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wow - finally started with the new potager....

Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
Sun, May 26, 13 at 23:25

Thanks all for your inspiration over the past couple of years...it always seemed so overwhelming but reading about those of you configuring the potager over a period of years made me realize that trying to envision doing it all at once, all by myself, was a recipe for overwhelming (I work FT+ and a single parent).

I wrestled with so many decisions.....wood or brick or stone...or poured concrete....and every time I'd decide to do it 100% perfectly for me, I'd wonder if I'd be selling the house or not (my youngest will be a senior in HS next year, and it dawns on me I don't have to have the SFH with room for everyone anymore). Maybe a poured concrete raised bed potager wouldn't appeal to buyers?

I've actually been prepping the area I'm expanding into for 2-3 years, letting it go and heaping all the fall leaves onto it to try to minimize the weeds - and I was out digging out the dandelions that poked through and I realized, no matter which way I went, I had to do something with this area - and no matter which way I went, it was going to be a lot of work and some money.

So - I decided I'll do the potager for me, but do it relatively cheaply (wood) and keep it relatively simple (just the bed layout, and after that is completed - then I could add in the lattice fencing around it and other design elements later on.

I went to home depot and got the wood for about 1/4 of the border bed. I still haven't finished/decided on the bed configuration, but they all started with a 2 foot wide perimeter bed around the potage area with the sidewalk to the alley running down the center line. So I figured - well - that part seems fixed so start there.

Even just about 1/10 (maybe less!) of the entire project wood was $60! wow - that was eye opening! (I'm using 2x12s of anonymous home depot wood). This isn't even including the lattice fencing and arbor elements I'm hoping to add....

So - slow is good with that in mind!

I'll try to take some pics of the work in progress, I know I love to see others' photos, particularly the before/during/after.

Thanks again - for all the inspiration and "reality check" on how much work this is actually going to be. But - as always - a labor of love.

Aside from this forum, and google image "potage" - one of my big inspirations today was my chives in the raised bed. This is the first year they are flowering, and I can't believe how lovely they are! I just kept looking at them, and thinking I want more.....more more more...more veggies, more flowers, more herbs.....

more more more!


Follow-Up Postings:

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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

Congrats on getting it started. I look forward to seeing your progress pics.

I started small, 4 beds in a 12x15 ft space. The size of the beds were determined by the free lumber that I found up in the garage crawl space when I bought this house. Four (or is it 5?) years later my kitchen garden takes up almost half of my back yard with 10 deep raised beds and 6 cattle panel arches that frame the space, each having two 3x5 ft beds at their feet. Plus two more big raised beds for strawberries and blueberries that are outside of the main space.

The constant expansion has meant that most of the time my yard looks more like a construction zone than those idyllic potager gardens in France, but one of these days it will all come together.

I only have two more smallish in-ground beds to put in this year, plus fencing in the entire back yard.

I have no parenting obligations and am off work mid-May through mid-Aug. I can devote 6-10 hours a day in the garden when I need to. I cant imagine getting it all done on evenings and weekends.


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Mon, May 27, 13 at 10:46

Thanks Mandolls! It really does mushroom doesn't it? I originally thought one 5x10 bed was going to be "it" for the veg garden....

After my jubilation last night, I had to stay awake long after I wanted to go to sleep because DD was out late and I ended up picking her and a friend up after the buses stopped running.

I amused myself with planning the potager layout - and then - the indecisions returned.....why 2' perimeter bed? Why not 2.5 - even 3 feet? Why perimeter at all? I could just match the beds on the other side and save 75% of the work and the cost.

It's not too late says my head - I didn't actually start building. I could change over to 2.5 width - just go get a few more pieces of wood, maybe $10-20 bucks more and a few bucks lost....

then - I forgot to get the boiled linseed oil too! So - maybe I need to go back to home depot anyway.....

So I wanted this morning to build out that 1/4 of the perimeter and plant the flowers I got to start making things looke a bit more civilized back there...so thinking forget the linseed....just do this....

And all I can think about is the definite decisions I actually finally made - and how I could change them.....

Back to square one it seems.

