Designing A Potager

Here I am harvesting basil

Here I am harvesting basil

I’ve always tried to encourage others to plant something… anything. The thrill that you get from placing the seed or the little seedling into the pleasant earth… then waiting and watching for the first signs of life to come springing up out of the soft ground… then suddenly one morning there it is… a tiny sprout or the first blossom on your tomato plant. As you patiently await the first signs of fruit… then the ripening… then the harvest.

As you stand there holding your pleasant reward, staring at it and re-thinking the whole process and the time and tender care that it took to get this into your hand.

Garlic I just harvested

Garlic I just harvested

…when you eat that first thing you’ve grown… you’ll close your eyes and savor the taste, taking in the flavor and enjoying it like no other thing you’ve ever eaten.

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…a new respect you’ll have for the seed and the dirt… a new passion will be stirred up in you.

I love gardening…

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Some may think that starting a garden is a difficult task, but not so. A garden is like anything else. You’ll need to do a bit of research and planning; you’ll need to think over what you’d like to grow and the amount of space that you have available. I have five acres, and if I could, other than the house and outbuildings, it would all be gardens… just an expanse of gardens.

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Unfortunately my dreams are bigger than my reach…

Potager’s or more commonly known today as Kitchen Gardens were historically a mainstay for many families. My heart and soul are simply thrilled with the resurgence of home gardening and canning over the last decade. I love to hear about all the urban gardens, the thrill in the voices of my market friends as they tell me what they’re harvesting out of their little home gardens… especially when it’s from the plants they purchased from me earlier in the year.

Kitchen garden

Kitchen garden

The definition of this French word, potagère is simply vegetable garden and is properly pronounced: “por-ta-jj”, giving credit to the French who inspired this style of ornamental kitchen garden’s.

The potager is most similar to the traditional English cottage garden but is mainly based on vegetables and other edible plants and herbs, often incorporating some cut flower plants for the household.

Historically plants were chosen for their form, color and taste, with seasonality and continuity of fresh vegetables for the household in mind and were typically low maintenance and closely planted. This is very similar to raised bed gardening (another blog ;-))

herbs

herbs

What you include in your potager is all about you and your family. What you like and love, although I do suggest trying at least one new thing each year…I do!

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Veggies~ This is a matter of personal prefference. We like to include one zuchinni, four hills of potatoes, two pepper plants, several lettuces, spinach, kale and chard, two tomato plants- one Roma and one salad type, short rows of carrots, onions and garlic. I also like to include a cucumber that I typically grow up on a trellis.

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Herbs: We use lots of fresh herbs in our cooking. I wanted to incorporate an herb section in our potager. Herbs have a tendency to ‘get out of hand’, so all my herbs are in containers of sorts.
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Here is a photo of part of my herb section.
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My perennials include- sage, oregano, chives, sorrel, thyme, and biennial parsley. Calendula reseeds itself each year and I plant purple, lemon and Genovese type basil each year.

Flowers- try edibles: I grow nasturtiums and day lilies in my potager, along with marigolds along side the tomatoes. I also have several other perennials incorporated simply for beautification. The potager is beside the pergola which has several sweet autumn clematis and climbing roses along its side. I also have some hosta’s, a white bleeding heart, Astilbe and bee’s balm .
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I believe, as the gardeners of old that all three… vegetables, herbs and flowers all belong balanced together in a potager.

No matter what you decide to grow, make your garden’s a reflection of your soul… a passionate place that you can escape to from all the cares of life… a meditative place to commune with the almighty One…

Happy day,
Jean

Kitchen Gardens

Check out my new post at The Detroit News, The Good Life blog… follow this link and please like it!

This is a photo of my Potager or Kitchen Garden... follow the link for an easy how-to!

This is a photo of my Potager or Kitchen Garden… follow the link for an easy how-to!

http://blogs.detroitnews.com/thegoodlife/2013/03/28/kitchen-gardens-grow-yummy-veggies-right-outside-your-back-door/

Happy day,
Jean

Creation Of My Potager

I am in love with gardening…and I am in love with writing about and sharing my gardens with others. My desire is to instill this passion in that person that is drifting out there… dreaming of just a tiny little piece of it… yet not knowing where to begin. I want to inspire the lover of dirt and blossoms to create yet something new and different… I want others to indulge in this romance… show how gardening can bring joy to someone that has sorrow. Gardening whether on a small or large scale, on a balcony or in an acre field affords a luxuary that is so pure.  It doesn’t need to cost a fortune or be an emaculate English garden… your garden should be an extension of your heart and soul. I hope that today I can stir that up in you… enjoy friends.

