French potager garden plans

You can learn how to design a potager garden and recreate the kitchen gardens of Europe right in your own backyard. Potager gardens offer both a useful mixture of vegetables, herbs, fruit and flowers as well as a beautiful garden area. Hailing back to the Baroque and Renaissance era, potager gardens are actually an offshoot of peasant gardens and today serve the same purpose; providing both a pleasing and useful mixture of plants for household needs.

Contents

The History of Potager Gardens

The word “potager” in French simply means “kitchen garden” or “vegetable.” The potager garden is a garden space set aside to grow a mixture of edibles. Paths lined with brick or soft turf separate the garden beds. Potager gardens typically have narrow beds to make it easy to plant, tend and harvest vegetables. Think of them like beautiful vegetables gardens.

The first potager gardens were humble peasant gardens planted for utilitarian purposes. Nearly every home in olden times had a small space outside the door set aside to grow vegetables and herbs. Simple potager gardens included plenty of herbs, used both medicinally and to season foods. Certain herbs, such as violets and lavender, were grown to use for strewing, or spreading underfoot on the cottage floor. When people walked over the herbs, they crushed them and released the scent, which was useful to mask unpleasant odors. Root crops and other staple foods were also grown in the potager garden along with fruit, which provided a welcome sweet treat during harvest season.

The Rise of the Formal Potager Garden

Although kitchen gardens were common among all social classes in Europe, it wasn’t until the Renaissance and Baroque eras that the formal garden design called the Potager Garden appeared in France. During this time, France reigned as the epitome of power throughout Europe. Think of Louis XIV, the “Sun King,” the Court of Versaille, and the ornate villas, chateaux and other estates built during this era. A simple peasant kitchen garden would not do. Instead, garden designers created elaborate formal potager gardens with lines similar to the formal pleasure gardens created throughout Europe at this time. Gardens featured geometric patterns with beds set apart by low hedges of lavender, boxwood or flowering violets. The emphasis was equally on form as well as function.

How to Design a Potager Garden

Today, modern potager gardens blend both the formal and the simple, and hearken more to the humble peasant gardens tucked behind thatched-roof cottages. You can learn how to design a potager garden in a few simple steps.

Measure the Area

Potager gardens rely upon balance, symmetry and proportion to offset the often jumbled nature of the plantings. Measure the area you plan to use for your potager garden. Traditional potager gardens are behind the home, tucked out of site, but in the suburbs, modern homesteaders often include potager gardens instead of a front lawn to use sunny spaces more efficiently.

Once you’ve measured the area, take a piece of graph paper and a pencil. Use a ruler and mark out the area you’ve measured, counting one square of graph paper as one inch of garden space. A simple potager garden design plan may include a four-square garden. Four square garden beds are included in the corners with pathways leading among them. Traditionally, either a round bed or a square center bed is the focal point of the center of the potager garden. A fruit tree may also be planted near the center.

Be sure to make your pathways wide enough so you can push your wheelbarrow through easily. Like any vegetable garden, potager gardens should be enhanced with liberal applications of compost and manure before and after the growing season to replenish the soil. Healthy soils encourage healthy plants, which in turn produce abundant vegetables for your table.

Plants to Include

Potager gardens are ideal for people who wish to grow heirloom vegetables. The entire design echoes times past; what better way to enhance the design than to include a pleasant mixture of heirloom tomatoes, cabbage, broccoli, beans, lettuces, chard, herbs and flowers?

Grow what you love, and don’t be afraid to mix beautiful ornamental plants with edibles. Keep taller plants such as tomatoes near the back of the garden beds, and use beautiful edible plants such as kale, cabbage or radicchio to outline the pathways. You can also plant flowering herbs such as calendula and lavender along the pathways. They’ll attract bees and other pollinators, provide spots of color, and offer their flowers for medicinal or aromatic preparations. Potager gardens often include vegetables with unusual colors, such as red leaf lettuce or multi-hued Swiss chard “Bright Lights” to add color and beauty. Experiment with your favorites and create color schemes in each bed.

