Planning a Potager

bakercityerikJuly 27, 2009

Hello all, I'm new to the forum, and have to say that you all have some beautiful gardens. I live in a little cottage built in 1900. My yard was a blank slate when I bought the place, and I have been putting in lots of flowers and trees, going for the cottage garden look. I want to take out most of my ugly, useless lawn and put in an informal potager. My biggest question is what should I be doing right now to get the space ready for next spring?



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I'm not sure I'm the one to answer your question, but I'm wondering if you could elaborate a little so that others might chime in. Are you thinking about raised beds? Will you be keeping the grass between your beds, or using another type of material for the paths? One little tidbit I can share for the planning phase is to make sure you can comfortably reach the plants in your bed. Our perimeter beds are just a tad too deep for comfort and they can only be accessed from one side. I'll look forward to seeing your progress!

    Bookmark   July 31, 2009 at 9:48PM
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girlgroupgirl(8 ATL)

lulabellesview has a great idea. You might really focus on planning now for next year! I am expanding our potager style gardens and have been reading books and books about design and ease of gardening etc. Check out some books in your local library if you can. Today I've got Sunsets "Edible Garden", I love Bob Flowerdew's "No Work Garden", have a kitchen garden book to paruse...and then pull out some of my favorites Ethne Clarke's "Herb Garden Design" (not just for herbs!!), anything by Rosalind Creasy, "Beautiful American Vegetable Gardens", and some of my favorites by JoAnn Gardner. There's so much info packed into these.
Once you get some ideas you can begin to get a work flow chart going for yourself to figure out what you need to do before Spring to be ready. Do you want raised beds? Made from what? Do you want to just dig into the ground? What kind of paths? What is your soil like, do you need to amend, fertilize, improve tilth with cover crops etc... lots of questions!!

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 12:37PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Lulabelle and GGG have given you great advice! It's just a matter of deciding what you want to do. A good place to start is drawing the design on paper. Much easier to play with it that way.

Couple more book suggestions: Southern Living's Growing Vegetable & Herbs. The majority of the book is geared to the whole country, so don't let the southern living part throw you. The first seven chapters deal with 1) Designing your garden, 2) Planning, 3) Getting Started, 4) Soils, 5) Planting, 6) Maintenance, and 7) Structures. Lots of photos and diagrams. Another is Designing the New Kitchen Garden ... An Americn Potager Handbook by Jennifer Bartley.

Lulabelle, I didn't want my garden to be symmetrical. Had planned on a couple beds running north to south and the other 4 east to west. Since I wanted a small fence on 3 sides of the garden dh pointed out that one of the north/south beds would only be accessible from 3 sides. So I compromised. I have symmetrical, but also easy access, lol.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:35PM
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Hello Backercity Eric. I am also new to the potager style of gardening. I made my potager in containers because our ground is so nasty.Rocks and clay. :^(

So far I have learned a couple of things. Zucchini gets too hot in full sun so plan on that one. I am right across the Hells canyon from you in Midvale, 80 + miles from you, so we are very close to the same zone. We LOVE Baker, OR.

Next year I hope to be able to provide a little shade for the zucchini. I also hope to be able to improve some of our soil in one area so I can plant directly in the ground. The containers are large but it still is hard to keep them watered. So improving soil is a good start for you too.

We are on the outskirts of town here but do have deer and raccoons coming in so hope to get a fence if possible by next year or something to protect the plants from the critters.

We just had fresh tomatoes from our potager and they were so yummy.


    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:36PM
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natal(Louisiana 8b)

Lulabelle, I was just about to grab those 2 books I mentioned and put them back on the shelf when I realized the drawing on the cover of Jennifer Bartley's book looks a lot like your potager. Is that where you got the idea? It's such a lovely garden.

    Bookmark   August 1, 2009 at 6:49PM
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Hi, thank you for the ideas. I will take a look at those books. I have nice sandy loamy type soil. I'm not sure about raised beds or not. I've still got to give that some thought
. I'd like gravel paths. I get deer in my yard sometimes.
Here's a link to my photobucket site with pictures of my house, and the look that I am trying to go for.

Here is a link that might be useful: photobucket

    Bookmark   August 3, 2009 at 11:01PM
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catalinagrey(MN 3/4)

Ooooo nice garden and house!
I would suggest the book by Mel Bartholomew - Square Foot Garden.
It helped me get started! And write your plan out on paper and stick to it. It is so easy for a potager (or any garden) to get messy and unorganized.
Good luck!

Here is a link that might be useful: my blog

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 7:15PM
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Great pictures - I love all the colorful things you've put in your yard!
I made a new potager this spring without a whole lot of planning ahead, so I would second the idea of writing your plan on paper (or outlining your proposed pathways/beds with flour, spray paint or hoses etc to get a feel for how things will look). That would have saved me a lot of time and effort because I decided I didn't like how it looked at first and had to make some adjustments.
And about the deer...if they're in your yard sometimes now, you can pretty much count on them being in your yard all the time once you plant stuff they like to eat, which is just about everything in the vegetable patch. Unless you don't mind sharing (but I warn you - they are kind of piggy!) you might want to consider enclosing your potager with some sort of fencing. I speak from experience here, unfortunately.
Have fun (and please post pictures when you're up and running!)

