How To Make Your Vegetable Garden Appealing

Have You Ever Heard of A Potager Garden?

aerial view of a potager garden While I don't discount the merits of an unruly garden, and yes the vegetables all taste the same, at heart I am a tidy soul and love my vegetable garden to look neat and structured. This is an article for those who are like minded, the naturalist gardeners will cringe but if you share my love of rows and order in a vegetable patch and the beauty of a symmetrical, formal garden including vegetables, plants and herbs read on! In my research on how to create a potager garden, I am almost overwhelmed with the plans, the options and the planting combinations which will make my potager garden a place of serenity as well as usefulness. There is simply so much to think about and to plan.

What is a potager garden?

A potager garden is a traditional French term for an ornate and useful garden. In layman's terms a potager is a formally laid out kitchen garden which incorporate flowers, fruit, vegetables, and herbs. It includes designs of symmetry, focal points and features, contrasting plants, defined borders, entry points and of course, a place to sit and admire all of your handiwork. Popular in France for more than a thousand years, the humble potager garden has its origins in the monastery gardens tended by monks who grew vegetables as well as medicinal herbs. These gardens are still popular today, useful for those who wish to garden in compact areas or those who are less naturalistic in their approach to gardening. Careful planning goes into a potager garden, they are both attractive and practical with their patterned garden beds, arches and paths mingle in a celebration of flavor, color, fragrance and practicality. 

example of a potager gardenDesigning a potager garden

Because it is essentially a highly structured garden, potagers can be as large or as small as you choose. There is a lot of planning that goes into creating a potager garden, but don't let this deter you. What a wonderful way to spend an afternoon than planning and designing your garden while it's blowing a gale outside in preparation for spring and getting to work?

You know your garden best, and its important to choose a sunny spot that gets at least six hours sun every day. A level garden will work best, but you can make a stunning potager garden even with a sloped spot by including terracing. The spot you choose for your garden should have good drainage – this means avoiding the low spot in your garden.

The Path To A Potager Garden

A key element of a potager garden is its paths. When you are planning your potager garden you should remember that you will be walking the paths of your garden, but that you may also at times be pushing a fully laden barrow or wagon. Your central path should be at least 4' wide, giving you plenty of room to move about and enjoy your garden. You will have destinations in your potager garden, places where your path will lead you to sit and enjoy your garden. These paths have a purpose, and should be wide enough to accommodate two people meandering through the garden.

potager garden pathYou will also have secondary paths, these are for use to help with harvesting, garden maintenance as well as leading to a destination. For example, if you have chickens in your potager, you may not need a 4' wide path leading down towards them if you are only going down that path to feed and water your hens as well as collect eggs.

Hedge the Edge

Potager gardens are structured and defined, so hedges  along the edges of your garden are a beautiful way to define the end of the garden. You can use many different hedging plants, lavender is a beautiful hedge plant as well as being a herb that you can use within your home and the kitchen. You can use other plants such as raspberries (their thorns are useful for keeping out unwanted, larger pests) camellias or even espaliered citrus trees. Your garden edging is limited only by your imagination.

The Vertical Elements

A garden wouldn't be the same without vertical elements and a potager garden is no exception. Consider lattice as a feature wall – it can be one of the walls of your potager garden or part of a central design. You can grow many plants and vegetables vertically, they add depth and add to the design of your potager garden. Cucumbers, tomatoes, jasmine, grapes and passion fruit all grow beautifully in a vertical setting and can be a feature of your potager garden. Having vertical elements will shape your garden, taking it from a two dimensional garden plot to something more creative and structured.

example of a potager gardenThe groundwork of a potager garden

Now that you have visions of structured garden beds, arbors and feature walls, it's time to consider what will be beneath your feet as you wander your garden to work or to enjoy. Again, what you place on your paths is limited only by your imagination. Grass gives a beautifully informal effect while paving can create geometric designs and look very smart indeed. Gravel works well, and if laid properly helps to keep out weeds from growing between your garden beds.

Where to start with your potager garden

Now that you have decided that a formal French kitchen garden is for you, its time to consider what your garden will look like. You need to figure out how much space you have and start there. Next consider what you want to grow, which vegetables and herbs are essential for your kitchen garden? Armed with this list, draw a plan of your space, and then decide on a geometric theme. Are you going to stick with rounded edges or are straight lines more to your liking? Think of different shapes and sized garden beds – there are no hard and fast rules. Plot out where you are going to have your features such as arbors, bird baths and garden seats to enjoy your hard work. Consider how you will structure your garden, where you will have vertical features and where you will have different sized garden beds. Plan your paths to ensure you can get a barrow in where you need to, that you can reach all of your garden beds easily to ensure adequate care and maintenance and that your paths are in keeping with your theme and potager style. It is important to remember that planning your layout is key. Once you have that established, you can begin to determine which plants you can plant out and what companion flowers work best for your garden.






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