Many potager gardens include fruit, and if you do use the four square with round center plan, a strawberry pyramid is ideal in the center space. You can purchase kits to build pyramid-shaped, multi-layered strawberry beds. Another idea instead of a round bed in the center of the potager garden layout is to include a dwarf fruit trees, such as a pear or apple tree. Since many fruit trees require another pollinator nearby, you may also want to plant fruit trees in each of the four corners of the garden or at least in one or two other locations to ensure pollination and a good fruit crop.

More Potager Garden Ideas

It’s always helpful to look at photographs of beautiful gardens for inspiration and design ideas. Some places to view photos of potager gardens include:

  • County Living Magazine, which offers a complex potager garden plans.
  • Gardening Know How offers more advice on choosing authentic potager garden plants.

Potager to Plate: Year-round vegetables from your kitchen garden to your table

You love the idea of going out to your kitchen garden every day, gathering vegetables for dinner. They’re fresh and crispy, beautiful to look at, and taste better than you ever dreamed vegetables could taste. You make bountiful, fresh meals for your friends and family from your kitchen garden. You are basking in the beauty of garden to table, your very own garden, tended and nurtured by you.

Then there’s reality: You’ve never planted a vegetable garden and have no idea how to go about it. You think you don’t have the space or the expertise. It would be too big a job, too much of a commitment. You don’t have the time. Oh well. Sigh.

I used to feel that way too. Then I discovered French-style potager gardens. These are year-round gardens, meant to supply your kitchen on a daily basis. They can be small, only a few short rows, or even a few one-foot squares. They can be planted in raised beds or even in pots. They can also be as large as you can manage.

The premise of these gardens it that, throughout the year, at the same time you are harvesting what is in season at the moment, you are also planting something for the coming season.

My husband and I grew our first potager, in the front yard of our very modest house in Vacaville in the 1970s, protecting it from the neighborhood dogs with a chicken wire fence. After digging up half the lawn in early spring, we planted the space with seeds of peas, radishes, carrots and lettuces. As the weather warmed in May, we ate the last of our spring vegetables, replanting the same space with summer squash, eggplant, tomatoes, peppers and string beans. We picked all spring and summer long, and our table was never bereft of fresh vegetables. In late summer, we planted a few pumpkin seeds, and even though we were still picking tomatoes and peppers, we planted lettuces, carrots and radishes again, plus broccoli and cauliflower, ensuring that we’d have vegetables in fall and through the winter.

My current potager garden, at 3,600 square feet, is considerably larger than my first one, and supplies vegetables to plenty of friends and family as well. It’s not so much the size of the garden that matters as the principle of it: to supply your kitchen yearround with fresh vegetables.

Here are some guidelines and suggestions to get you inspired and to get your garden under way.

GETTING STARTED

Once you have decided that you want a kitchen garden and that you have the basic elements necessary for one—at least a half day of sunlight, water and either ground to cultivate and plant or a place for containers or raised beds—the choices of what to plant, where and how much are mostly personal. A classic potager contains herbs, annual vegetables and a few cutting flowers. Ideally, it also has some perennial vegetables such as asparagus and artichokes.

A SIMPLE 9- by 12-FOOT POTAGER

This simple 9- by 12-foot potager plan includes herbs, salad greens, summer vegetables and fall pumpkins, and is adequate to provide a family of four with fresh vegetables year-round. The garden can be started any time of the year that the ground can be worked; in other words, when the earth is not frozen. Avoid planting within two months before a hard frost, or when the ground is muddy. A potager can be launched in spring with a first planting of peas, lettuces, carrots and potatoes. It can be started in early summer with green bean seeds, tomato and pepper seedlings, summer squashes, pumpkins and some zinnias. In late summer the garden can be planted with lettuces, leeks, radishes and turnips.

PREPARING THE SITE

Regardless of which season you choose to start your garden, allow time to free your garden site from currently growing weeds. You must also allot time for the weed seeds to germinate in the soil so that you can remove them. The latter is very important, for if you plant your garden with vegetable and flower seeds without first ridding it of existing weed seeds, your seeds and the weed seeds will germinate at the same time. Then you will have a great deal of work freeing the tiny vegetable and flower seedlings that are intermixed with the weed seedlings. I have learned this the hard way, watching my beautiful rows of delicate lettuces being taken over by rapidly growing cheeseweeds, pigweeds and wild grasses, and have saved them only by aggressive and time-consuming hoeing.

