Planning the Perfect Potager
February 18, 2011
Rain in the wind, and falling from the sky – and I wonder when I will ever get back to the joys of plunging my hands in the warm soil, and actually sowing and planting anything, let alone harvesting young and succulent salads and vegetables. I return to my series of photographs taken around the garden in early January, and the plans that I was trying to formulate in my head for this year; always more than I can ever accomplish! Last week I blogged about my passion for herbs – but that is as nothing when compared to my PASSION for POTAGERS. Potagers? Best described perhaps as productive yet ornamental kitchen gardens. Not just food, but glorious colour, and the ongoing delights of watching edible plants grow, whilst also accommodating beneficial wildlife, no matter how small the space.
In my various attempts at creating potagers over the years, the edible intermixes with other aspects of the garden. Each has been carved out of a semi-wilderness – and I have strategies for dealing with heavily weed-infested ground. But first, you need to decide whether this method of gardening appeals. It’s ideal where space is limited – and one that even the RHS advocates. Advantages are many: crops can be packed closer together; it’s easier to intercrop, easier to squeeze edibles into spaces within other areas of the garden; a doddle with children or grandchildren; and marvellous where you want to start immediately and don’t have ground already prepared.
Like the idea? Here’s what to do: first decide whether you want to intersperse veg and salads within your flower borders, or whether you want to start from scratch. If the latter; assess the condition of the soil and how much work is involved with clearing. Heavily weed-infested areas can be treated as in the explanation above (using grow-bags); after one season, you should be able to lift away the ground cover, dig the soil and incorporate the spent grow-bag compost. If the ground is already ‘fit’, decide whether you want raised beds or other containers, and how you want to lay out the potager.
I decide that the area shown above and in the first pic is perfect for a new potager, so I sat making notes (back in January that was), and sketched a very rough plan of what I want. There’s a lot of work involved: tame the wildlife wilderness, accurately measure and peg it all out, dig out the bulbs that were planted seven years ago in what was then ‘lawn’, and somehow eradicate the delicious but invasive vanilla-scented Winter Heliotrope (Petasites fragrans) that has taken over the whole area. Meanwhile, to gain a head start, I’ll be raising seedlings in the greenhouse in pots and modules for planting when the area is ready. Or I’ll do as last year when I was short of time and order some of Dobies excellent plug plants – we’re still cropping leeks and sprouts.
Potagers? What do you think? Your comments are invaluable to the Dobies team in helping us to focus on those topics you most enjoy reading about. So whether your preference is solely for a dedicated vegetable plot or allotment, or you are beguiled by the idea of a mixed-up garden, do let us hear your thoughts. I’m hooked on potagers because they are so eco-friendly and encourage biodiversity within the garden. But of course, you may not agree!
(This post written by contributor, Ann Somerset Miles.)