Be sure to check out and ‘Like’ my Facebook page for Dragonfly… and please share it!
http://www.facebook.com/pages/For-Dragonflies-And-Me/550000798362651?skip_nax_wizard=true

I thought it would be interesting to show you the process of how our Potager came to be.  It’s quite interesting the way I got to give my daughter her ‘kitchen’ garden. You see we raise hogs here at The Garden Gate Farm along with poultry, eggs and produce. Well, one day (although there’s been many others!) the pigs got out! Pigs love to root up the ground and they made quite a mess out of this area. So much that Neil looked at it as ‘too much too repair, go ahead and make another garden!’… don’t need to tell me twice! So I gave the good news to Taylor and what better spot than right outside the back door! Good pigs 😉

So, three years ago we started. It has evolved and grown… quite a bit actually.

Photo #1 2010

Photo’s 1 and 2 are not quite the beginnings of our Potager. Though camera happy I am, I never took any shots of what it looked like after the hogs got through with it! I was too excited to get going on this project to worry about the ‘before’ pics I guess. So we started with black ground cover, then rocks and then added the rich composted pasture dirt of our beef farmer neighbors. In the front, left to right:
Three day lilies, tulip bulbs planted in between.
Back row- several containers which will hold herbs- concrete drain tile, wooden drawer, 4 plastic pots burried half way, antique tool box.
In the far back behind the lilac bush up against the garage there is an elevated garden that holds our Mint Garden Tea.



Photo #2m 2010

In this photo, you can see the raised beds in one of my gardens. This now is where our hoop house sits. You can also see the black ground cover. We have a terrible time with ‘Quack Grass’, (devil weed in my book!). It is necessary to have this or the whole garden would be taken over with very little hope… especially with organic means.

Photo #3 2010

Here we have erected the Pergola and I have started the Rose Garden on the other side.  This is the same year but later in the summer.  I have now planted a ‘Miss. Kim Lilac Bush in front corner, Purple Bell Flowers, some Tulip bulbs. Sage, Thyme, Creeping Phlox, Sweet Autumn Clematis and several climbing Rose bushes along the length of the Pergola.

Photo #4 2010

Here is another shot from a side angle. You can see the step stone path and beside it are two Russian Sage. These are covered with honey bees all summer.  You can also see some tulips blooming. 2010

Photo #5 2011

This photo is year two 2011. The lilies have matured, the sage is blooming and the clematis’ are growing.

Photo #6a  2010

The Rose Garden 2011! At least that’s what it will be along with many other things growing in it.  We soon started getting the ground cover laid, rock’s around and dirt down.  Although the planting didn’t begin until much later…

Photo #6b 2010

The beginnings of The Rose Garden 2011 still… Please note that there is a white climbing rose bush at the center of the pergola. You will see a photo coming up of it last summer when she bloomed for the first time. 

Photo #7 2010

Again black ground cover was laid, rocks and then dirt. Stage 3 will be right beside this.

Photo #8 2010
#8- Summer 2011. Starting to get some plants in the Rose Garden. Front corner has a beautiful David Austin Shrub Rose, Peony type. See below photo for one of it’s blooms from last year. I have sedum, more sages, bee’s balm, creeping phlox, thyme, purple bell flower and lavenders planted in this garden.  The greatest challenge I had with this spot was managing the weeds in between the perennials.  I added straw from our barn as a thick mulch to help.
Photo #9 2012
This is a shot of the rose in the front corner, above photo last summer 2012… She is absolutely stunning!  She will be 3 years old this summer!

 

Photo #10 2011

Here is a shot of the Herb Garden in the Potager. This was taken in 2011. As you can see things are filling in nicely.  I always put Basil in the 4 pots, parsley in the tool box. Oregano is growing in the drawer. I like to use stone word markers with the herb names on them.  Adding structural elements to the garden gives interest to the garden and creates a natural feeling.

Photo #11 2011

Late Spring 2011. The clematis are starting to grow up beautifully and by the end of this summer they had tripled in size. Sweet Autumn is an aggressive climber and quite invasive if left unmanaged.  The rose in the front bottom right corner is growing beautifully.   Compare to photo #3

Photo #11a 2011

Here is the pergola walk way it’s first year with the mulch before I removed and replaced it with the pea gravel. See photo #7.  Didn’t even have our patio yet!  Spring 2011

Photo #12 2012

Here is a photo of The Rose Garden from the back side. This photo was taken last summer (2012) early summer.  The sages are only about a third of the size they will get, sedum’s, shrub rose, iris’s, and a new boxwood in the front right corner. Also in this garden, chives and some new Hydrangea starts that will be big and beautiful in a couple more years. As you can see I have covered the ground in straw as a thick mulch to hold back weeds and retain moisture.

Photo #13 2012

Here is a shot of The Rose Garden from the front about a month after the above one was taken.  The large plant front right beside the wheelbarrow, which BTW is for decoration, is a Comfry plant. You can see her tiny buds ready to open. 
Also, remember that little rose bush in photo #6 & 8? That is her in the middle – the whole thing! She was spanned about 8′ in width. 
Watch for a shot of the garden bike covered with nasturtiums coming.
Also note our NEW hunter green steel roof!