If the ground is soft enough, turn it over with a shovel or powered tiller to a depth of one foot or so. Smooth the ground, breaking down any big clods and pulling out any weeds that are too large to turn over easily into the earth. Rake the site level and divide it into 12 squares roughly three feet on a side. The plot should be three squares wide at the top and four squares wide on the side. Plan on running two paths, each about a foot wide, between the rows down the length of the plot. These paths will allow you to reach all the parts of the garden without stepping on any plants.

Don’t plant the garden now, no matter how much you want to begin. Instead, water it and watch for more weeds to sprout. When the weed seedlings are less than two inches high, hoe them again, cutting their roots and cultivating the soil. Rake again, this time mounding the soil of each square into a level bed about six inches high. Now you are ready to plant.

Planning A Potager

I’m sorry Joel Salatin, but I’ve gotta disagree with you on one very, important point. That is, that the aesthetics of the farm DO MATTER.

At least, they matter to me. I can’t help myself. It all began with Project Feminize that reared it’s head a few years back in an effort to rescue my butch decorating style (rooted in my poor and tasteless college days).

Since then, I’ve been growing and changing (as we all do) and thanks in part to my dear friend Angela, The Parisienne Farmgirl, I’ve been inspired once again to continually up the visual-awesomeness of the farm.

You see, here, we’re more than just creating a farm. We’re creating a hub. A place. A community. Something magical.

When people come to visit the farm for fermenting or butchering classes (hey, let a girl dream here!), I want them to be transported to Narnia. Or the French countryside. Or somewhere radical like that.

And so, on top of the functional-chores of the farm, such as mending fences, digging holes, irrigating pasture, and hauling manure, I’ve set my eye on something aesthetic as well.

Planning a potager garden.

Which is a fancy word for ornamental french kitchen garden.

Which is a fancy way to say a purposefully beautiful garden.

Though my gardens are fenced and well maintained, they’re not designed to be aesthetically pleasing per se. They’re beautiful, sure, but not in the traditional potager way. Potagers are magical. Incorporating both edible and non-edible plants and flowers, they’re the creme de la creme of gardens, as far as I’m concerned.

Lucky for me, Stu’s a bit of a lover of magic. If he could live in The Shire, he would. So he’s been totally behind the transformation of a small bit of our land into our own little version of such.

1. Establish The Space

When we first arrived on our farm two years ago, this lower section was weeds, scrap metal, and sage brush. Since then, we’ve revamped and expanded the chicken coop, put in a chicken run, built a greenhouse, and sectioned off a large portion of it for a vegetable garden. We’ve built two retaining walls, planted raspberries and lavender (ahem, twice), removed a cinder block fire pit, took a load of scrap metal to the dump, cleared brush, and layed down wood chip mulch to deter the weeds. What we were left with was a blank, and slightly beautiful, canvas.

This was the space. This was the area I wanted to turn into The Potager. It’s the piece of the property where we spent hours each day… gathering eggs, weeding the garden, tending to the greenhouse. It’s the piece of the property that we look out over from out kitchen window, the deck, and dining room table. It’s an important showcase piece on the property. And it’s time to celebrate it’s awesomeness.

2. Let The Creative Juices Flow

Dreaming is one of my most favorite things to do. I like to think… visualize… daydream about the possibilities. After watching yet another episode of River Cottage in which Hugh transforms an old dairy farm into the dreamy River Cottage HQ, I couldn’t sleep. My mind was raising! Ideas started shooting from my eyes like laser beams.

My husband hates it when that happens because it usually means work for him. Ding ding ding! Sorry honey, you were right about that.

I began to doodle and sketch possible layouts and ideas. Angela recommends having a focal point in the garden. What would our potager’s be?

I don’t know yet, lest you think I had some great plan to share with you. I don’t. Because I’m still dreaming! Well… dreaming while beginning the manual labor portion of the project.

All that to say, let the creative juices flow, baby! Pinterest. Magazines. Blogs. Friend’s gardens. Gathering inspiration has got to be my favorite part of this entire process. If every day of my life could be spent sipping London Fogs and peacefully walking through gardens, I’d be a happy farmer.

