My first time planting a potager.....

ladybug80May 19, 2011

I am planting my first French potager this year, and I could use some tips and advice.

I have a small 8 foot by 4 foot area to use, and I'm not sure how close to plant everything. The plants I'd like to put in are heirloom tomatoes, green bell peppers, jalapeno peppers, basil, dill, oregano, chives (herbs may be in containers around the garden), a flowering vine (maybe clematis?), and other flowers such as zinnias and others.

So my questions are...

How close together should I place the plants?

Do you have any advice for me as a first time potager gardener?

What plants are good for a small garden?

Thank you!

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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

If you cage or stake your tomatoes you can plant them as close as 2' apart. The peppers will be fine at 12 to 18" apart.

I adore clematis, but would think twice about planting them in a bed of annuals that will be regularly turned and/or tilled. Clematis is perennial and the roots could be damaged. There are many wonderfull annual vines you could consider: Hyacinth bean, morning glories, Moonvine, and Cypress vine come to mind, but there are others. Oregano and chives are also perennial. I have mine in pots and they do great. Zinnias are a great choice.

    Bookmark   May 19, 2011 at 10:31PM
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Thank you Donna! I didn't think about what you said about clematis. That is a good point. Maybe I'll put in some morning glories instead. I was thinking of keeping chives in a pot of their own just because of the fact that they spread, and I don't want chives everywhere. I had read that zinnias are a good cutting flower to plant in a potager. So I'm glad you agree on that. So basically, I should just plant annuals in my potager garden then, right? That way the perennials are not damaged from plants moving in and out.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 7:52PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I have separate annual and perennial beds in my potager, you don't have much room but I still think you could designate a section to be for perennials. I like to practice companion gardening to encourage beneficial bugs to live in my garden, most beneficials need a place to overwinter and a perennial area is good for that. If your entire garden gets pulled out, tilled up, and replanted every year there is no place for the little buggies to hang out during the renovation.

Also, be sure you can access all parts of your garden without breaking your back, I started out with 4' wide beds and realized that 2' is much better, actually my new bed is 2.5' and it is great. But paths need to be at least 3' to be easily useable, so I don't know how to divide your space most efficiently... maybe get some graph paper and play around with it.

As far as plants that are good for a small garden I would suggest growing determinate instead of indeterminate tomatoes, because they don't need nearly as much room. The other plants you listed all look pretty compact to me.

Most importantly, have fun!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 10:28AM
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My beds are thirty inches wide and my paths are eighteen inches wide. That works well for me. I can still take a wheelbarrow down the paths but I'm not losing too much space to walkways.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 11:59AM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Riverfarm, that must be a bit of a balancing act in 18" paths. My former garden had paths that size. I much prefer the current 3 feet.

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 12:03PM
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I was following Eliot Coleman's layout plans, and he recommended 12" paths with 30" rows. That seemed untenable to us so we used 18" and it works for us. We don't bring anything larger than a wheelbarrow down the paths, and it doesn't matter if the side supports rest in the rows occasionally. We just didn't want to sacrifice that much growing space.

    Bookmark   May 22, 2011 at 2:20PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I decided on 3' paths because my previous raised veggy beds were only 2' apart and once the tomatoes and squash got big it was hard to walk between them. But when I was gardening directly in the ground my paths were probably closer to 18', although it did get pretty jungle-y. I think I prefer plenty of space to move, but I'm lucky enough to not have to sacrifice growing room to make larger paths.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 11:17AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Most of my paths are 3 feet wide which accommodates our wheelbarrow (it has 2 wheels and is rather large). Our beds are ligned with thick stone and now I wish I would have made the paths 2 1/2 feet wide instead as the rock took up more room than anticipated. I personally would not go for anything narrower as I want to have room to see any snakes.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 2:27PM
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I've been playing with my new flickr account and I couldn't resist adding a picture of last year's 4x8 bed with zinnias and swiss chard on one side and roma tomatoes on the other. I also had some lemon gem marigolds around the edges. The zinnias were very happy and it was sometimes hard to find the swiss chard!

I usually try to loosely follow the spacing recommended in the Square Foot Garden book by Mel Bartholomew.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 4:02PM
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