Photo #14 2012

This is a shot from the back side of the Potager last spring. The roses are just starting to leaf out (front left corner), the tea bed is growing lovely. The purple haze in the back left corner is the Russian sage in bloom. I mulch with straw to help with weeds. 

Photo #15 2012

Photo #15 Front of the Potager last early summer.  #16 was spring when the creeping phlox was in bloom. See the patio in the background?



Photo #16 2012

You can see in #15 & 16 the growth of the clematis on the pergola. Also, purple bell flowers & the Russian sage blooming in 15.

Photo #17 2012

This photo was taken at the same time as #15. If you compare to photo’s number 3, you can see it just about 2′ tall, then in #11 jut growing to about 5′. She is a beautiful climber that by the end of last summer had canes that bent right over the top of the pergola- which is 5′ wide.  There are two Sweet Autumn Clenatis’ here. Each section is 8′ wide- just 3 three years old.  You get a lot of bang for your buck really quickly with this beauty. Plus you get the bloom in fall!

Photo #17 2012

By summers end the clematis were grown right over the top of the arch’s. When we originally put down the path, I used mulch. Big mistake! The chickens loved it and continually dug holes and scratched it all over the step stones. I happened to be paging through one of my favorite gardening Mag’s, Country Garden’s and saw a garden path just like this! I shoveled up all the mulch- about 20 wheel barrow full which I used to mulch the beds. I then ordered several tons of pea gravel and wheel barrowed about 20 full to fill in- no more chickens!  The path leads to our back patio which you can see in photo #15 and then also bends to the right leading to the hoop house, greenhouse’s and hog’s.  I used slate for the paths.

Photo #18 2012

Here I used the slates to make images in the path… a sun and a daisy.  You can be as creative as you allow yourself to be.  My motto in decortating both my home and my gardens is to make me & my family happy and comfortable.  Again, your gardens should be an extension of your heart and soul!

Photo #19  2012

This photo shows the empty space that you see in photo #7.  This area now leads through the arbor you can see in photo #7 as well.
I planted nasturtiums on the edge of this side of the garden… it just poured over and climbed all over my garden bike! It was spectacular. See below for the shot of that.  You can actually see the plants right behind the tires.

Photo #20 2012

See the bike seat… truly amazing what these plants will do when given the room to sprawl. I love them for both the beauty they give and the fact that I can add them to my garden salads for a peppery flavor.

Photo #21 2012

Remember that rose bush? here she is from a frontal postition. The white blossoms are hard to see, but they are there.  Unfortuntely we had just had a rain, one of few, and it knocked down the sages, left and right in photo.  For sake of perspective, I am standing right in front of the garden bike taking this photo.

Photo #21a  2012
Here is a close up of the white rose… so simple yet so elegant.



Photo #22 2012

Here is a shot of the Rose Garden and Pergola from the corner back side. The sedums were just beautiful and you can see the purple haze of the sages. The bright color of the nasturtiums is so radiant.  Also note that growing along the rocks are thyme and creeping phlox.  You can also see the pink rose bush beside the sedum. This is a shrub rose. I am standing in front of the hoop house here.

Photo #23 2012

Here is The Potager late summer last year. It is very full and overflowing from this perspective. Tomatoes, kale, onions, lettuces, potatoes and more growing behind the Herb section.  This is a very productive garden and we enjoy being able to slip out the back door and grab those fresh picked yummies just before we are ready to eat them raw or cook with them. There are a few things that I don’t grow here due to the size of the finished product- sweet corn and vining squashes. I do typically include either a yellow squash or zuchinni bush type, but not both because of cross polination.  I will succession plant lettuces, beets, green beans and scallions. I don’t bother with certain crops here because I grow so much of them in my raised beds. For example, chard and spinach.  Along the front of the rocks is not weeds… what you see is creeping phlox, thyme and calendula spilling over onto a narrow piece of grass. As mentioned earlier, the clematis has just about covered the entire Pergola across the top and side. At the far end is yet another one.  This whole mass is only 3 plants that started out with about three 2′ vines only three years ago! At every post, which is set 6′ apart there is a climbing rose bush.

Photo #23 2012

This is a small bed that hold’s a larger quantity of sage and oregano. There are also, a couple day lily, bee’s balm and lavender. In the far right corner growing on the back post is a Chinese Wisteria. My goal is that this will cover the back side and over the side of the pergola eventually running in with the clematis. This will give my spring and fall bloom.  This bed is directly behind the Rose Garden. In photo #18 of the step stones, this would be to the right.  The next photo of it has the Rose Garden to my back.

Photo #24 2012

In this shot you can see the now in place hoop house with raised beds filled with beautifully growing lettuces and cherry tomatoes.  This shot is late spring to early summer. Notice the lavender in the front left corner loaded with buds.  I also have a Blue Fescue in center front. The Bee’s Balm is beuatiful when in full bloom!

I am looking forward to the coming season when I can once again go and have some quiet moments in my gardens… I hope you enjoyed seeing the birth and growth of our Potager, but more importantly, I hope it inspired you!

Happy Day!
Jean