first yen was to do edible landscaping and just have veggies and flowers and ornamentals throughout the yard, that won't work what with all the critters - well it works for them but I get nothing to eat, lol!

I've been looking through this forum at all your beautiful potagers and have a question about the paths...

Most of the designs and pictures show very large paths - 3-4 feet wide. I'm trying to keep my paths very narrow as I have so much to plant and so little space. I just thought that most of you have more land than I and that was the reason - then in one thread someone said - "your paths are wide enough" and I got worried about my plans.

Can you all tell me why the paths are so wide, and what troubles narrower paths might lead to?

Thanks so much!

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lavender_lass(4b)

My understanding is that the paths should be wide enough for your wheelbarrow or garden cart. That being said, if your garden is small and you don't bring a cart through it, paths could be narrower.

My paths are almost all 5' wide, since I have a big space and lots of kids that visit, who want to "help" in the garden :)

Narrower paths are very utilitarian, while wider paths are more welcoming. If you have other people in your garden, helping or just looking, wider paths might be better.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 8:33PM
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nycynthias(Z6 NY)

Yep, generally a 3' path is considered about the minimum for access for a wheelbarrow or cart. One note to consider though is the fact that potagers are often really intensively planted, so you can pack a LOT more into the space than you might otherwise think--certainly more than in a more traditional row planting where you have a lot of bare earth between rows of beans, tomatoes, corn, whatever.
Many potager gardeners including myself utilize the spacing put forth by the Square Foot Garden guy, Mel Bartholomew. Who knew you could fit 16 carrots into just one square foot?! But you can!

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 8:42PM
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carol6ma_7ari(zones 6 & 7a)

I read all the various recommendations of path width and decided to have one wide (3') path down the middle, from gate to gate (to handle the wheelbarrow) and make all the other paths 2' wide, enough room to walk and kneel, and use a pail for collecting weedings there, then dump the pail into the barrow in the ctr. path.

Carol

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 9:15PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I am going with 3 foot wide paths for a number of reasons. Some plants as they get big overflow the container and thus eat up part of your path. I would like to bring a garden cart or wheeled bucket down paths for replenishing compost, cleaning up at the end of the year, etc.

The biggest reason for me though is snakes. If there is one hiding underneath an overflowing pumpkin plant, I want some room to get away. This does cut down on planting space but that is something I will have to allow.

    Bookmark   April 19, 2010 at 10:10PM
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ali-b

Yes, sometimes a 3' path can become a 1 footer as plants get bigger (and if you let the volunteer pumpkins take over). But, lesson learned last year. I changed my garden to have a direct path to the rear of the garden. It became easier (and more fun) for the kids to leap over the garden beds than to walk the extra 8' feet around the bed. I lost 2 cayenne peppers and a bunch of lettuce to bad bed leaps.

Also, when you're kneeling down to work, you don't want to have to contort yourself on a too narrow path. That can lead to plant flattening too!

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 8:29AM
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catalinagrey(MN 3/4)

I made my paths narrower and then this year I re-did the paths and made them 3 feet wide. It makes such a difference! I LOVE the wider paths.

Here is a link that might be useful: my blog

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 9:35AM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

Thanks all - great info and I can now plan with more confidence! My paths need to be narrow as I 'm on a city lot :( . Love living in the city - just want more land!

Catalinagrey - your garden space is wonderful! Loved the pond and the mushroom project, may see if DD wants to do anything for the yard like that.

I forgot to measure last night - but I think my max space is going to be 24X24 if I can manage that. Will take 2-3 years to convert fully to potager as my time and cash is very limited. And then a large piece has the garage on the south side of it, so some in shade....just gets a few hours of light in the late afternoon from the west - will need to monitor this through the season because at some point the sun is directly overhead and then for a period the sun is slanted from the north, but thinking maybe lettuces and such that area, but what it can grow will be limited.

    Bookmark   April 20, 2010 at 10:33AM
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hosenemesis(SoCal Sunset 19 USDA 8b)

My paths are extremely narrow, about 16" wide, but my potager is just five small beds. It works well for us because we can get to it from the outside- there is no fence around it.
Renee

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 12:49AM
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lavender_lass(4b)

t-bird, Have you seen Natal's potager on the other "paths in the potager" thread? She has a beautiful potager and that might be a design that would work in your space.

There are a lot of veggies and herbs that will grow in partial shade. Some even prefer it. Good luck with your potager and take lots of pictures :)

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 1:53PM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

Thanks lavendar lass, will check out those pics....

    Bookmark   April 23, 2010 at 2:19PM
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lulabellesview

My paths are 2 1/2 feet wide. Hindsight is 20/20 and I would make them wider if I were doing it over. I purchased a smaller wheelbarrow and, while a little cozy, it works just fine.

    Bookmark   April 24, 2010 at 6:08AM
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aubade

I just finished putting down cardboard and playground (pine wood chip) mulch on my paths yesterday.

I wish I had seen the pine straw idea first - it looks nice and easier to spread!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 6:35PM
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aubade

Sorry I meant to put my last post in another thread!

Anyhow, as for this topic - I can say that I made narrow paths in my potager since I have a tiny yard but a big imagination. In retrospect, I am sorry I did that. Sometimes it is really awkward to get around the beds and hard not to step on plants.

If I had it to do again, I'd definitely make larger paths.

    Bookmark   May 3, 2010 at 6:47PM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

"Anyhow, as for this topic - I can say that I made narrow paths in my potager since I have a tiny yard but a big imagination. In retrospect, I am sorry I did that. Sometimes it is really awkward to get around the beds and hard not to step on plants.

If I had it to do again, I'd definitely make larger paths."

Thanks aubade. I keep think I need to plant more and more, but perhaps it is best to truly and with full heart enjoy the plants you can. I am leaning towards poured concrete raised beds......so I need to be sure of what I want! Current beds are concrete block or wood. Perhaps I will adjust these to different path sizes, and see how the shoe fits.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 3:04PM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

Oh and sorry I nearly duplicated a thread title here - didn't realize.

    Bookmark   May 4, 2010 at 3:05PM
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lisa33(6b Bucks County PA)

I read the recommendation for 3' wide paths and compromised with 30". I also live in town and have limited space. I am building my beds of stacked stone, so there is at least 6" of depth to the stone sides of the beds bordering the paths, so the plants are pushed back a bit (less of an issue with plants encroaching). My garden cart is also less than 20" wide, so I figure I can manage. Proportionally, it looked right to me, too.

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 2:53PM
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t-bird(Chicago 5/6)

Thanks Lisa33!

Will your beds be for this year? Can you come back and report how they work out for you?

    Bookmark   May 5, 2010 at 4:14PM
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