With better and better access to restaurant quality farm to table ingredients from farmer’s markets and CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) memberships, it may seem superfluous to attempt an in your own backyard vegetable garden. Nothing, however, is as gratifying as picking your own home grown fairytale eggplant, or watching tiny yellow blossoms turn into tomato poppers that seem to make it from the vine to the mouth before they stand a chance at making it to into a salad or TOMATO GALETTE with GOAT CHEESE & GARDEN HERBS.
A potager garden, or kitchen garden, is a visually enticing year-round plot designed to be useful and beautiful. It combines the elements of Beatrix Potter's watercolors of Peter Rabbit nibbling from Mr. McGregor’s humbly tended utilitarian potager and Louis XVI's breathtaking kitchen garden at Versailles with its colorful palette of flowers and enough vegetables to feed a king and his court. While a traditional vegetable garden is sowed in the spring and harvested in the fall, a potager garden seeks to provide twelve months of nutritional support in a gloriously seasonal environment in which vegetables are planted and grown among edible and non-edible floral companions.
The layout of a traditional potager, with its narrow beds for ease of planting, tending, and harvesting, is perfect for the beginning gardener. Let the creative self take over! Most vegetables, fruits, and herbs flourish in a morning sun environment, but six to eight hours of sunlight a day will create an ideal growing area anywhere in the garden.
Go ahead and mix your edibles with ornamental flora. Taller plants such as tomatoes and Chinese broccoli should be planted toward the back rows of the garden, pathways may be edged with low growing colorful cabbages, radicchio, and kale. Flowering herbs such as lavender and calendula attract bees, are edible and beautiful.
A potager garden suggests attention to aesthetics. Plant textures and colors along the ground in which sweet woodruff, thyme, and chamomile flower before the vegetables making garden color diverse and extend for months. While most potager gardens have some organized plots, it is the use of all usable space that is a cornerstone of a potager garden. Smaller divisions of vegetables with outlines of the unexpected under plantings or flowers create a comforting quilt-like effect on the ground.
Bordering beds with lower growing useful herbs such as Thai basil, alpine strawberries, and chives add another dimension of color and texture to the garden. Pots and wood teepees with seasonally appropriate growth peeking out also create visual interest and act as magicians between seasons when a blanket of snow might otherwise overwhelm the pots. Clematis or climbing roses combined with pole beans growing in between the vines and thorns help to make use of limited space and draw the eye in yet another pleasing direction.
There are few rules in a potager garden. Whatever happens, let it be full of eye catching zest and a few surprises. Something immensely gratifying comes from popping a seed into the earth, watering, and tending it as if were a child, and finally gathering the fully grown bounty and turning it into something extraordinary in the kitchen that fills the belly and nourishes the soul.