New to Potagers- Any Tips? (pics)

potager_newbie(Zone 8, TX)May 24, 2010

Hello! I love coming on here and reading about the amazing and beautiful things that are being done in everyone's potagers! I decided to try my hand at a simple raised-bed garden this season, and will hopefully be able to learn and expand in the following years!

I did a little bit of research on companion planting, and have followed some of the basic pairings with my veggies and flowers... I have celebrity tomatoes planted with scarlet globe radishes, basil, Mexican marigolds, petunias, chives, and parsley in two squares. In the other two I have bush beans, eggplant, jalapeño peppers, dill, strawberries, beets, onions, and more marigolds. I tried to do chamomile from seed but was unsuccessful.

I would love to have more flowers (I have recently seeded some old-fashioned annuals that are little sprouts right now), and I think the design needs more height in the future.. maybe a trellis at the entrance with a climbing fruit or flowering plant? Also in the long-term plan is a potting shed that will be positioned towards the back right section of the property.

Any feedback, advice, or constructive criticism is welcome!

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lisa33(6b Bucks County PA)

Oh my goodness, your potager reminds me of mine! How big are your beds and how wide are the paths? Love the stone you used. Are you going to put a fence around it? Is that tree to the north of the potager? I'm wondering about whether it will cast shade. I'm sure you thought of that, though. Also, one thing that others have suggested and that I've read is to ensure that the tall things you plant (tomatoes, pole beans, etc.) are at the north end of your beds to avoid shading out shorter plants.

I just started german chamomile from seed and got lots of sprouts quickly. I don't know if it made a difference, but I read that the seeds do well with some cold stratification so I refrigerated mine for several weeks (maybe even over a month). I think they sprouted in about 4 or 5 days at most.

Welcome to the forum!


    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 12:46PM
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potager_newbie(Zone 8, TX)


Thank you for the welcome and the advice! My beds are 4'x4' and the paths are about 2'. The tree is to the west of the beds, but it is an old mesquite and the leaves are very fine and sparse, so the shade it casts is spotty and minimal. So far, it hasn't been a problem. I hadn't thought of planting tall plants to the north to avoid shade from THEM, though, thank you!

I am going to try for chamomile next spring, and will try the refrigeration technique! Did you have to expose your seeds to light to get them to germinate? I read that some types of chamomile require light to germinate, and thought that might have been one of my problems, too.

As for a fence- I think I will eventually put a fence around the garden and work the soil about 2-2.5 feet around the squares to plant perennials and such at ground level, and maybe some climbing things on a trellis over one of the paths to make an entrance...? I just have to make sure my plans don't go outside the realm of my experience, so I can take care of everything I want to grow! :)

Thanks for the response!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 1:17PM
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Newbie- Beautiful garden! The stone work and gravel looks very nice :)

If you decide to expand in the future, you could add more gravel as a path around the four beds, then have your perimeter bed. It would be a great place for raspberries, blueberries, or more vegetables, herbs and flowers.

A climbing plant over the entry (maybe an arbor and gate?) would look wonderful. A fence around it would be nice too, but I think you're smart to wait and see how much garden you want to maintain, before you put in your fence.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 1:31PM
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potager_newbie(Zone 8, TX)

Lavender_Lass- Thank you for the tips! I hadn't thought about making a path around the perimeter of the beds and building out around them... that's a great idea! If I can pull off this season and have a harvest that I can manage, I would LOVE to do berries and flowers. Any recommendations for berry/flower pairings?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 3:34PM
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I'm pretty new to all this myself, but I think blueberries will grow well with strawberries and I'm probably going to use alyssum under the purple raspberries. I'm sure there are lots of great ideas, you might want to check the internet for companion planting. Also, melons are supposed to do well with radishes around them and nasturtiums...but bush watermelons are about all that will fit in my smaller garden beds :)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2010 at 6:32PM
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lisa33(6b Bucks County PA)

Hey again,

Yeah, I think I did just sprinkle the chamomile seeds on the surface, although it's entirely possible that I sprinkled a little soil over them. I did it haphazardly just before dark one evening. The seedlings are teeny tiny.

I like LL's suggestion of a path around the potager. Actually, I was going to suggest a perennial/annual flower bed around it to attract pollinators and to eliminate the need to weedwack (I'm lazy, LOL).