Angela, watch out. I’m coming to Chicago to photograph and covet your garden.

3. Where Beauty Meets Function

The Function

Our entire farm is a functional place. Things serve a purpose. Even the flowers that will be planted in the potager will be of assistance to our bees. Herbs and vegetables will be grown alongside climbing roses and bachelor buttons. What a beautiful, and yet functional, place to create!

Thinking about how the space will (and needs to be!) utilized will help determine how the beauty needs to be tempered into the space. Because I use my EZ Go golfcart for all my hauling around the farm, I had to design the paths large enough for it to get in and out of the garden easily. I’m attempting to keep the space functional to the work centered in the area, chickens and vegetables primarily, while still creating a natural, free-form layout for the gardens.

Utilizing free rock gathered from my sister’s property, Georgia helped me “draw” out a rough layout of the potager and the shape of the different beds. While many traditional potagers are based on geometric shaped beds, I tend to prefer a slightly more natural free-form feel. We incorporated a few small waves and turns in the path to acquire that.

Of course, some of that was just from Georgia putting rocks where I told her not to. But let’s not focus on the details of that.

I let the rocks sit for a day or two as I moved around the space, trying to be conscience of where and how I moved around the area. Were the paths in the right spot? Did the width of the beds work with my maneuvering around the space?

Mama’s only hauling the dirt in once man. Once it’s there, I ain’t moving it again. So let’s make sure that the function portion of the potager is attended to.

The Beauty

What’s great about a potager garden is that even the beauty is still functional in many ways. Yes, I’m planning and planting a variety of flowers, but even some of those are edible! It’s a lovely marriage between perennial herbs, annual vegetables, and even edible flowers.

For example, I’m including a pear tree. Functional in the fact that it provides shade for many shade loving plants and vegetables (hello, lettuce!) and provides us with fruit, while at the same time looking pretty dang beautiful.

Even the pure beauty of hydrangeas and peonies serve a purpose: providing us with fresh flowers and providing food for our bees!

Thyme, sage, potted rosemary, black eyed susans, clematis, honeysuckle, roses, peonies, lambs ear, strawberries, the list goes on! Some of the them were chosen for their function, others for their beauty.

Isn’t it a wonderful relationship between the two?

We’ve got the space. We’ve got the creative juices flowing. We’ve got the function and the beauty intertwined.

While there’s certainly no one way to build or plan a potager, focusing on these few points has helped give shape to mine.

Now, we’ve got to get to work.

Good thing we don’t have anything else going on around here…

*cough* Calving soon.

*cough* Meat chickens and new laying hens to care for.

*cough* Finishing up Stu’s school year at the school…

*cough* That little thing called ‘parenting’…

Still, today, I’m inviting my family into The Potager to plant, to dig, to shovel, to dream. And Amen.

More Potager posts:

  • Assessing the Potager Garden Progress
  • The New Potager
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How To Design A Potager Garden

Over the past few years potager gardens have become extremely popular in the garden design world. Many people wonder how to design a potager garden for their home. Designing a potager garden is easy if you just know a few things about them.

What are Potager Gardens?

Potager gardens combine the utilitarian nature of the English kitchen garden with the style and grace of French fashion. It is basically an ornamental vegetable garden. Plants are chosen for both their edible and ornamental natures and are put together in such a way that it looks pretty while still providing food for the household.

What is a Potager Design?

There is no one potager design. There are many different potager designs. Some favor the style of knot gardens or designs that repeat a certain pattern or a symmetrical shape. While these designs are typically true of potager garden designs, this is not the only way to design potager gardens. A traditional cottage garden design, which tends to be a little less formal, can also make a nice potager garden.

How to Design a Potager Garden

When thinking about how to design a potager garden, you are best off starting out with just a piece of paper. Consider the space you have in your garden and the plants you wish to grow. Draw all of your potager design plans out on paper before you put anything in the ground.

What are French Garden Plants?