    Bookmark   August 5, 2009 at 10:21PM
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echoes_or(Zone 3)

I love Baker City.. Was over there in May to attend/instruct a gardening class hosted by Ace Nursery and the Extension Office.. This was our second year going over there for that... Was saddened by the trees dieing in the town. Has that been slowed at all?

If I got it right your gardening zones vary from 3-5 for the most part.... I'm a zone 3 myself. Had a frost warning the last two nights. But was lucky and it was little above freezing.

You have a nice place. I love all the great homes in and around that region. Love the purple arbor, (my fav color) and the red accents. Very nice.

Is the church over by Summer Lake? Looks like it because of the church but also because of the burned trees in the background.

I lurk here (Garden Web) almost every day. I've gotten lots of great information for my cold climate gardening here. It's great to see another person from Oregon on here.

    Bookmark   August 9, 2009 at 7:20PM
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Hi, thanks for the kind words. I haven't really noticed the dying trees, other than a few birches that have been dead for a few years now. Where were the trees? That is the Harris school, and it is near Summer Lake. I had a picture of the school during the fire, and I haven't been able to find it. It was haunting, the whole hill behind was in flames.

    Bookmark   August 10, 2009 at 12:18AM
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Hi, I'm also new to the forum. I live in Eastern Washington and have a short, but hot growing season, with the last few winters getting three feet of snow and -27 F. That being said, I'm looking for recommendations for raspberries, blueberries and semi-dwarf apple trees for my zone. I am planning to put a potager in for next year and will probably end up using grass for paths. I like the idea of trying ideas out on paper first and have been doing that most of the summer. I read Jennifer Bartley's book and love her garden, but wondered how she could reach the middle of her beds, which seemed wider than four feet. I have a few small vegetable garden beds this year, in front of the house, just to try out some vegetables to see which ones work best in this hot weather. Thanks for any ideas you can provide.

    Bookmark   August 12, 2009 at 2:02PM
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echoes_or(Zone 3)

Oh, you know I think I might have that picture somewhere, I will look through my archives...I always think of it as a church but now that you mention it, I have been told it was a school, one of my favorite views going to Lakeview.
The trees were all along the streets. I couldn't believe they had so many and so many different varieties dying off.
Betty from Ace said she had noticed but didn't really say if anything was to be done.
Enjoy that wonderful town. And, please continue showing your pictures.

    Bookmark   August 16, 2009 at 2:07PM
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WOW Bakercityeirk WOW I had to come back and post after seeing ALL of your pictures. Hope I am not too late. I LOVE your fun style. I have lots of fun tongue in cheek things in our yard too. I love the surprise elements. The bedpans on the side of the house. What a riot!! I have one of those somewhere. Got to find a place to hang it. Heheheh

We started with a blank slate here too. Only we have a new manufactured home and not the wonderful cottage you have. We named our place Canary cottage.

I did plant in sort of raised beds as in mostly containers. Next year I want to have larger containers to plant in for the larger tank I have.My smaller containers dried out really fast.

But all in all our little potager did fairly well.

What did you decide to do to start your potager? Gosh I hope some day to get over your way and see your lovely place in person.Nothing like inviting myself. You have done a wonderful job.

Link to our One year old yard. Started from bare dirt July 2008.

Here is a link that might be useful: Canary Cottage

    Bookmark   August 22, 2009 at 11:09PM
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Hi, thanks. I took my model T to the car show on Saturday and had probably 30 people come by and say that they go out of their way to drive by my house and see what new thing I've done to the yard. I need to take some more pictures because I've added a bunch of stuff. I just built an arbor out of two old paneled doors with a window in the top half. I took the glass out so birds didn't run into it. Now I have a picket fence planned using sections of ornate old cast iron radiators as the pickets. That ought to get a few looks. I haven't done anything to start the potager yet. It's been to hot for me to want to do much. I had some sort of trailing sedum in the bedpans, but they didn't do very well hanging on the house. If you get over this way next summer I should have a bunch more done.

    Bookmark   August 24, 2009 at 5:01PM
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Love the radiator idea. We had a couple of them in a house we used to heat with hot water from a hot spring. Would love to have a tour and will let you know next time we are headed that way. I love the unusual in a yard. So fun.


    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 2:12AM
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Hi Chris, I just took a look at your photos. It's looking good. I like your idea of using old sinks as planters. I have a few of them hanging around my place that I need to use. Also the tank fountain is great! I've been thinking of doing something similar to that in the center of my yard. I drew up a set of plans for an addition to a house and as payment I traded the homeowner out of an 8' Aermotor windmill. I'd like to built a tower around 16 feet high for it, and use an old hand pump at the base to run water through and into an oblong tank . I really like the Iris's. They have been a favorite of mine since the 1st grade when I lived in an old farmhouse that had a big covered porch that was lined with the old fashioned purple ones.

    Bookmark   August 25, 2009 at 10:46AM
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