planning a new veg garden, need help

pvelMay 12, 2011

In my new home, I have a 25 by 15 foot rectangular area on the north west part of the house.It is about 40 feet from the house so it gets a good amount of sun.

I would like to plan a potager style, visually pleasing vegetable garden. I like to grow tomatoes, eggplant, peppers, some perennial herbs and garlic in the winter.

I would appreciate any help with the plan, or any suggestions to make it work. Is there some place I can look for plans? I may make raised beds as the native soil is clay and is difficult to work with.

Here is a link that might be useful: future vegetable garden

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potager_newbie(Zone 8, TX)

Pvel- It looks like you've got a great spot picked out to try a potager! This year is my second year dabbling in this type of gardening style, and the link below is a website I used to help me in my planning, I hope it helps you too! I would also suggest doing a bit of research into 'companion planting,' so you can use your space as efficiently as possible! As you work up your garden space, post more pics, I'd love to see what you decide to do! :)

Here is a link that might be useful: How to Plant a Kitchen Garden

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 8:02AM
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Potager Newbie: thanks for the help. We like your potager and will do something similar. What are the dimensions of your bed and where did you get the edging stones? Do you have a problem with grass encroaching on your bed. Is your lawn Bermuda? Our's is and it is going to be a battle to keep it out of the bed.

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 11:32AM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

My first garden in 1986 was based on square foot gardening. Beds were formed with landscape timbers. In 2009 we redesigned the shape using bricks to form the beds and added a small decorative fence.

My main advice would be to make sure you allow plenty of room in the paths to maneuver around the beds. That was a problem I eventually ran into with the original garden as I got older and less flexible. Now I can roll the wheelbarrow into the garden and access all beds with it. I also strongly suggest starting a compost system, if you haven't already. You'll be amazed how it transforms that clay into a nutrient-rich, easily-worked soil.


March 2009

June 2009

    Bookmark   May 13, 2011 at 1:43PM
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nancyjane_gardener(Zone 8ish North of San Francisco in the "real" wine country)

I totally agree with natal about leaving enough room between beds to move your wheelbarrows around!
I didn't and have tweaked my back several times trying to dump soil or compost into a bed! I think 3 feet wide will do it.
With raised beds, it looks like you can do about 4 4x8 beds with maybe some pots or barrels on each end.
Be sure to decorate them! And have FUN!!!!! Nancy

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 12:53AM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

I recommend four beds so you can have a four year crop rotation, that is important for the health of your tomato family crops. The tomato family (solanaceae) includes peppers, eggplant, tomatillos, ground cherries, and potatoes. I planned my whole potager around how much room I needed for the tomato family. I keep my potatoes out of the raised beds though, I grow them in bags because it makes it a lot easier to insure there aren't any little potatoes left in the ground after the harvest.

My potager is still in the creation phase but I have planned four large raised beds for annual crops, and one smaller perennial bed for herbs and flowers. I like to have a perennial area near my annual beds because it is good for attracting and sheltering beneficial insects and garden good guys.

Graph paper is very useful when planning, I get mine from a free graph paper generator that I found through google.

Good gardening!

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 11:46AM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Peachy, I've never rotated tomatoes and never had a problem. I do grow fall/winter crops in the same beds and always add compost each spring when turning the soil.

Pvel, I second graph paper or one of the free online planners.

Here is a link that might be useful: garden design tools

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 12:31PM
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Your site looks ready to go --access to water, sunny location, free of grass. I agree with the 4 4x8 beds. Of course, it depends on the arrangement that you would like. It might be a bit tricky if you want a center feature. You could always angle off the corners of the beds to ensure you have enough path room.

Mistakes I've made include:
1. Using weed fabric. My garden is built on a former weedy mess and after 1 season all sorts of weeds were breaking through the weed barrier. I wasted so much time and money. Now I use layers of newspaper and cardboard with mulch on top for looks both in my paths and in the beds once plants are in.
2. Making my border beds too deep. I have short arms and at 3' wide, I still had to do some major stretching to reach the back.
3. Planting strawberries in a border bed. See #2. Plus, they spread into the pathway and into the adjacent border bed.
4. Planting mint directly in a border bed. I knew better but I thought I could keep in under control by pulling runners. Yikes! I had pineapple mint throughout the whole herb bed in 1 season.

Of course, I'm still making mistakes but those are the ones that come to mind now. Good luck! You will love gardening.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 12:43PM
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I think you need at least 3 feet between the bermuda and the beds and it will still be a fight to keep it out. It will still send out runners that distance and you will have to keep digging them out. It will be a much harder weeding problem than anything that comes up in your garden.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 1:45PM
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potager_newbie(Zone 8, TX)

Sorry this is so late... my raised beds are 4x4' and the expanded ground-level beds are 4x6' with a 2' extension to the raised portion... does that make sense? I've never had a problem with grass in the raised beds, but this year we are getting Bermuda grass in the ground-level beds. Not so much that we can't weed 'em, but it keeps us busy! I need to mulch with something, I hear mulching helps with weed control.

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 1:50PM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

You will love potager gardening. There's something about the beautiful structure that makes the whole process so satisfying.

My potager is in its third year and I continue to tweak it. The link below is views of it last year in early summer. As you can see, it's on a hillside. I love the wide walls that I can sit on as I work.