In French style potager gardens, the only plants you need to have are ones that look good. Since you are designing a French garden, you will want to take into consideration the ornamental value of each plant, even the vegetables. Some vegetables are ornamental all on their own, while with others, you will want to look for more ornamental looking varieties. For example, instead of just plain green cabbage, try growing purple varieties. Instead of just regular red varieties of tomatoes, look into some of the many varieties of heirloom tomatoes that exist with come in colors ranging from white to near black.

Color coordination and shape are also key when designing a French garden. Consider the color and shape of the plants you choose for your potager design. Remember that many long, low growing vegetables can be trained to grow vertically as well.

Flowers are also essential French garden plants. Consider flowers that would match the size, shape and color of your chosen vegetables.

Potager gardens do not need to be fussy things. Your potager design can be as complicated or as simple as you wish it to be. The key to how to design a potager garden is simply to make it look as nice as it tastes.

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Table of Contents

Dreaming of a potager kitchen garden?

I know I am! As we’re still designing this new land, and it will take years to create a dream backyard design, one of the first things we’re planning on doing is designing a potager kitchen garden.

In this post we’ll talk about:

  • What is a potager kitchen garden?
  • How to design your potager garden
  • What are the best crops for a potager kitchen garden

What is a Potager?

A potager kitchen garden is a garden close to your kitchen where you can access fresh veggies and herbs easily. There’s some wonderful history behind kitchen gardens and some great books on kitchen garden design.

One of the most common themes you see with potager design are plants growing on the outside edges as well as the middle

Garden design examples from the Complete Kitchen Garden book

How to design your kitchen garden

When you start brainstorming ideas for your garden you’ll need to make sure you’re planting it in the right place. You also want to doodle and out sketch out your kitchen garden to get ideas for design.

Things to keep in mind before designing your potager garden are

  • Adequate sun exposure- you’ll need 6-8 hours of sunlight for most crops. Make sure there aren’t too many garden shadows preventing veggie growth or grow crops that prefer some shade in those areas.
  • Keeping your garden design as close to your kitchen as you can. The goal is fresh food from your doorstep!
  • Try and use the edges as much as you can.
  • Create fun designs. Try sketching them out in different ways for eye appeal.
  • Consider adding a bench or table in the center or close to your kitchen garden. An eating area in your garden is a great long term idea.

Some designs from Groundbreaking food gardens (which has many AMAZING garden designs, I highly recommend this book)

From Designing the New Kitchen Garden: an American potager handbook

Best crops for a potager kitchen garden

Although you can grow anything you’d like in your kitchen garden, because it’s close to the house certain crops are better than others.

The best crops for a potager kitchen garden tend to be ones that are eaten fresh not preserved.

You want to choose crops that are ready to harvest sooner instead of waiting until the end of summer. You also want to choose space-saving crops instead of ones that take up lots of space like pumpkins, corn or potatoes.

Flowers and herbs are often added to a potager kitchen garden

What to Grow in your Potager Kitchen Garden

  • Culinary herbs (which also have the benefit of companion planting)
  • Salad crops like lettuce, radishes, arugula. Learn how to grow greens year-round.
  • Fresh Greens like spinach, mustard greens, kale, collards etc
  • Heirloom tomatoes (here are some top choices)
  • Green snap beans/french filet beans. One of my fav varieties is ‘fortex’
  • Summer squash & zucchini
  • Flowers, especially edible ones like calendula or nasturtiums
  • Gourmet peppers
  • Green onions, scallions, shallots
  • Baby root crops like beets, turnips
  • Medicinal herbs are very eye catching and the bees love the flowers.

Some potager design tips from Fix

What are your fav plants to grow in a kitchen garden?

My name is Isis Loran, creator of the Family Food Garden. I’ve been gardening for over 10 years now and push the limits of our zone 5 climates. I love growing heirlooms & experimenting with hundreds of varieties, season extending, crunchy homesteading and permaculture.

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Anyone familiar with design doyenne Bunny Williams knows she loves a good garden. The interior designer—whose latest book, Love Affairs with Houses, chronicles some of the many homes she has lovingly renovated—extends her expert eye beyond the interior walls of a home, cultivating lush gardens around them. I, myself, have watched Bunny point to an ornate floral arrangement and identify each and every specimen in it without so little as a beat of pause. Suffice it to say, she knows her way around a garden. But, as any good gardener knows, flowers are far from the extent of it.

