Rachel Byers, a farmer florist, living in South Central Pennsylvania with her husband and their 4 young kids on their 4-acre cut flower farm. Amongst the cultivating and harvesting of flowers, you can also find her milking her herd of mini-Nubian dairy goats, orchestrating farm operations, and nurturing her children.
Spring is amongst us, and it is about the time people are itching to get their hands in the dirt, creating and cultivating the earth.
This year is especially exciting for my garden because I am starting from scratch. We moved into our house in the fall and have a completely blank slate of land to work with. I have been planning and dreaming all winter long to design my dream potager garden among other gardens on our land. I feel as if my garden is an extension of my home. I want people that visit to feel at ease and relaxed within my kitchen garden. I want to sip coffee and watch my children play outside on warm spring mornings, listen
to the duck’s splash and root for grubs in the nearby pasture. I not only want my garden to be productive and plentiful but to be a beautiful space to spend time in.
The beautiful thing about these gardens is they are completely customizable. Everything from the materials you use, to the plants you plant is up to you! I will share my process for designing these gardens for you to start designing your own kitchen gardens!
History of a potager:
A French kitchen garden, or vegetable garden, also known as a potager, is a space separate from the rest of the residential garden or lawn area. It is used for growing plants for eating, seasoning food, and often some medicinal plants, especially historically. The potager originated in Medieval France, amongst the monasteries. “Potager”; literally meaning a thick and substantial soup, all the ingredients for this soup could be grown in the kitchen garden.
Along with being a source of herbs, vegetables, and fruits, it is also a structured space with a design based on repetitive patterns – it is aesthetically pleasing and functional. These gardens are meant to be
Design the layout:
The first step in designing a kitchen garden is to figure out your plan. I am always drawing my designs out. It’s the creative in me that can’t settle unless I get my ideas onto paper. (Bonus points if you add color!) Think about the space that you want your potager to be in… how large of a space will have a huge impact on what your design will be.
Next, I think its important to decide on the materials you will use for it. Think about what you have around your property or what your area has in abundance. When we built on our land last year, during the excavating, we realized that our land is literally along a rock ridge…. Not so great for construction but awesome for my garden because I have TONS of rock now to build beds with for FREE! If you live on a wooded lot, can you cut down trees to use as log raised beds? What about making beds out of wattling.. grape vines or willow branches?
Pea gravel is gorgeous but wasn’t in our budget this year, so we used free wood chips in our pathways! It still looks beautiful and was a huge cost savings.
Other materials could be wooden raised beds, in ground beds lined with bricks, concrete blocks, or in various sized pots and planters.
Create a focal point:
This could be a structure like a greenhouse or a beautiful arbor leading into the garden. It could be a centralized bed when you enter with small trees or roses or a fountain. You can use the beds or
pathways to lead your eye to the focal points.
Add your plants:
Think of plants that are ornamental and productive. There are so many captivating heirloom varieties that are perfect for potager gardens. Mixing perennial plants with annuals is a great way to add interest through all the seasons. Adding small fruits throughout the garden is another way to add focal points throughout. You are painting a picture with plants. Think of color palettes that you gravitate towards that will inspire you to create.
And lastly, enjoy your garden! Drink your coffee or tea, watch the bees and butterflies flutter through the flowers and listen to your children play and create outside. Gardens are beautiful places to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and to create. I hope this helps you as you plan your own kitchen gardens!