for my little veg patch I have big plans. I want to make it into a potager. Potager garden does require some planing and designing, and winter time is perfect to work on those. Here are my tips on how to design a potager garden.
What is potager?
Potager is a type of vegetable or kitchen garden that has flowers, herbs and vegatables planted in it. It has borders that follow the formal design pattern, and usually have some kind of fence or hedge around them. Potager garden is good looking in most of the seasons. It follows the rules of flower border design with contrasting colours and shapes. The borders can be raised, or it can be made as a no dig garden. Good techniques to use in potager garden are companion planting and crop rotation.
This type of garden has good pest resistance because of the mix of different vegetables, herbs and flowers. Pests have a hard time finding their munchies. And even if they do, since the veggies are not in straight lines, pests do smaller damage then in usual one veg per border garden. Nothing is promised, but this is a good way to go in organic gardening.
Potager can have as many or as few borders as you want or have space. There is no real limit. You can have just one border or you can have 20 or 30 borders in your potager. They don’t have to be same size. The layout of your potager is restricted by space and your imagination.
My little potager will have 4 borders that will be slightly raised (15 cm). For raising my borders I will use wicker fences (wicker hurdle) that I will do myself. It is a very easy diy project.
Between the borders will be mulched paths to allow less muddy harvest. For paths between the borders you can use whatever material you want. Or if you are adding your potager to existing lawn, then just leave the paths in lawn. You can also just raise the borders straight on the lawn, without removing it. That way you don’t have to dig for the start of the garden.
Vertical Elements in Potager
Since potager garden follows the rules of formal garden, some vertical elements and focus points are also needed. The vertical elements can be ornamental or functional or both. For ornamental elements you can use columns, bird baths, statues, or a topiary. It can also be a tree or a shrub.
Other vertical elements in potager can be trellises with either flowers or beans climbing them. A container plant like a container citrus tree is also a good vertical elements.
All these elements can be either be situated inside the borders or can actually be in crossing of paths so you can make something like a small forum in the crossing of the paths that will also have a vertical element of your choice. Here are some sketches to illustrate the points.
In my little potager I plan to have a trellis with beans climbing it. And in the middle where the paths are crossing I maybe will build a vertical herb garden. I will see if there will be enough space for it. There are couple more ideas crossing my mind now as I am writing this, so I may do something entirely different.
Combine the ideas to the potager garden design
Let’s now create a simple sketch of our future potager garden. It does not require you to have a lot of artistic skills, just a simple sketch will do. This way you know how to start with basic elements and hardscape of the garden. Later on we will adjust our first sketch with planting plans and more details. Also make sure to note the heading of the garden (cardinal directions). It is important to know how much light and from which direction will it come.
My Potager and Border Sizes
My entire potager size is relatively small – roughly 3.2 x 3.6 m . This I further divided in 4 borders with paths in between them. Even though general rule of thumb for paths is each path 90 cm (1 yard) wide, my paths will be 50 cm wide (roughly 1/2 yard), so that makes my borders 1.27 x 1.55 m each. This one border should be enough to do the square meter gardening. But I have 4 of them. Their sizes will be a bit smaller in the end, because of the wicker fence I am currenlty building around each one of them. So their finished size will be approx 1 x 1.2 m. This is the area we will have in each of the border to plant our veggies and flowers. It is quite enough to have a steady harvest through out the year.
The reason why I cut off the corners of my borders at the path crossing is that I wanted to make the middle a bit more movement friendly. And also make it like a little potager square. I wanted to add a birth bath or a container with herbs in the middle of that space, but it is a bit too small for it. Any of those would get in the way.