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Maybe it's the short growing season...

Posted by lavender_lass WA zone 4 (My Page) on
Fri, Dec 4, 09 at 14:15

Hi again, I want to thank everyone for their suggestions and pictures :)

After researching this in the library, on the Internet, and here at the GW, I've decided a potager is not the best use of my space. I think it's my short growing season. All the best potagers have successive planting, so the gardens can be decorative and functional. With my three to three and a half months of frost free weather, my garden has to have everything planted at almost the same time. There are a few cool weather crops I can put in early, but almost everything else goes in the first of June. Since frost is the first to middle of September, this makes for a very short growing season. This doesn't mean I can't have a great vegetable garden, but I need a lot more space and bigger beds.

However, I love the style of the potager and I've decided it would be a lot more attractive if it was filled with perennials, for the most part. This way it would look like something besides dirt for eight months of the year (LOL) I've decided to put roses and herbs on the perimeter beds and some annual herbs and flowers in the four middle beds. Still planning on the "petunia fountain" in the middle and the purple raspberries on the outside of the fence closest to the pasture. I love the idea of the structure of the potager and I think the fence will (hopefully) help keep the deer out. They also don't like most herbs, so we'll see how successful I am. (The deer aren't hungry and ignored my vegetables this year completely, they just like snacking on the roses.)

The vegetables will go into some beds in the back yard (I have a small back yard with most of it in pasture) and a bigger garden beyond the potager for freezing, canning and drying vegetables. You have to grow a lot in a short amount of time to get through our long winters :) Thanks for the advice and help and feel free to contribute any other ideas! Thanks again :)

Follow-Up Postings:

RE: Maybe it's the short growing season...

Lavender, I think it's a good idea you have. If you simply can't manage a potager for your needs, just change the use of that area and find another area that can suit your needs. In a short season, if you need production, you really need to just farm an area, don't you?

I have spaces that could just have cover crops in the winter - they would provide green, but be kind of messy - but I need more areas for rotation, which is important in the south where nothing ever gets cold enough in the ground to get killed off. That is why I am planning a few "rooms" even though they will have raised vegetable beds. That way shrubs can screen off what need not be seen on a regular basis.


RE: Maybe it's the short growing season...

GGG- That's a really good plan, to have rotating beds that can be screened. How often do you have to rotate...every other year or longer? Even up here, they recommend some crop rotation, which is another reason my "potager" would not be big enough.

The idea of a rose/herb garden just sounds so "old world" and kind of romantic :) I think it would be a great place to sit with a friend and have tea. It would also have the advantage of providing great fragrant flowers and herbs for potpourri. When you have no garden six months of the year, it's nice to at least have some dried flowers and fragrance in the house...and it would make great Christmas gifts!

I think the garden is going to be more utilitarian, but I do plan to have a few beds near the house. On the west side against the house will be for the tomatoes and melons, and in the back there should be room for a long skinny bed for the mini-veggies for the nieces and nephews. I think the big vegetables (corn, potatoes, broccoli, squash, etc.) will have to go behind to potager. I like your idea of "rooms" so maybe we can have the small beds, the potager and then the big garden...the kids are going to love it :)

RE: Maybe it's the short growing season...

gg, your post made me think of something I read last winter when I was planning my potager. It said that if you had to "cheat" on crop rotations, to plant a legume in between and/or add an extra helping of compost. My understanding was that these two things will help control pests and diseases that can build up. I have only been at this one year, so I cannot speak from experience, but it makes sense to me.

RE: Maybe it's the short growing season...

Crop rotation in the south is every 2nd year, and yes, Donna, the local organic farmers are now using cover cropping of legumes frequently - I have some broad beans in one bed that had tomatoes and other solanums for 3 years. As a matter of fact, all my beds have now had solanums in them for 2-3 years so they will all have to be cover croped probably. I'm hoping to get in a whole new series of beds to do the tomatoes in this year. I haven't gotten far, the rain is keeping me from doing much - this clay is SOGGY.

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