Beginner Potager in planning stages...

ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)May 1, 2012

I am so inspired by what I see here, that I am planning to turn an area of my back yard into a potager garden.

Learning tid bits of what to do (and what NOT to do) and am seeing that 3 feet for pathways is best, am planning 3 feet width on beds, too (should I go wider?), perhaps some triangular, still laying it out. Am intending to do crushed granite on top of weed cloth for the aisles.

Question. I like wooden sides, 'homespun' looking, not formal, although going for balance in layout. I would like 12 inch boards on their side with wooden stakes supporting them and hidden rebar. Much like an old public home on Nantucket we toured a few years ago.

What kind of wood (in Texas) would you recommend. And, I know the opinions of treated wood vary, but IS this a problem in an edible garden? It seems it must be, and too, I don't like that sick green color of the wood. Isn't cedar slower to decay? Have even thought of lining sides with plastic to slow down decay.

It'll be fairly small, but I would appreciate your opinions. Surprising I didn't see this covered in my feeble attempt (the website jumps around on my computer...not responsive to up/down).

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Congratulations on starting a potager! It is a rewarding experience, you will love it.

Keeping your beds 3 ft. wide or less eliminates the need to tramp through them to weed, harvest, etc.

I too have heard that cedar stands up to the weather the best. I used wood that we had here (mostly pine I think). It is working fine. But if you want to eliminate replacing the boards sooner, I guess I would go with cedar. It also weathers to a nice gray color, which would go well with the natural look you are aiming for. It is more expensive but would be worth it in the long run.

Best of luck with your garden, and don't hesitate to come back for help if you get stuck; everyone on this forum is wonderful about helping us "newbies."

Best of luck and have fun!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 8:48AM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

Macgregor, thank you. I am excited! I layed it out today, used four foot wide beds, as I need to do it in a U shape, and no other shape really worked. It won't be the traditional four square plan I would love to have, but with the area I have I think it will work. About 100 square feet.

I priced cedar and pine at the Lowe's and am putting together costs. I usually buy a 'vegetable mix' in soil from a local soil company for my rose beds, and am pricing that out as well...and Mel's soil mixture, too. FIrst thing is getting the layout establlished...which I have staked out in the yard to get used to...

I've always loved using my own grown herbs, etc, and thing this will be fun...roses only need so much pruning and attention...

Thanks for the kind words of encouragement!!

    Bookmark   May 2, 2012 at 4:56PM
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Ooh, that sounds nice! Can you sketch out your garden and add the dimensions? Or maybe a photo...even better :)

I don't know what kind of wood might be best in Texas (we're in eastern Washington) so our biggest concern is snow! What kind of roses do you grow? Are you going to have any in/by the potager?

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 8:24PM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

LL, this posting pics. I haven't mastered that yet! But I am pricing cedar, haven't found 12" width yet, could do two 6", but rather keep it simple. It has better rot resistance than pine, but not permanent, and yes, I am sure a rose or three will creep in!! Thx!!!

    Bookmark   May 3, 2012 at 10:45PM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

At 186 square feet, I have priced it out at just under $1,000. Lumber and soil around $400 each, and planting, stakes, and extras, approx. $200.

I really can't wait, DH a bit nervous about the money, but I have it all staked out and am killing the grass now.

A 4 by 4 sf herb bed, taller area with poles for training climbers (peas and beans), another for a few tomatoes. Looking here to see what else grows lower and stays tame. Surely some arugula will creep in, basil out in the flower beds, so no need to do that here. Really looking forward to it, and it is in the backyard, so I can wander and work in my pj's with no worries!! Sometimes I really want that private mellow gardening time, and it is tougher on the side and front yard.

It is a shape like the top of a ? (without the dot). Not traditional, but works for this space. and in the middle i have a table and four chairs. I just love being surrounded by my garden. and, along the bottom is an existing rose bed, so, other than a small entrance, I am surrounded. (((I think there are psychological roots to this need!))))

Onward, gotta get the money together, but it makes me happy thinking about it.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 9:29AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

It sounds like a great project, cannot wait to see the results...

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 11:22AM
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donnabaskets(Zone 8a, Central MS)

It does sound like a great project! Just to give you something to think about, you might want to consider some type of rock, block, or stone. It's possible that their price would be comparable to cedar. I built my potager four years ago and used the decorative concrete blocks. I spent about $1,000.00. No mortar required, and I was able to do the entire project myself. I will never need to replace them. If you watch, they often go on sale. I will attach a link.

There is one thing you need to know about raised beds in the Deep South. They do tend to dry out faster. The second year, I dug in a generous amount of peat moss into each bed, and I always mulch them heavily. This helps alot.

Here is a link that might be useful: My potager, early spring, Year 2.