I'm totally new to this potager thing, too! Clearly we've all spent a lot of time researching and thinking about it, though! Putting the tall veggies to the north is a suggestion someone else made to me. I had no idea how huge indeterminate tomatoes could get. I have pole beans, too. I'd love to add an arbor at my entrance, too, but I'm still paranoid about creating shade. My overall space available to me looks quite a bit smaller than yours, though.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2010 at 8:27AM
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Hello All! I am a beginning gardener and am very interested in potagers. My only question is how do we avoid rabbits and critters eating the veggies and edibles? I was looking at the pics above of those beautiful potagers, but I notice there is no sort of fence or boundary to keep the rabbits and such out. Is that typical of a potager? I have lots of bold bunnies in my backyard. Right now I have a small 4x4 veggie garden surrounded by wire fence buried several inches in the ground to keep the rabbits out, and it has worked very well. However, I love the look of the french potager and would like all the information I can get.

    Bookmark   May 27, 2010 at 9:54PM
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lisa33(6b Bucks County PA)

Welcome! If you saw pictures of my potager ('Potting Shed' thread), mine is having a fence installed the week of June 7th. It is still under construction. Luckily, I haven't seen any rabbits, but I do have squirrels and birds, neither of which will be deterred by my fence. One squirrel came up and took a leisurely drink from a low birdbath yesterday while I was about 2 feet from it!

My understanding is that rabbits can get through spaces of two inches. In order to keep them out, I think people both put up fences and dig wire mesh into the ground or some other sort of barrier. Others are worried about deer (see "How high is your fence?" thread). In my case, I will have a picket fence where the spacing is 1.5 inches, but it won't be a rigorous attempt to keep rabbits out. I just hope it slows them down if they should come, LOL. Actually, I am looking for an antique iron gate, which will basically let them in if they are really after my veggies. Like I said, I haven't seen any in my backyard in two years (I live in town), but that's not to say they aren't around. I did see a groundhog once, but luckily they are bigger and hopefully can't squeeze through.

Every recent thread about someone building a potager has some discussion of fencing if you read through them. Off the top of my head I can think of this thread, Lavender Lass, nycynthias and tammyinwv. You might find more info there.


    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 8:38AM
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Thank you Lisa! I guess if I read all of the details of the posts I would have found out about the fencing! I understand now what you're doing. Looks like you're doing a great job with your first potagers. Do you recommend a good place to find out more details on what makes a good potager?

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 7:57PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

Hey Newbie, nice brick!
I have to have raised beds lined with wire due to the gophers!=( This means I can't move my beds without digging the whole thing out!
One mistake I made that you seem to have the space to remedy is to be sure to allow enough space for your paths to maneuver a wheelbarrow or wagon easily!(better yet, allow a truck to get in!) I put mine too close and it's hard to add soil when the rain settles the soil in over the winter or to add compost.
One thing we did right was to put a removable panel in our fence so we can drive the truck into the yard with dirt or materials.
The only other thing I would suggest is do NOT plant nasturtiums IN the garden! They re-seed like rabbits! and I ended up pulling them out of the gardens like weeds for several years! I love them and now I plant them on the outskirts of the garden, not in the beds.
Good luck! You're off to a good start!

    Bookmark   May 28, 2010 at 8:49PM
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potager_newbie(Zone 8, TX)

Thanks for all the comments!

Ladybug- I have a border collie mix who does the job keeping critters out of my garden, so I haven't had to worry about fencing... yet... my biggest problem with pests comes from caterpillars right now!

NancyJane- thanks for the tips about nasturtiums! I wouldn't have thought about trying to contain seeds! And I'll keep in mind space enough to maneuver tools and such if I get the guts to expand into perimeter beds.. that's a great point!

    Bookmark   June 2, 2010 at 12:26PM
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Your stone beds are gorgeous! It looks like things are growing so nicely too. I haven't paired strawberries with flowers, but this year I put spinach in the strawberry bed. They are supposed to be good companions and I'd say there certainly were. It's a little too warm for the spinach now, but I'm planning to put some more in come late summer.

Here is a link that might be useful: Come see what we've been up to in the garden.

    Bookmark   June 6, 2010 at 9:28AM
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