My native soil is extremely tight clay. The first year, I added bags of composted manure and worked them in each time I changed out a crop (3 times per year). By the second year, it was hard to believe that it was the same soil. This year I top-dressed all the beds with several inches of compost in late winter. Boy, will I do that again!

I would highly recommend that you read a good book or two on potager design and techniques, and also one on vegetable gardening that is written for your region. Trust me. It will save lots of headaches in the end.

Recommendations: The New Kitchen Garden by Anna Pavord (She's English, but you will find much to help you here. Especially if you're interested in growing fruit.

Designing the New Kitchen Garden by Jennifer Bartley. This is truly a good book!

Square Foot Gardening by Mel Bartholomew: This book is not so much about design as it is about the mechanics of growing intensively. Very useful.

Warm Climate Gardening by Barbara Pleasant: I learned to garden in Indiana, so this book has been a lifesaver to me here in Mississippi.

There is also a great website called Vegetable Gardening that is produced by Fine Gardening Magazine. It has fabulous information in it.

I wholeheartedly second the motion for three foot paths.

Here is a link that might be useful: Year two of my potager

    Bookmark   May 14, 2011 at 7:56PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

My favorite veggy gardening book is 'Great Garden Companions' by Sally Jean Cunningham, just had to add that to your list ; )

    Bookmark   May 15, 2011 at 10:24AM
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OK, I need some more help. I had planned to make a series of squares separated by paths. I wanted to edge the beds with stone. After looking at stone available at local nurseries, I am having second thoughts. The stone I find is not that pretty looking(river rock) and a bit pricey($200-400 a pallet).
My other option is to make wood boxes, which seems a little labor intensive. Or landscaping timbers.
I just can't decide. I have a lot of seedlings ready to plant and do not want them to suffer while I dither.
Maybe I can put them in the ground and build the edging(wood or stone) later.

    Bookmark   May 20, 2011 at 11:36PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

If I were in your situation I think I would go ahead and plant now to save the seedlings and put in the edging later.

Boy, it seems like that is really expensive for river rock. I bought 5 yards of river rock a few years ago and I don't remember how much it cost exactly but I know it was way less than they are trying to charge you. I hope you can find a good, affordable edging material soon!

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 10:38AM
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peachymomo: Thanks. That is exactly what I will do. I have found some other nurseries with stone(tumbled sandstone, very pretty) at 18 cents a pound, so even if I get 1000 lb, it should not be too bad. But I will put in the seedlings soon(if it only stops raining).

    Bookmark   May 21, 2011 at 3:32PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

You can also just do raised beds without any edging initially. I love the look of stone and that is what I have used for most beds in my garden. Being heavy, I think the prices increase because of fuel. My stone only cost us labor as my husband goes up the hill with a wheelbarrow and brings it down, but it has been a long and arduous process. I have also found that when planting, stone is very hard on the knees and so I am going to have to break down and invest in knee pads too.

    Bookmark   May 23, 2011 at 2:20PM
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peachymomo(Ca 8)

Thinking about stone costs, whatever is most close and plentiful will be the cheapest. I went with river rock because that was most affordable here, could it be possible that a different kind of rock is cheaper where you are? And definitely do not shop for stone at a nursery, you will get a much better price if you go to a landscaping company that deals specifically with rock. If you have a spot that is safe for them to dump it it will be even cheaper, putting it on a pallet costs.

Momo - rock addict.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2011 at 10:15AM
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momo: I have tried to google rock suppliers without any good leads. A couple of nurseries/landscapers in our area do have some nice looking sandstone cut into 12x6x4 inch blocks. At 18 cents a pound I may be spending $2-400 on the order, but it is a 1 time expense.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2011 at 4:59PM
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I planted my potager this weekend. Eggplant, tomatoes, peppers, various bell peppers, nasturtiums for color. Have not edged it with the rock yet.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 5:11PM
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Here is athe picture I meant to link.

Here is a link that might be useful:

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 5:33PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

It looks beautiful. Have fun!

    Bookmark   May 29, 2011 at 7:03PM
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Edging & paths:
You might find you like the flexibility of no edging this year, see how you enjoy your space, and make changes in width of paths or size of beds for next year. Wider paths 3' or more are nice because once the plants are producing they tend to lean out into your path. Even if you won't use a wheelbarrow through them while harvesting you might carry a bucket or shovel & it might catch onto a plant if your path is narrow.

A few years ago we built wooden raised beds & converted part of our garden space to the SFG intensive planting. The squares fill quickly even though we plant squashes, tomatoes, peppers, and perennial edibles (fruit trees, rhubarb, strawberry, raspberry, topsetting garlic, herbs, etc.) in our regular garden spaces not the wooden sided beds. The space greedy plants are rotated in a few pockets of open ground amongst the perennial edibles. I have permanent paths of wood chips or straw mulch that define space & keep weeds down. In fall as needed, I move path materials to beds for winter sheet mulching & put new stuff on paths.

We've been gardening here for 20 years, so it wasn't all built one spring, but each year we add something. The soil building & renewing process is important to figure into your garden space. If you figure out how to compost in place on top of your beds it won't seem so difficult to make enough compost to keep it going.

I'm a different gardener than when we 1st started, so I'm glad I didn't have defined beds to begin with because I not only grow different crops, but the way I grow them is entirely different.

I tend to start too many garden projects in spring that take me all summer to catch up, so if you're done designing & want to be tending plants instead -- go for it! Remind yourself that the other part of gardening is resting in it!

    Bookmark   June 1, 2011 at 10:44AM
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