As part of an upcoming documentary on Bunny for the Institute of Classical Architecture & Art, of which she is a trustee, the designer takes a film crew on a tour of the gardens at her Connecticut home, most specifically, her abundant potager. For those not in the know, a potager is a French-style “kitchen garden,” where vegetables, flowers, and herbs coexist. Ahead of the release of the documentary, the ICAA gave House Beautiful a sneak peek of this footage—and Bunny shared her expertise on creating the perfect potager.

Be creative with the layout.

The first thing to know? There’s hardly any wrong way to set up your own potager. “The potager is inspired by the French gardens, and the French usually have these very formal ones with all these patterns,” says Bunny. “As a decorator, of course I find that irresistible. So instead of just having the wonderful American vegetable garden, which is long rows, there’s a bit more geometric design to it.”

In Bunny’s own garden, she lays out a number of beds and plans variety within them. “We think about color, texture, design, and it begins to make a pattern. You want to look at the foliage, and for instance, an onion, which has tall, thin foliage, looks beautiful planted next to a cabbage. You’re always looking at what the foliage of the plants going to be. and that helps with making the patterns interesting.”

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As soon as you pick from your garden, “you’re always planting the next crop,” Bunny says. That means keeping in mind which plants will be best when. “For instance, lettuces do well in the beginning of the season but not in the middle, when it’s really hot. So when you take out a row, you put in seeds for the next growth, say beets and onions.”

Mix in flowers.

“My potager is not only food, which we love, but it’s cutting flowers as well, because I love to do flowers for the house,” explains Bunny. “I like to have a garden that I cut from, because often I don’t want to cut out of the perennials because I want the flowers to be in bloom. So you want to have a garden that you are harvesting.” With the right planning, you can source the food and decoration on your table from the same garden.

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Create an herb section.

Bunny designates one raised square in her garden for herbs, and plants Basil—”for pesto”— oregano, sage, rosemary, and more.

Know your space.

Keep in mind how your plants will grow, area-wise, Bunny advises. “For example, some vegetables, like squash, they spread.” If you’re worried about these plants taking over, contain them in their own bed or train them up a trellis.

Small space? Build up.

Speaking of trellises, upward movement is key in small spaces. “Tomatoes, for instance, do really well in a pot,” with a stake to grow up, Bunny points out. She suggests bamboo stakes for a more natural look.

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Create inspired recipes.

With all these herbs and vegetables at her disposal, we have to ask: What are Bunny’s favorite garden dishes? “Well, just last night we had some green beans we picked,” she says. She’s also partial to a corn salad, roasted garlic to spread on bread, and cold soups like gazpacho and vichyssoise. That said, when your garden is tended right, very little preparation is required: “I find that when a tomato is really ripe and fresh, it you know, it can have a little coarse sea salt, but that’s about it. You really don’t need to overdo it.” Bon appetit!

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Hadley Keller Senior Editor Hadley Keller is a writer and editor based in New York, covering design, interiors, and culture.

Dreaming of a kitchen garden—and accessing the freshest veggies and herbs easily? Here are six kitchen garden layouts to inspire YOU to design a successful small kitchen garden!

Imagine growing fruits and vegetables right outside your kitchen door. A kitchen garden or potager is the ultimate in practical gardening.

What gives the kitchen garden its charm and appeal is the blend of vegetables, fruit, herbs and flowers that are grown together like a living tapestry. They may be designed in geometric patterns or in a more flowing design, and are normally positioned right next to the house for convenience and to make it easy to enjoy the effect from indoors. Kitchen gardens are planted and replanted throughout the season for a continuous supply of fresh food for the kitchen.

Many fresh herbs and vegetables taste much better when they’re freshly harvested and what could be more convenient than having them just outside the back door? You can also grow varieties that are known for their superior flavor, or quirky colors and textures to take your cooking to the next level. Freshly picked corn, sun-ripened tomatoes and aromatic herbs are always best fresh from the garden.

Learn more about what to grow in a kitchen garden!


After you review the examples below, enjoy hundreds more garden plans with the Almanac Garden Planner here.

