Posted by Phytopath on Mar 8, 2010
The Potager, or kitchen garden uses plants – vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers to create a geometric, formal, aesthetically pleasing functional garden. The name potager is a derivative of potage, a French term for soup.
The plot can be small or grand, depending on your needs and requirements. You may be feeding a family of two or cooking for a local restaurant.
The design can be a simple pattern, like a square or diamond, or a complex Parterre with circles within squares, or Celtic knots and intricate designs, creating a tapestry of shapes and colour.
Try growing vegetables with coloured foliage (other than green), like purple oak leaf lettuce, kale or rainbow chard.
The flowers grown in a potager garden do not necessarily have to be edible. They can be grown for colour, or for picking and using indoors.
The formality and symmetry of the potager presents a functional vegetable plot as a decorative garden feature.
The mixing of vegetables with herbs and flowers creates an area full of biodiversity, rather than the usual monoculture found in many vegetable gardens. Because of this ‘mixing’ of plants, there are usually less problems with insect pests and soil borne diseases. A plus for the gardener. Some of the plants could be considered as beneficial companions – companion planting.
Some parts of the potager garden, may have perennial plants, like small fruit trees, berries or roses. These are usually planted in the centre of the beds as the tallest plants and the smaller perennials like strawberries, or annuals like lettuce, are planted closer to the paths. Small perennials like thyme can be used to hedge the beds. If you create a potager within a walled garden, the fruit trees can be espaliered against the wall.
As the annual vegetables, like lettuce, are harvested the now vacant spot will need to be filled with something to maintain the pattern. To keep the visual appeal, replacement plants will need to be the same or similar. For example, a harvested cos lettuce could be replaced with another cos, or a different variety of lettuce.
The potager garden is certainly not low maintenance, but if you have the time and the creative flair, why not experiment with plant form, texture and colour to create an in-ground work of art.
Of course this is relatively short lived. When the season changes and the annuals have been harvested or gone to seed, you will have to start again with another batch of plants.