Xeriscape potager...

singcharlene(Zone 5)June 25, 2006


I've been lurking on this forum for a while and admiring all of your potager pictures, especially the ability to come up with a unique design. I love the before and afters as they give me hope for my own garden!

We just moved to a property 2 1/2 acres with a gorgeous view of the Rockies. The house was built in 1972 and needs work which leaves very little budget for the outside. The house is 70's modern ranch style covered in moss stone in a "natural" area surrounded by pines but is on a mesa and more prairie like. A diamond in the rough. We'll leave most of it natural except for the perimeter.

There's a wooden front walkway in good shape with a long pergola covered by six very old beautiful concord grape vines but the rest of the perimeter landscaping is yucky old overgrown junipers (everywhere) and lawns. We are planning to rip all of that out soon.

We have our own private well for water and it rains very little here so I have become the "water marshall" in our household. I am letting two smallish thirsty KBG lawns die in the front and half of a very large lawn die in the back. We just put in a 40 x 50 vegetable garden elsewhere on the property so that's where I will "spend" my water.

Finally, my question is has anyone seen a xeriscape potager? This is what I would love to put in the front on either side of the walkway where the lawns are dying and I would love to put in a design of raised beds surrounded by gravel or wood chips and not have to dig up all that lawn. This is not visible from the street just to people coming to the house as well as my kitchen window and dining room look out out onto it so I'd love to plant some herbs too. I will water this area with water saved from daily shower/kitchen water collected while water is warming up and possibly a little grey water (that's a whole other post that I've also done a little research on).

And as for design where does one start? Any potager advice would be appreciative!


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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Charlene, xeroscaping relies more on finding plants that can handle drought. Which is not too many vegetables, I tell you.
We had no rain for a month, and our transplants are suffering at church. Peppers are OK, especially hot peppers.
You CAN help trap moisture in the ground, and save water by other methods.
Mulch incredibly well. You can plant your veg and mulch with thick layers of newspaper and mulch. You need to leave some space for water to be absorbed though, and only mulch this well after a very thorough soaking.

Consider both rain barrels and a cistern. If your wells run dry, a system of a few rain barrels or a rain system from gutters that empties into a cement cistern will conserve water without having to rely on already established groundwater. You could also save grey water this way if you can get it set up. A conservation group (check to see if anyone helps solarize houses etc. in your area) would know how to do it.

I am having a stairwell addition built, it will be sort of a seperate building with a "bridge" from our house. The roof will be angled into a rain chain, the rain will run into a fairly shallow, very small pond (more like boggy area) that has a run-off valve which will have underground pipes leading into a cistern. I can then pump the water out of the cistern. I will be adding rain barrels too.

Some years we are swimming, some dry as a bone. But as my vegetable garden expands slowly to feed us most of the year, I won't save much if I'm buying water all the time. So a cistern is the answer. It's a one-time outlay of cash, but I'm looking for some engineering students (or water management students) to help with the project as a class thingy.

Something to think about!

A xeroscaped gravel herb garden would be perfect for you. That's not that difficult to do!


    Bookmark   June 25, 2006 at 11:10PM
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singcharlene(Zone 5)

Thanks for all your comments GGG...

I guess I am confused as to what a potager is. A potager is always vegetables intermingled? Maybe I'm thinking potager was more garden design with the raised beds, paths and a few edibles like herbs mixed in.

Unfortunately we are not allowed to collect rainwater where we live. This area gets its public water from underground aquifers and they are estimating with how fast the population is growing (Douglas County is rated as one of the fastest growing counties in the U.S.) that the water may be tapped out in say 20 years but they don't really know exactly how long the water will last--could be more or less time.

We have a good well (500 feet deep) that we just had tested and they said we couldn't buy bottled water as good as our well water. But our neighbors well up the hill from us turned murky and a few months later was dry. It cost them $25,000 to drill a new well! My neighbors below us down the hill have a bad well that they can't drink from but it's been like that for years. We are on a flat mesa on the hill and the well specialist said how our house/well is positioned probably contributes to how good our well is but he also said you never really know.

I do collect rain water in large buckets under the gutter downspouts to water the garden. My neighbor said that is not even allowed but I justify it as going into the ground the same way as if it rained into the ground. I am looking into more grey water options for our home too. I think this will be the future one day and sooner would be better.

I will start looking for some design ideas for my front yard raised herb/xeriscape gravel beds. I'll probably tuck some bulbs in too as they'll get some snow melt.

Thanks again for your thoughts :)

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 12:58AM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

Yes, a potager is pretty much mainly a vegetable garden but it's ornamental in nature. Meaning that it combines veggies, herbs and flowers and/or the vegetables themselves can be ornamental planted in specific patterns and styles. It sort of depends on which of the three "catagories" of plants you need the most of.
Charlene, there is a really good book that you might want to get, it's called the "Undaunted Gardener" by Laura Springer (now Laura Springer Ogden if you are looking for other books and articles she has written). I think that this book will really help you decide the best plants and herbs to grow, and how to make the most of your soil to hold in water. At least it's somewhere to start!!


    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 11:30AM
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manzomecorvus(Austin TX 8B)

I live in central Texas and I know all to well how hard it is to balance water use with a veggie garden. One of the reasons I started running a potager was to lower water use. The network of roots and the canopy of leaves in a potager garden works well for a low water use garden.

Here's some ideas:
Exchange traditional potager flowers for local natives and wildflowers. Find and visit demonstration gardens in your area to get visual references.

Change your landscape so rainwater or water from the roof will run towards the garden. Amazing how much water can be channeled from one area to another with a little landscaping!

Research heirloom plants. Learn what used to be grown before the advent of plumbing not just in your area but other areas in the world that are like yours. There are vegetables out there that will love your climate and need little more than fertilizer and thinning.

Contact your local agricultural extension agency and ask for lists of plants they suggest for your area. These guys are a wealth of info.

Finnally, think outside of the box. For example, I take plastic containers, drill a few holes and bury them at the feet of tomatoes and peppers with just the tops sticking out. Voila! mini rainwater collectors. If your neighbors recycle, you don't even have to buy the containers....

Hope that helps!

    Bookmark   June 26, 2006 at 1:05PM
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