1. Potager Kitchen Garden Layout

“We just finished our 2019 garden plans for our potager garden. I can’t rave enough about The Old Farmer’s Almanac’s Garden Planner. It’s completely worth the $29 a year, if you need a more comprehensive planner.” —Read the full review from 2 Bees Farm!

Garden Location: St. John’s, Arizona
Garden Size: 59’ 11” x 59’ 11”
Garden Layout: Potager / Country garden
Sun or Shade: Sunny
Garden Soil Type: Good soil

See full plant list here!

2. Kitchen Garden Layout With Raised Beds

This is our second year in the garden!

Garden Location: Near Toronto, Canada
Garden Size: 56’ 0” x 56’ 0”
Garden Layout: Raised Beds/Home Garden
Sun or Shade: Sunny
Garden Soil Type: Good soil

See full plant list!

3. Kitchen Garden Plan With Raised Beds

Create a three-season vegetable garden in the southern U.S. (This garden is zone 7a/b.)

Garden Location: Georgia
Garden Size: 20’ 11” x 19’ 11”
Garden Layout: Raised Beds
Sun or Shade: Sunny
Garden Soil Type: Heavy/clay soil

See full plant list!

4. Kitchen Garden Plan: Raised Beds

“My Blue Heaven” organic garden!

Garden Location: Spokane, WA
Garden Size: 69’ 11” x 29’ 11”
Garden Type: Home garden
Garden Layout: Raised Beds
Sun or Shade: Sunny
Garden Soil Type: Good soil

See full plant list.

5. Kitchen Garden Plan: Raised Beds

Garden Location: Charlottesville, VA
Garden Size: 20’ 11” x 19’ 11”
Garden Type: Home garden
Garden Layout: Raised Beds
Sun or Shade: Sunny
Garden Soil Type: Good soil

See full plant list.

6. Kitchen Garden Layout (Potager)

Simple country garden and orchard combo with lots of variety.

Garden Location: Mitchell, Ontario, Canada
Garden Size: 50’ 0” x 29’ 11”
Garden Type: Home garden
Garden Layout: Potager / Country garden
Sun or Shade: Sunny
Garden Soil Type: Good soil

See full plant list here.

Looking for more ideas? See our layouts for other types of gardens.

Free Garden Planner

We have highlighted sample plans here, however, you can find hundreds of free garden plans using our Almanac Garden Planner tool—which will customize your planting and harvesting dates! Try the Almanac Garden Planner here.

The basics of growing a potager: Part 1

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Last updated on 13 October 2016

Jane Griffiths, expert veggie gardener and author of Jane’s Delicious Garden, and landscape designer Natalia Sinclair of Whirlwind Gardens, give us the lowdown on how to create a sustainable and stunning potager

What is a potager?

Natalia: Potager gardens, from the French jardin potager – meaning vegetable or kitchen garden – date back as far as the French Renaissance when it was essential for people to grow their own fruit and vegetables. Today’s potager is a delightful mix of edible and decorative plants with a modern, structured design combined with a more informal planting plan.

The benefits

Jane: Although there is some motivation to save money, it also has to do with becoming aware of what we are feeding our families – and the best way to make sure we know what is in our food, is to grow it ourselves. It’s also part of a global shift to get back to our roots, literally. South Africans are becoming increasingly aware of carbon footprints, food miles and the need to reduce our impact on the planet.

The design

Jane: This depends on individual taste. Do you want a geometric garden with raised beds and defined squares, a rambling cottage style with meandering pathways or perhaps a spiral? Whichever design you choose, there are certain practical considerations to take into account:

  • The golden real-estate rule of ‘location, location, location’ applies to vegetables too. As vegetables require plenty of sun, look for a spot receiving the maximum amount.
  • Place it fairly close to your kitchen. You don’t want to walk miles every time you want to pick something.
  • Your potager will need water. Either choose a spot close to an existing tap or install a tap nearby.
  • Include pathways for easy access.
  • If your garden is on a slope, design the beds so they lie along the contours of the slope, not away from them. This prevents soil being swept away.
  • Before planting your crops, enrich the soil with plenty of compost and well-rotted manure.