    Bookmark   May 11, 2012 at 5:45PM
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Your plans sound great! I'd love to see pictures or even a sketch. I also have a small potager and I can relate to having to design around the space you have. Mine is in a corner of my little suburban yard, and measures 16'x12'. I put 2' wide beds around the perimeter and a 4'x8' bed in the center, with a path all the way around. I had to make the path only 2' wide, which I am already regretting, but I can always widen it by making the center bed smaller next year. This layout gives me about 100 square feet of raised beds which is plenty to keep me busy!

I used 2'x12' pine lumber for the raised beds, and actually reused lumber that I had bought last year and the year before (this is my third year of building raised beds in different layouts and I'm hoping this is the last time!) So far it is holding up well here in central Oklahoma, but I know I will have to replace it in a few years. Perhaps by then I can afford stone.

One thing that might help you save on the soil - have you looked into any businesses that supply landscaping companies with materials? We have a place called Minick Materials where you can buy garden ready soil, mulch, gravel, etc. by the ton. It took almost 4 tons of soil to fill my raised beds, since they are a foot deep. (Each ton is about 27 cubic feet). Anyway, it was only $40 a ton, and came already blended with composted manure, gypsum, composted cotton burrs, etc. I am working in several bales of peat moss this year which is making it a lot more fluffy. Anyway, I don't know if you have anything like that down there but it can really save money. Minick will also deliver (for an extra fee) if you don't have a way to haul it.

Hope this helps. Can't wait to see pictures :)

Here is a link that might be useful: Minick Materials

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 9:59AM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

canokie, we have a soil company that delivers great soil for $40 or so a cubic yard, which is what you descibe as a ton. wow, lots of weight in that stuff. they have a vegetable mix i have bought for my roses, and been happy. i think i'll do the same here. 40 delivery fee, so about as efficient as i can make it. wish they could dump directly in the bed, but, the driveway isn't far. DH really dragging his heels on the go ahead. poor economy isn't helping, and despite growing my own veggies, i know it is not cost effective. much cheaper to buy at farmers market!

thanks for the link, sounds like a great find!!

i've looked at mel's mix, and might try to learn what is best for this area.

happy digging, hope the rain gives us a break and comes back often this summer!!

    Bookmark   May 12, 2012 at 8:44PM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

I found Mel's Mix to drain water too quickly, and that it rather expensive. I like vermiculite, peat and compost but I add it to my clay soil, it tends to hold water better and keep me from having to water as much (during the heat of summer, I would sometimes have to water twice in a day, not cool).

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 8:59PM
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Yes, that's what I was thinking too. A lot depends on your climate. In hot, dry climates like ours Mel's mix doesn't work so well. I've been doing the same thing - mixed in 4 bales of peat moss this spring, and it made a huge difference. I have read that in some areas even raised beds are too quick to dry out and some people have 'sunken beds' instead. My climate isn't that dry but if we have another summer like last year I might have to think about it!

    Bookmark   May 13, 2012 at 11:14PM
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ilovemyroses(8 Dallas TX)

tish and canokie, thanks for that, no need to pay the $ for mel's and have to water more...I use compost alot, and would love to have my own composter, but throw banana peels and coffee grounds into the garden daily. I think I'll go with the mix I usually buy. Wanting to get this in before the heat makes it 'no fun', but DH dragging his heals and DS(son) complaining about killing the grass. I assure him that he will enjoy growing vegetables, and know he would, but neither like change.

I'd love to see pics of your gardens in these hot climates!! And will add peat moss to the mixture. How is peat different from compost? (may be a dumb question!) :)

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 9:41AM
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tishtoshnm Zone 6/NM

Here is a link to the pictures I recently posted of my potager. It has taken us 3 years to get to this point. Money is a serious issue so we harvested all the rock ourselves from our surrounding property (and road cuts and wherever else we could get some). Dh heaved a big sigh of relief once he got all the rocks in place. I do not get quite as hot as Dallas (my IL are in Garland) but you certainly have the potential for more rain than I do, so it can be a draw. My season is definitely shorter than yours though. My average last frost is May 15th and average first is October 15th. Sometimes I dream of living in a place with a longer season and more rainfall but then I wake up and get back to work on what I have.

Here is a link that might be useful: My potager

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 2:17PM
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Money is a serious issue here too... and my potager is far from done, but here's a picture I took the other day. I built this using the lumber from raised beds I had built over the last two years (those beds were not in a potager style). Once I get the arbor and gate built and the middle bed planted with the sweet potato slips arriving later this week, I think it will look more like what I envisioned. There is also going to be a bench at the far end and a birdbath or something in the center of the bed in the middle. So much yet to do...

    Bookmark   May 15, 2012 at 8:26PM
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I really enjoy how innovative gardeners are using what they have, can make, or find instead of just hiring it out. Working with the land you have to create something of beauty changes you and when done are surely proud of your project.

Thanks for sharing photos & the thinking process.

ilovemyroses - did you get your peat vs compost question answered?

    Bookmark   July 6, 2012 at 11:48AM
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