It's almost 10, and I have a family function today and only have til 12ish to actually work.

File me under hopeless, lol!


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Mon, May 27, 13 at 12:13

Here are the chives that gave me hope for a more beautiful veggie garden....

chives with comfrey in back right photo 20130527_104749_zps1555f5d4.jpg

Existing garden area.....

current garden photo 20130527_104435_zpsa9d6b849.jpg

expanding over into this area to create the potager style arrangement...

new area photo 20130527_104442_zpseec0082b.jpg


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

Those chive are great. I have garlic chives, which I like the taste of better, but the flowers are white and not nearly as nice. What else is filling in that bed already? I wouldnt expect your season to be that far ahead of mine in WI, but everything is way behind schedule this year. Daffodils are just finishing up here and Iris havent started blooming yet!

Some people are very organized about planning out their garden, but to me, some of those end up being very "stiff" looking gardens. I do sit and make plans and drawings, but then I go out and react to the actual space. Gardens are about growing - so they should change and evolve. Get the basic architecture down and then just dance within it!.


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Tue, May 28, 13 at 8:46

I am working on a clump of garlic chives too! This one better work, as the pack of seeds is gone, all the rest didn't make it.

I am a very early planter, and do season extending.

That didn't help much this year though - we went 2 weeks with no sun at a stretch! Nothing can compensate for no sun!

In the bed with the chives: The big clump with yellow flowers are red russian kale bolting - these were planted last fall and over wintered. Everything else was planted mid april.

Behind the chives is arugula, some of it bolting already, and then mid bed next to the arugula is a mixed area with black seeded simpson lettuce, mixed with lambs quarters.....I'm a fan and let 1 go to seed each year. I pull them when they are about 6-10 inches, cut off the roots. If I don't put them into a dish right away, I wash, dry thoroughly, and stuff into freezer bags for winter greens. They are so prolific, and require almost no prep besides washing - one of the few things I store.

NOTE: when I let one go to seed, I do trim it down quite a bit, I don't let it go hog while, only about 1/10 or less of what it would like to do.

here's a close up of the lettuce with some lambs quarters about - this lettuce has been harvested at least 2x - I'm thinking 3 or 4 at this point. I also sprinkle carrot seeds in with my early lettuces, as they take so long....you can see one on the edge of the photo
black seeded simpson...todays lunch! photo 20130527_104740_zpsc6608246.jpg


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

OK - In mid April here there was still a foot of snow covering all of my beds, so I didnt see season extending as an option this year. I am not hearty enough to wade out there in my boots and shovel off the raised beds. A couple of years ago I was able to plant a lot of cole crops mid April, but that was a fluke.

Lambs quarter is one of those things I know about but have never ventured into cultivating, there is quite a bit of it growing wild around here, but the few nibbles I have had havent really intrigued me.

I did grow lettuce, arugula, cilantro and basil inside under my lights beginning in February. Just harvested the last of my indoor lettuces this past weekend.

So far outside I have in about 300 peas, 75 pole beans, 40 bush beans, some yukon gold potatoes, a few Napa Cabbage a few red cabbage, some of the red onions and scallions, radish are sprouting and I am waiting for the carrots and beets to show, and hoping the seed weren't to old. I dont do much direct sowing and I am always nervous about them. My tomatoes peppers, eggplant, cucumber and lettuce starts are on my screened in porch hardening off, and waiting for all of this rain to finish up.

I still have a couple of trays of cilantro and parsley under lights that are not ready for the real world yet.

The sun is actually out right now - so I better head outside and take advantage!


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Thu, May 30, 13 at 11:07

Have fun out there! Sounds like you have a lot to plant today!

Unfortuately - I am off to work >:^(


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 11, 13 at 15:37

Ok, forging ahead! This little bit took most of my spare time for 3 weeks.

I don't think the flower area is particularly inspired, but i really wanted to get something with some flowers going on as the area has been more an eyesore than anything else.....

