Enter the not-so-new idea of the Potager/ Kitchen garden of early Europe. Through ancient to early modern Europe, peasants, clergy, and lords maintained their household gardens typically close to the kitchen. These kitchens fed families and were the mainstay of main a fine and simple table. These potagers became more formal through the late medieval period as monks and other clergy members developed these agricultural gardens for their specific needs. For more information about the history of the Potager garden, please read Designing the New Kitchen Garden: An America Potager Handbook by Jennifer R. Bartley. This book has been instrumental in helping me start my potager. It includes gorgeous pictures of old world and new world potagers as well as designs. In designing a potager, here are the most important elements to keep in mind:
Review your space: determine how much sun the area receives and place plants according to their sunlight needs.
- Consider your kitchen's culinary needs: Place your potager close to your kitchen for easy access and choose plants based on what you like to cook and eat.
- Layout: Potagers look neat and formal from a bird's eye view and repeat sequencing of plants. The key is to create a sense of unity in texture and color.
- Enclose the garden: Traditional potagers are enclosed by a natural or man made wall to give a sense of charm and exclusivity within a garden space. I struggled with this concept due to practical purposes: how will I water the plants with an enclosure in the way. I opted not to completely enclose the area, but rather used annual flowers to create a border effect.
- Create an edge to raised beds: Edging makes the space look neat and formal but in my garden, practical needs have outweighed aesthetic ones at this time.
- Counterpoint - This is the idea of using colors at opposite sides of the color wheel. I am not good at this because I tend to plant what I want, when I want and damn the consequences. Perhaps this is proof I need more structure?
- Verticality: A tomato gardener doesn't need to be told twice. Utilize trellises and support for vining plants to increase the visual appeal.
- Winter uses: I need to contemplate my seasonal plantings. I like to let my beds go fallow for a couple of months during winter so I can recharge my batteries. My potager only has annual plants at this time so I need to reconsider the winter. (Bartley 97-118)
|Amending the soil: we used 3 bags of compost and 3 bags of chicken manure for ~150 sq ft|
|Roto-tilling the soil, crunching up weeds and mixing in amendments|
|Ready for placement of stones in new pattern|
|Stones placed, all pieces reused from previous bed configuration.|
|Overview of warm season potager|
|Annual flower edging: marigolds and zinnias|
|San Marzano tomatoes and basil in bloom|