Wednesday, February 25, 2009

Potager Gardens

A Potager Garden is a formal Kitchen Garden... as opposed to a large row type "Farm" garden like I have. These were usually located right outside the kitchen door, and were permanent fxtures with fences (or high walls) and walkways, usually a water feature in the center (to add humidity, and hold warmth. Actually, both the high walls and the water feature would make the climate more temperate and controllable. Fruit trees were often trained along the wall, and there might be a shed or small greenhouse incorporated into one side.
This garden below is one of my favorites, and I would love to put something like this right behind my house.
Another feature of the potager garden is the Intesive method of planting. Instead of wasting space with rows (that must be weeded and maintained) the intensive method plants grids of plants close together so the roots and leaves choke out weeds and are easier to maintain.
In preparation for someday having a formal potager, I have begun experimenting with Intensive planting in my own garden. Above you can see where I have laid out 4x4 foot squares (not an easy task in a wide open garden) as well as started some rows beyond.

The "Square Foot" gardening method does this, only they will sell you fancy grids to lay out your beds. I run around for weeks with a tape measure or a 4 foot stick measuring and planting seeds. As the plants begin to grow and finally become visible, I can measure my measuring success.

I leave walkways the width of my rottotiller, but I've learned that sometimes you have to leave some extra space, because some crops tend to lay over in the walkway making it impossible to till.

As the summer wears on, I usually end up with neat little squares which are quite efficient at choking out weeds, and easier to maintain. I can kneel in one spot, and reach all the weeds instead of walking down the row bent halfway over. It also makes it easier to water. Each year I perfect my grid plan so when I get to the point of installing fixed beds with gravel walkways between, I will have all my spacing perfected.

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