Natalia: As a general rule a potager will lend itself to a formal geometric design with a focal point in the middle such as a pot, sculpture or water feature and paths leading from the centre. There is usually a bench under an arch or pergola placed at the end. Herbs or clipped hedges separate the borders and define the shape of the design.

READ MORE: THE BASICS OF GROWING A POTAGER: PART 2

Sources:

Bristlecone Nursery 012 207 1041
Jane Griffiths janesdeliciousgarden.com
Whirlwind Gardens whirlwindgardens.co.za

Upended lager cans, empty milk cartons, old water pipes: this is not a description of an urban wasteland but an inventory at my local allotment. Growing your own can be many things – life-affirming, health-promoting and environmentally aware – but it’s rarely pretty. Perhaps that’s why our veg are banished to remote corners of the garden, like an embarrassing uncle at a party. Well, it’s time to drag them back into the light and restore them to the heart of the garden.

For inspiration, it’s worth looking across the Channel, where the French have been beautifying kitchen gardens for centuries. Admittedly, few of us have, say, the spare 15,000 square yards that Château Villandry devotes to its potager, but we can still learn valuable lessons from what goes on there.

Herb garden: Try woven willow for a traditional look. Photograph: Marianne Majerus/MMGI

Structure is key. If you’re giving over prime ground to crops, the design has to make an impact even in winter. So how about rethinking the shape of those raised veg beds? Square or rectangular beds predominate here because we’re trapped into thinking vegetables have to grow in neat rows, but this is an agricultural practicality – the only real need is for beds and crops to be easily accessible. Beyond that, let your imagination run riot.
Your choice of material will set the tone. Brick or stone speak of solidity and can echo the materials of an adjacent house or garden walls. For a touch of modernity, apply external render to breeze-block structures and give them a coat of paint (try Farrow & Ball’s exterior masonry paints, £44.50/5l). For a more traditional look, use woven hazel (try selections.com – raised beds, from £29.99) or clipped box hedging – box around wooden raised beds disguises the structure.

Plenty of crops need a “leg up”, so why not make supports easy on the eye? Metal obelisks at the centre of beds are ideal for peas to clamber up (try garden4less.co.uk; metal obelisks, from £12.79), or make a rustic structure from hazel. And such structures become attractive silhouettes in fallow months.

Supports aren’t the only additions to consider – rhubarb-forcing pots, bamboo cloches, wooden cold frames, terracotta cane tops and wooden plant labels can all dress your beds. It’s worth looking out for secondhand bargains at your local sale rooms or online auction sites.

Many fruits and vegetables are as attractive to look at as they are to eat, so plan beds and containers with the same care as you’d apply to borders. The bright lime foliage of lettuce, say, makes a dramatic contrast to the dark leaves of black kale, while the feathery foliage of carrots or fennel looks wonderful against the large leaves of cabbages or courgettes.

There is no reason to constrain your veg planting in boring straight rows, either. Geometric squares of different species are just as practical for many crops; or plant diagonally in rows of differing lengths, which allows you to grow more of those crops you eat more of and fewer of those you need sparingly. While you’re at it, experiment with swirls or circles, too. Above all, though, remember the two most important lessons of Château Villandry: the practical and the productive can also be the beautiful and the inspiring. And there is no excuse for Special Brew cans to feature in any garden.

Top five beautiful veg

Swiss chard ‘Bright Lights’ Sown from March to August, its rainbowcoloured stems add vibrancy to both vegetable patch and summer salads (or steamed and served with butter).
Climbing bean ‘Firetongue’ A beautiful, red-streaked variety that offers a range of cooking options, from fresh young pods to flageolets to haricots. Sow direct from May to July, and support the clambering foliage.
Broccoli ‘Romanesco’ The lime-green, sculptural spirals of this cauliflower-style head can be snapped off and steamed or eaten raw. Plant in May or June, and transplant seedlings five weeks later.
Kale ‘Nero Di Toscana’ Its brooding, dark green leaves with the texture of seersucker fabric add colour to salads, while older foliage works well steamed. Sow April-May for harvesting September-January.
Courgette ‘Soleil’ Its large, decorative flowers can be stuffed and fried, while the golden-skinned fruit works well in salads, barbecues and stir-fries. Sow direct from May to June for cropping until frosts.

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