Sunday, 14 March 2010

Kitchen Garden ~ Potager Planning for 2010

Originally called a potager garden by the French, a kitchen garden is a little different from a vegetable, herb or flower garden because it combines elements of all of them.
As mentioned, the French have been so successful with this type of garden method since medieval times. It was usually always grown near the kitchen, (mostly for convenience sake), where food and fresh ingredients could be picked and used fresh.

Being more than just a typical veggie garden, flowers, herbs and of course vegetables were grown together in a very charming manner. Architectural elements added such as a bench or an arbour added a touch of whimsy, but usually were there for practical, useful and obvious reasons as well. In essence, potager gardens were not only useful, but also pleasing to the eye. No small task for any gardener, really, but it can be done! I've decided to tackle one this year, well, at least expand and reorganize the one I have, and here are some thoughts and ideas I'll use that may be helpful to anyone else thinking of planning for this type of garden as well!

Firstly, I'll be incorporating many more herbs, especially useful ones that I can use fresh, and some to dry for use later on in the season. I'll be adding some structural features such as arbours and a new pathway, as well as some trellises that will have edible food growing on them, like heirloom beans, peas and many other varieties. Perhaps even a water feature will appear!

Although I'm fortunate to have enough property to incorporate a garden of this nature, I can't actually grow my kitchen garden too close to my kitchen! It's located upstairs for one, and also, the closest spot I could grow it is in a very shady area of my property, so this actually can't always be accomplished, but don't let that stop you! And in actual fact, just to add, some shading is actually a good thing, especially during the hottest part of the day for certain herbs like dill and basil.

Just a note about space... If you don't have the property but might have a balcony or a small town yard, remember there is always an alternative, so I suggest learning more about container gardening, (please view an older post I've written regarding that).

Unasked for advice with respect towards design....
The kitchen garden should be considered a working garden and it should be convenient for the gardener.
A gardener should try to develop aesthetic elements that will be both pleasing to the eye, and be functional as well.
Locating a proper site is first and formost. Most herbs, vegetables, and flowers need at least six hours a day of direct sunlight, so paying attention and charting that will be optimum in finding where the best plot can be located.
A spot that has some shade during the afternoon for those aforementioned annual herbs, and of course lettuces too will certainly be appreciated by them! They just don't like that mid-day heat.
Good drainage is appreciated by moste plants, so keeping this in mind, I've already built a couple of raised beds where I'm quite sure my herbs will thrive!

I've already decided on a focal point and lay out for my kitchen garden and this was done using graph paper at the kitchen table. But I also went one step further and took photographs of the site I'm adding the garden to, and have drawn right on my photo's. It's a great way to visualize what one cannot visualize on graph paper.
I've decide to group some plants in irregularly shaped, curved beds around a central point instead of just plain rows. I have a nice birdbath that never has seem to have found the proper home in my garden, so that's likely going to be the focal point.
Since my raised beds are already lined up, so I feel they will compliment each other in their differing design placement.

This is where the paths will come in. My planting beds will be narrow enough for easily reaching without breaking my back, and of course for weeding, and to pick the produce I intend to grow. But I do want to make sure that I can fit my small wheelbarrow down this path and be able to turn it around without having to trample anything, even accidentally!
I've already checked that my garden hose will reach, and am looking into a submerged soaker hose with is actually better for the plants and the environment too. Less water is lost during those hot summer days, so more of it actually gets to the plants roots!

I'm not sure what to do with defining the space and the edge of the gardens as of yet. There's a few things I'm thinking of doing.. One is a border, like boxwood, but I'm not really a formal kind of gardener, and that's a lot of maintenance clipping them, but they do look good in other peoples gardens! I'll likely go with a stone border or another type of organic mulch, which of course keeps moisture in the soil and helps to keep the weeds away.

What to plant?
I'm really into heirloom and native plants, but must consider space. I likely won't be planting watermelons, but will be trying some new (to me) old varieties of tomatoes, peppers, corn, and other varieties. The herbs are really going to be fun, and I can't wait to use many in new recipes that call for fresh herbs.
The other consideration I'm giving what I plant will be where things I plant are placed. Corn and sunflowers will be at the back, as well as any trellis with beans, peas, or any other tall plants that will block the sun from the shorter plants. It's amazing, but many people don't give that any consideration, but it's a big one!

Since I have many seeds, and much to divide this spring and summer, I'll save some money by planting them. Incorporating a lot of flowers amongst the varieties that are edible is very important to me, and the whole reason for a garden like this. Besides, that will not only bring in the pollinators, but will offer a softness and that eye pleasing quality that I'm after with myPotager/Kitchen garden! Hoping to do justice to it all! To be continued.. With photo's too!

Would love to hear any comments about your kitchen garden, and any tips you find helpful.
Thanks for visiting!


jaya said...

just linked this article on my facebook account. it’s a very interesting article for all.

Kitchen Garden

Wall Flower Studio said...

Hi Jaya,
Thanks very much! I appreciate you sharing this post. All the best to you! : )