Ignore all the weeds and excess items that photo bombed my shot, lol. amazing how you don't even see that stuff til you take a picture!
 photo gd4001_zpsb928523f.jpg

Here's a view of the new bed into the existing garden area

 photo gd4003_zpse8065c5a.jpg


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Tue, Jun 11, 13 at 15:42

Would appreciate some thoughts for use of this area to the south of the potager. My sidewalk to the alley runs down the middle of the potager - and the beds between the sidewalk and the fence are exactly 10', so I am taking the potage 10' to the other side for balance.

this leaves this area to be ornamented or put to some use....now it is full sun, but it is only full sun for about 3 months out of the year. I was thinking of a grape arbor, although that might shade the southernmost perimeter bed for late spring and again in late summer.

Any ideas?
 photo gd4002_zpsa472e2b2.jpg


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

I love your space! Matching the boxes on each side of your path will be so pretty. What are you thinking about for the perimeter bed? Roses...or maybe some grapes??? :)


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 22, 13 at 9:46

The bed I'm calling the perimeter is the 2' raised bed that is going to work to "enclose" the potager. While I will have some herbs and flowers, it will have a lot of veggies too!

Then there are those odd yard bits not in the potager. These are going to be decorative, and maybe productive.

Where the flowers are planted at the curving sidewalk which is directly outside the potager, I have a few herbs in there, sweet cicely and lemon balm, and some garlic chives that are struggling, that will come back (although may also transplant those eventually, I want to give that area an English country garden look eventually, a mix of herbs and flowers, perennials mainly. I want an archway across the main sidewalk with climbing roses that will demarcate entering the potager.

It all sounds good typing it out, It looks incredible in my minds eye - but the time it take to get it done is pretty dampening. Another weekend where I could conceivably work on the potager - but heatwave/thunderstorms all weekend. it is moderate with gentle rain right now, so I just did a bit out there, weeding etc but the humidity is 90% and we come in all muddy. me and garden pup that is.

I guess I really want to be retired by now, lol and devote daily hours to this and other gardening, but I likely have a minimum of 15 and maybe 20 years in the workforce.

So, bit by bit!

Going to try for another picture, as I at least planted that bit of the perimeter bed in the photo.


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  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Sat, Jun 22, 13 at 9:47

I just had a brainwave, lol!

On the other side, I'll do a flagstone path to match that curving sidewalk so the floral area will be proportionate on both sides!


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  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Sun, Jun 23, 13 at 12:08

here is updated, in progress on the new bed.
 photo grns062213006_zpsa189ef7a.jpg

 photo grns062213008_zps9e5698c5.jpg

I was wanting the alyssum to be total ground/cover mulch but the weeding was getting out of hand to this time around after weeding the area put down newpaper, then brown paper from grocery sacs, and then some coffee grounds. Want to cover/stain/weight the paper down with the coffee grounds, but that isn't working quite yet.

 photo grns062213011_zpsa1b254fe.jpg

 photo grns062213010_zpsda553b0f.jpg

then entire yard is now a complete mess, except for this spot now as I've put all my Everything getting jungley...


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  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Mon, Jun 24, 13 at 9:16

This here I am hoping will look very nice in a month or so:

 photo grns062213012_zps3860acee.jpg

front right is a ping tong long eggplant, long purple japanese variety, and in the back, 2 purple beauty pepper plants.

Things are kind of slow with the heat loving veggies due to the cooler spring weather, but things are hotter now, hopefully they will catch up a bit now.


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I would guess that as the coffee grounds dry out, the paper will begin to blow away. Maybe pinning them down with something?

I haven't found a good alternative to weeding, which explains why I'm about to go out and weed :)


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

Any access to grass clippings, straw or shredded leaves? That will really help to cut down on weeds. I did what you did when starting my beds. For those beds in the ground I just cut the grass very short, dug in the plants (leaving them raised a bit), put down wet newspaper and covered with grass clippings. You would never know that I never dug out the grass looking at the bed today.


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  • Posted by t-bird Chicago 5/6 (My Page) on
    Wed, Aug 14, 13 at 19:09

I think things have grown in nicely - very close to my original vision!

 photo garden0814009_zps8c41bfd9.jpg

But - I never got any farther with the "master plan" than this little area....

Next year :)


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RE: wow - finally started with the new potager....

Hey! It's a good start! Nancy


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