Your French Potager /Kitchen Garden

You Gotta love the French….

Doesn’t “potager” (Poh-tah-jay) sound much more elegant than “kitchen garden”?

I love kitchen gardens and the luxury of being able to walk a few steps outside

and bring in vegetables, fruits and herbs for cooking.

There is something very comforting about growing your own food- to whatever extent that is possible for you.

Planting the right mix of flowers, and flowering herbs will also attract bees and birds.

This is called: “Companion Planting”.

It tells you which veggies can be planted next to what herbs etc….

There are actually veggies and herbs that should never be planted close to each other,

for one reason or another.

You should also research which plants repel specific insects.

Google  “An In- depth Companion Planting Guide” by Mother Earth News

It will come up on the first few listings on on the first page.

You really need to read this.

 Spring is coming and so the planning of your gardens should begin.

Start leafing through seed, herb and plant catalogs for ideas on what you want to plant.

Too early for planting but never too early for planning!

garden-6f5a9b13d0d0ab7d68068e367430dd8c_hPotager gardens started hundreds of years ago,

when almost every  European peasant home had a small area for planting root vegetables

and herbs for cooking and medicinal purposes.

In those times, fragrant plants, such as lavender were grown

and, when harvested and dried, they were

strewn about on the dirt floors of the cottages.

When people walked on the lavender,

scent was released and helped to cover some of the unpleasant odors.

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Fortunately, those days are pretty much over!

(Except for those of us with lots of dogs!)

In later years, during the reign of Louis XIV, The Sun King,

Formal Potager gardens had their beginnings.

Potagers now took on a entirely new look with formal boxwood borders,

dwarf and espaliered fruit trees

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and flowers added to the herbs and vegetables

b561f3629eb9fdc2f4a75eef3ac8aae1The Formal Potager at Villandry

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(Jefferson’s less formal Kitchen Gardens at Monticello)

I’m guessing we’ll all be going with a simpler design for our gardens!

I know I will!

This is the diagram I used for my inspiration when planting my first “potager” in 1995. unnamed-1

If you look closely on the illustration. you will see numbers. The numbers correspond to the plantings:

1. Climbing Rose 2. Santa Fe Lettuce 3.Rosemary 4. Allium ( onions)

5. Burpee Bibb Lettuce 6. French Marigolds 7. Melody hybrid Spinach

8. Romaine lettuce 9.Simpson Elite Lettuce 10. Teton Hybrid Spinach

11.Boxwood 12. Yellow Trumpet Vine 13. Climbing Rose

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You can do anything you like- based on what you want to grow.

More herbs, less flowers, more lettuces/greens….. whatever works.

Here are a few tips for planning your “potager”.

*Taller plants such as sunflowers, tomatoes etc.. should be planted in the back.

*Lettuces, Kale, Cabbage & Radicchio can be used to line paths- as a border.

*If you have the space, you can purchase or build a trellis type pyramid for the middle of the garden

to plant strawberries or beans.

This would be a great focal point for the garden.

*Also, plant in short vertical rows as shown below.

These rows are easy to manage, weed and harvest.

*I also put a border of french marigolds around my potager .

Marigolds seem to keep some insects from “munching away” in the garden.

They’re low and they’re pretty.

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One of the most important things when planning your garden space is to make a place for a water feature.

Even if it’s only a bird bath.. there should be a place for the birds and small animals to get fresh water.

Or- you might consider a small pond or a fountain of some sort.

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A small pond will support fish and frogs, salamanders, dragonflies and birds.

Our frogs are so tame they hop out and sit next to me when I’m planting moss on the patio next to the pond.

We’ve had fish in our pond for 8 years and we don’t ever feed them.

They get what they need from the eco-system that has developed in the pond over time.

Small chipmunks and squirrels will also come to drink.

You can create a mini eco-system in your back yard.

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Kitchen gardens & gardens of all kinds are good for every one.

They’re beneficial to bees, birds and small animals.

(let’s be honest- the bees need everyone’s help)

They’re Good for Humans.

Gardens feed our bodies and our spirits

when we harvest safe and healthy fruits, vegetables and herbs that we have planted.

for our family.

They’re Good for the Planet.

So, spend a little time thinking about the possibility of planting a “potager” this Spring.

Research catalogs and look for interesting varieties of tomatoes, peppers etc…

Try some new vegetables and herbs.

Make the garden really unique by planting heirloom varieties.

Then, you can enjoy veggies and tomatoes and peppers and greens that aren’t readily available

except from your garden!

Some of the heirloom varieties are absolutely beautiful.

Start planning  your space.

When all is planned and the time is right…….

PLANT YOUR POTAGER

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During the entire season, you will have veggies, fresh greens, fruits, herbs, flowers &  berries to enjoy

and the satisfaction of knowing:

 You have given something to the earth and she has given back to you in abundance.

We’re all here to care for each other and the earth we inhabit

That is how it was meant to be.

Enjoy the fruits of your labor!

( and the veggies, herbs and flowers as well!)

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